Today please join me in welcoming a another ‘new-to-me’ author, David B. Seaburn, as the special guest blogger here as he makes a stop on his virtual blog tour.
David’s latest release is CHARLIE NO FACE from Savant Books and Publications. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book. CHARLIE NO FACE is a coming of age story about an 11 year old boy, Jackie, growing up in the late 1950s in western Pa. He lives with his father, his mother having died when he was an infant. The biggest preoccupation of Jackie and his friends (and many others) is Charlie No Face, a severely disfigured and deformed hermit who roams country roads at night and is reputed to kill children, animals and just about anything else he can get his hands on. Jackie and Charlie No Face eventually form an unlikely friendship that transforms them both, shedding light on Jackie’s mother’s lifer, helping Charlie make peace with his past and teaching Jackie how to look at people with his heart. It is a story for anyone who has ever been abused, bullied, rejected or misunderstood. It is for those who feel their true face has never been recognized. This is a story about the power of compassion.
David stops by to answer a couple of questions for me about his writing.
Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?
David - I would say the desire to write grew on my over time. I wrote bad poetry and was on the high school newspaper staff as a teenager. That was about it until I went to seminary at Boston University (1972) where I had my first publication---a collection of poems for the alumni magazine. Also while I was in seminary, 1973 to be exact, I started keeping a journal, something I have done ever since. That solidified for me the importance of writing as a means of personal expression, as a way to make sense of experience.
In 1975 I was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and for the next six years wrote sermons every week¸ a creative discipline that served me well for many years. During that time I also wrote short stories, two plays and two full-length non-fiction manuscripts, one of which was accepted for publication but then rejected. I didn’t write anything for a few years after that!
My career aspirations changed and I went back to school for another master’s degree and eventually a PhD. I entered the mental health field and have spent the remainder of my career as a family psychologist. I was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for almost 20 years. I did considerable academic writing during this period of time, publishing two professional books and over 50 journal articles and books chapters. One seldom thinks of academic writing as creative, but my focus was often on clinical work and involved what might be thought of as creative nonfiction from time to time. It was in academics that I learned how to be self-disciplined as a writer. I had excellent mentoring, feedback and editing on all my work. During this period I realized that I needed to write as much as I wanted to write. It became a vital part of who I was becoming.
While I did a lot of writing between 1986 and 2004, I never wrote any fiction during this period. My work as a psychotherapist, though, taught me how to be a good story-listener, something that I believe is important to becoming a good story teller. My clients often told me remarkable stories about their lives, stories that resonated with me, stories that often went to the core of what it means to be a human being.
A turning point came when a client told me a devastating story about an incident that had occurred when he was young. I made notes about that incident and my imaginings about what it must have been like. This expanded into a fictional rendering of the incident and those who might have been a part of it. Soon I had a folder full of notes for a novel, but wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I put the folder away in 1990. I returned to those now dusty notes in 2004, when I felt ready to write the story, and in 2005 published my first novel, entitled DARKNESS IS AS LIGHT.
It is interesting that even then, after so many years of writing, I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Being a writer was a declaration of identity I felt hesitant to make. I left my position at the University in 2005 for many reasons, among them being the desire to devote more time to writing fiction. The result was the publication of my second novel, PUMPKIN HILL, in 2007 and my third, CHARLIE NO FACE, in 2011. It was during the writing of PUMPKIN HILL that I began to think of myself as a writer, as someone whose work and identity were as one.
My current novel, CHARLIE NO FACE, has, thus far, been the most enjoyable to write. It is a first person narrative told by an 11-year-old boy, Jackie, growing up in the late 1950s in a small western Pa. town called Ellwood City, which happens to be my home town. In those days there was a real life person known as Charlie No Face who had been severely disfigured and deformed in an electrical accident as child. He spent most of his life being taunted, mistreated and sometimes beaten by teenagers and others who went looking for him when he roamed country roads at night, the only time he could safely go outside. In this story, Jackie and Charlie No Face create an unlikely friendship that transforms and redeems them both; teaching Jackie, in particular, the importance of compassion for those who may seem different but who are actually the same under the skin. I fictionalized Charlie No Face and was able to use incidents from my own growing up in this story, which made it fun and transformative for me as well.
As I said earlier, I grew into writing. In my view it was a natural progression from my training in theology and my work as a psychotherapist. My theological background taught me about the importance of making meaning out of our life experience, often through the use of language. Psychotherapy exposed me to the primary way by which people make meaning---telling stories about their lives. When I sit down in front of the computer, I am trying to tell an engaging story about characters that are doing their best to live meaningfully, sometimes even heroically, despite the steep odds and occasional failures.
Mason - What can readers expect from you next?
David - About two years ago, while I was finishing CHARLIE NO FACE, I read a newspaper story about an incident that had occurred in England. A husband and wife jumped off a famous cliff to their deaths a day after their young son had died of an incurable disease. They were found at the bottom of the cliff with two sacks beside them, one had the body of their young son, and the other had his toys. I couldn’t shake the story and read as much as I couldn’t about what had happened. Two questions tugged at me: How did this decision come to make sense to both of these people? What would have happened if one of them had survived the jump? Those questions are what I am now addressing in my fourth novel, CHIMNEY BLUFFS, which I anticipate completing in the next few months.
David, thanks for guest blogging today. It was interesting learning how your writing evolved.
Here’s a bit more information about David. Recently retired, David is a family psychologist and ordained minister who spent the majority of his career as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center. He is married and has two adult daughters and two wonderful granddaughters. He lives in Spencerport NY. He is currently completing work on his fourth novel, CHIMNEY BLUFFS.
For more on David and his writing, check out his website at www.davidbseaburn.com or contact him directly at email@example.com. You can also listen to a podcast interview with David about his book on KHOW radio (Denver) at http://www.authorsden.com/adstorage/119251/CharlieNoFaceInterview.doc.mp3. CHARLIE NO FACE is available at www.amazon.com/dp/0984555285 or it can be ordered through your local bookstore.
In addition, you can see a video about CHARLIE NO FACE on YouTube by clicking on this link: http://youtu.be/wR8OeYfXpsg
If you’re a writer, was there an event that lead you to write or have you just always wanted to write? As a reader, what are your thoughts on coming-of-age stories?