I was born and raised in a rough neighborhood in the south-side of Chicago. My parents owned a grocery store and while I hold many happy memories of my childhood, I also remember us being held up at gun point during various robberies spanning 15 years. These early experiences helped shape my personality in that I cope with stress through the use of humor, I’m spontaneous and tend to be direct and to the point with my feedback – a therapeutic style that seems to appeal many of my clients. Additionally, because of my background, the concept of resiliency intrigued me. Even at a young age, I wondered how other people coped with anxiety and trauma. Therefore, psychology as a profession came naturally to me.
I completed my Masters in psychology at Loyola University and Doctorate at Argosy University in Chicago. I’ve worked in various settings throughout my career including: community counseling centers, a Federal Prison, psychiatric units, hospital emergency rooms and for a few years I was the Director of Counseling at The Illinois Institute of Art. Currently I am in private practice in downtown Chicago.
Quickly, tell us about your upcoming releases?
Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives was released on October 1, 2014. I’m currently working on my next book about sexual, dating and pornography apps, current trends in sexual technology, and how they’re changing the game in terms of our relationships and our mindset about sexual media.
Do you have any specific inspiring incident that turned you out as an author?
Yes. In my private practice I began noticing a shift in my client’s presentations. A new dynamic was introduced in our sessions: Facebook and social media. Many of them began speaking about the anxiety and sadness they’d experiences as a result of certain Facebook interactions. Yet, despite experiencing loss of friendships, relationships and even jobs due to misunderstandings or passive-aggressive posts through social media many of my clients were not able to take a ‘Facebook vacation.’ This wasn’t just a pattern with my clients. I noticed subtle changes in how my friends colleagues expressed themselves through social media. People started to share more personal information. They became less concerned with privacy. Through strategic sharing of edited or embellished posts and photographs I noticed that several Facebook users seeking acceptance and approval through “likes.” It seemed that people were ignoring their inner voice of authenticity and self acceptance and instead focused on the outer noise of external validation. I even noticed changes in myself. I started filtering or editing my expressions – something that I do not tend to do.
I began to consider the possibility of writing a book, but self-doubt set in. “I’m a psychologist, not a writer!” Yet the changes in our personal and social dynamics continued to intrigue me to the point that I couldn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. Then the day came when I had to escort one of my clients to the emergency room due to suicidal ideation. He had logged on that morning and discovered that his fiancée had changed her Relationship Status from “engaged” to “in a relationship with” and my client’s photo and name were replaced with those of his best friend. The ending of an engagement is traumatizing enough, but what seemed to traumatize my client was that he discovered that his relationship had ended on this very public forum. In fact his friends, work colleagues and family members discovered it before he did, and his phone rang consistently with his Facebook contacts wanting information about the break-up. My client was hospitalized for four days. On that day I realized, doubt or no doubt, I had to write this book. I wanted to help people by shedding light on how prolonged social media interactions can change the way we see ourselves and others and is leading to certain behavioral changes. Facebook has the power to both empower and traumatize us depending on how we use it.
Who designed your cover art? How did you choose the image?
My web designer, Richard Baukovic, conceptualized and designed the avatars and the mosaic background made of real Facebook profile photos. I thought the design is just brilliant and requested to the publisher that they use Richard’s design in Facehooked. Mary Moore from Reputation Books designed the jacket cover. Many people have complemented the finished product. In my opinion, these designers are true geniuses in their craft.
Do you outline your work before you write?
Not really although I should, because I’m sure it would make the work easier. I always keep a journal on me. Whenever I get a thought, I have to write it down immediately. The writing takes a life of its own from there and then I type it up later on my laptop. This system is not time efficient, but I’ve noticed that I write better through cursive first. At first, the drafts on my computer look like a disaster of unstructured paragraphs, and I have to print them out to “see” what the structure should be. I edit and structure it from there.
How do you like spending your leisure hours?
