Carmen McGuinness is a Board Certified Behavior Analysist (BCBA-D) and Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapist at her Orlando, FL clinic. The author of three popular academic books for families, and numerous articles on relationships, she has recently released her first work of fiction, Unintended Consequences a Psychological Romance.
I’ve been an academic since the 1990s. Among my scientific accomplishments are two research studies, and the publication of three educational programs, one of which has been described as a “paradigm shift”. I literally fixed reading instruction, set the English-speaking world straight on the topic of how to teach new and struggling readers via peer-reviewed research, persuasive essay, and two popular-academic books, one making it to #1 on Amazon.co.uk for a week running. As an academic, I’ve been required to corroborate every word I’ve written, and even spoken on the three documentaries in which I’ve been featured, for twenty-five years. In science, even theory must be firmly set upon the shoulders of giants.
On June 1, 2017 my world was forever changed, when my first work of fiction was released. I say first, because I thoroughly enjoyed (like happy-dance enjoyed) every moment of writing, editing, re-writing, preparing for publication, and especially the day my book released on amazon and in bookstores everywhere. So much did I enjoy this process, that I’m already writing my second fiction, which I hope to release mid-Fall
I’ve been asked how this shift came about. How is it that a nice psychologist specializing in literacy and later autism came to write an erotic romance?… what I’ve termed a psychological romance. To my colleagues in academia, this seems an almost impossible shift indeed! The answer is as simple as any slice of life. I had a story. It just came to me one day. A lonely woman, a good-looking man, and the hard stuff in between.
I relied on all the tricks beginning fiction writers use, such as the invention of composite characters based on people I know (I hope my friends forgive me), and setting scenes in familiar places. And like all fiction writers, I also relied on life’s experiences.
In my younger, more vulnerable years, I had been involved with a married man. Involved for three years, and very much in love. Back then I was building houses. Today, I am a behavioral psychologist. Worlds and decades collided, and 1,700 words later I put down my hands, looked at my computer screen, and knew I would finish the job.
Ft. Lauderdale had become Central Florida, the beach was now a fairy garden, John became Cary. But romance, intense emotions, and impassioned sex were still the agenda, and filled the content of my infant work of fiction. Three months, and 80,000 words later, I was ready to submit my manuscript for editing. I was very fortunate to find a brilliant editor, and I was on my way! Not quite three months later, my book, Unintended Consequences a Psychological Romance released.
For me, writing fiction has been like swimming after walking in the sand. The freedom associated with fiction is nothing short of joyous to my weary academic fingers. I can say anything, and need corroborate none of it. In fact, making it all up is what makes it fiction!
There are, of course similarities, principles that all writers follow… grammar, spelling, hit your daily word-count goal, make your point (only in fiction, unlike academia, I can lead the reader). Another similarity is that my topic is still relationships, and more specifically how and why we attach to others. Whether a mom coping with the challenges of raising a child with autism, or a woman desperately trying not to love the love of her life, while battling it out with her alter-egos, whether psychology or psychological romance, the tenants of attachment remain the same. How and why we attach, how we cope, how we care for those we love while keeping ourselves safe, and the part of our own development years before these challenges, are all still central parts of the storyline.
This is my story, why and how I came to fiction. To my curious academic friends, I say give it a spin! Open your computer and write down the next thing that comes to mind. Kind of like a word association test! Have fun with it. Run with it. If you’re really lucky you might have a bout of writer’s block and get to spend the day surfing twitter for cat videos. Enjoy!