Sonntag, 23. Oktober 2016

Interview with Kerry McAvoy

Hey, folks! Happy to be back!
Today, I have a special guest with a tragic story. Kerry McAvoy is a psychologist and, most importantly, a human being like everybody else. She knows what it means to love, and also how difficult it is to lose the dearest person you know. Such experiences can have very intense impacts on us. With the loss of what's important to you, you often change or start to think about life and the life in the hereafter. Your beliefs and your knowledge can help you cope with the dark moments that you face. 
My guest will tell us about the book she wrote about the most difficult time in her life. I am glad to introduce Kerry McAvoy.

Hi Kerry. Very nice to have you here. Please, introduce yourself to the readers.

As a psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families, I have treated all kinds of issues---depression, anxiety, work difficulties, and relationship problems. I started writing ten years ago and fell in love with the use of the written word as a vehicle to address psychological issues. I have self-published three devotionals from an integrated Christian and psychological perspective.

Until about two years ago I had a rather ordinary life. I was a busy mom, managing a career, and running a household. That all came to a dramatic halt when my husband developed what appeared to be an innocuous health symptom early December 2014 only to learn two days after Christmas the devastating news that he had terminal cancer. My life made a sharp turn as I became his sole care provider until his death five and a half months later.

In short period of time I not only lost my husband, I also retired my counseling practice and my last child left home for college. In many ways I was given a clean slate. I know the idea of getting a do-over in life sounds romantic, but I discovered such massive upheaval isn't exciting; these changes were unwanted and very painful. 

 What inspired you to write novels?

Actually, my love to write has been a surprise. After completing a 120-page doctoral dissertation, I figured I wouldn't have enough to say to fill a book. I was one of those students who had trouble completing the assigned college paper to its required length. If it was supposed to be five pages long, I was lucky if I could find a sentence or two to spill over onto the final page. However, I love to play around with ideas and often construct speeches in my head while exercising or working around the house.

One morning, I woke up with a book outline and an imperative to write. So I did! Now I am working on my fourth manuscript. If you would have told me in the beginning of my career that one day I would be an author, I would have laughed.

You are a psychologist. Did that influence your writing? In how far?

My role as a psychologist has had a strong influence on my writing. I think one must be called to have a career as a psychologist since it requires such a unique skill set. By nature I'm very self-reflective with innate intuition. My education and clinical experiences have trained me to be an observer.

All of this shapes the way I view myself, my relationships with others, and the world at large. It, of course, also affects my writing. If I were to write fiction instead of nonfiction, I think I would still utilize the same psychological insights as I do now.

 In 2015, you experienced a great loss. Your husband died of terminal cancer. How did that change you and your perception of life?

Currently I am working on my fourth book, which is a big change in style since it's a memoir rather than a Christian devotional. I grew up in a troubled home and knew first hand emotional neglect and abuse. My husband's rather sudden illness, rapid decline, and subsequent death rocked me by reawakening old losses and emotional wounds. I discovered my sense of security had been built on the foundation of my marriage, which was now gone. There have been periods of time when the pain has been so severe that it felt as if I could hardly breath. The unfairness of the normalcy of other people's lives has filled me with such rage and envy.

As a psychologist I thought I'd done a better job of grounding my identity. There are two questions that most often propel clients into counseling---"Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "Who am I?" I was shocked to discover that my own answers to those questions were also flawed.

In this book I explore the startling discoveries I make as I work through the meaning of my husband's death and my journey of recovery as I re-discover myself. I face hard truths, such as death is a natural part of life, to love another well means to risk losing him or her, and that each of us must be our own best source of comfort. My faith plays an important factor in this process. For example, I have been reminded that even though I'm not guaranteed life won't hurt me again, I can be confident God will never leave me.

In The Hard Road Home, you share your experience. In how far, would you say, does writing your memoir help you to process the past and to learn from it?

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we both knew I would write about the experience. Normally a very private person, he let me document the journey with photographs, blog posts, and social media updates.

I started writing the memoir one year after his death, which is still early in the grief process. It has been therapeutic since it has encouraged me to explore this transition. I often would start each day with a word-count target and an idea of a topic, but would discover surprising insights as I veered in different directions or penned new ideas. So, this process of writing has helped me to discover things I wasn't aware of until I wrote about them.

It also has impacted my grief. Before writing the first draft I was filled with rage, but as I remembered my life with my husband, my marriage, and his illness, the anger shifted into sadness. The grief softened from something with hard, sharp edges to something sweet. Working on this book has been a very healing experience.

When will your book be available? 

 I plan to release The Hard Road Home late 2017 or early 2018. I have a tentative book cover that I would love to share it with you. When I have a firm release date I will be sure to let you and your readers know when and where it will be available for purchase.

What are your next plans?

I have met some amazing people online who have also lost a spouse. They have taught me so much about what it means to love another, to be courageous, and to live life with incredible inner strength. For my next book I would like to collect stories from widows and widowers about what death has taught them about love. I think these individuals will have some wonderful insights to share with the rest of us.

 Who inspired your writing? Who is your favourite author?

 I have many favorite authors. I find the honest brokenness of Jamie Langston Turner's fictional characters moving. I am touched by the transparency and authenticity of Ann Voskamp, Mandy Stewart, and Lisa TerKeurst's work as they share their personal spiritual insights.

I am the most impacted by the bravery of writers who don't sugar-coat life's messiness.

Thank you for this opportunity of sharing about my journey of writing and about my next book!

Thanks, Kerry :)

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