I live in Chicago so how I spend my leisure time really depends on the weather. In the winter, I enjoy relaxing at home, reading a good book, magazine (WIRED is my favorite) or Marvel comic book. My husband and I enjoy watching adventure movies or a Netflix series with our two dogs, Lillie and Frida. Right now I’m hooked on American Horror Story – the Coven series was out of this world good! I also enjoy meditating when I can (I’m a practicing Buddhist) and acrylic painting. In the summer, I try to spend time outdoors with family and friends at cultural festivals, plays and restaurants. Chicago has amazing restaurants and most Chicagoans try to absorb as much of the warm weather as we can!
Which genre is far more appealing to you as a reader?
What inspires you to write? Is there any level of similarity with the events in your book and in reality?
When something intrigues me on a psychological level I wonder if others are intrigued as well. The idea behind Facehooked began when I wondered if other people were aware of the behavioral changes I was noticing and so I started asking questions. At first I made a huge sign that read, “Talk to me about social media” and held it as I stood outside of my downtown office in the freezing Chicago winter. At first people looked at me like I was crazy, but then people started to speak to me about both their positive and negative experiences with social media interactions. Then I started interviewing people privately where they shared more details about how their digital expressions and interactions have affected their relationships. Finally I threw out my questions to the Facebook community and other forums. I received responses from people across the globe. All of the case studies in my book are from Facebook and social media users.
Which is your current read?
Lamentation by Joe Clifford.
What, in your opinion is the toughest part while carving your book?
The Book Proposal – hands down. It’s torture. Structuring a book is necessary, but I prefer doing most things backwards or against the stream – this apparently also includes writing. The other tough part is starting a book. I think what keeps me from starting is the apprehension that comes with knowing that I’m beginning a project that will take me a long time to complete, will take up a lot of my time and will lead me to experience feelings of self-doubt. Since I began this journey and have met other contributing authors from the Prose and Cons blog, I’ve discovered that most writers experience similar feelings.
Share a word of advice with our readers and authors, if any?
Write what you want to write – no matter what anyone tells you. When I first started writing Facehooked, I’ve heard anything from “You’ll never finish. You’ll ever find an agent. Getting a publisher will be impossible. It’s too competitive. You need to be realistic.” That’s one of my least favorite phrases – “be realistic” because whenever someone says that to you what they’re really saying is, “I can’t do what you’re doing.” Most writers, or anyone in the creative arts for that matter, experience self-doubt at some point in their careers. Listening to the negative statements from other people doesn’t help you to believe in yourself and your talents. A motto I created for myself is, “Positive people in. Negative people out. It’s not personal.” The last line is the most important because if someone is disrupting your work, is a toxic entity in your life, or is leading you to doubt your abilities (regardless of the reason behind their negativity) maintaining some distance from them will be necessary in order to find your true inner voice. You are your own best advocate and sometimes you have to fight to turn a dream into reality.
Share one of your favorites from your music band collection, if any?
Oh boy. My music taste really varies. . I’m a huge fan of Aretha Franklin – she has some serious power in her words and her voice. I love Nina Simone, Louie Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and most music from that era. I’m a 80s child so I like anything by The Cure, Depeche Mode, R.E.M., and The Smiths. In terms of modern music I like Lady Gaga – she has such a unique persona, Katy Perry, One Republic, Barenaked Ladies, Pitbull, Mary J. Blige, Eminem and Tupac.
If you’re a foodie, tell us about your favorite dish?
I LOVE food. I don’t know what I’d do without Sushi and Indian food. I especially love lamb, so if I had to choose one absolute favorite dish…it’d be Rogan Josh. I grew up with Mexican food so naturally I can’t go a long time without it. I love chicken with mole and fresh made tortillas. Yummers!
List any giveaways or surprises in mere future?
We’ve had a couple of giveaways on Goodreads and I will work with Reputation Books to see if we can organize another giveaway in the near future.
Where can we find your books?
Currently, Facehooked is available in hardcover and ebook at Amazon.com
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