Stephanie McAuliffe – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – October 26, 2017

Book Journeys Author Interview – October 26, 2017

 

Maggie McReynolds with Stephanie McAuliffe, author of The Message in the Bottle: Finding Hope and Peace Amidst the Chaos of Living with an Alcoholic.

 

“By writing a love letter to the one person, it will appeal to other people.” ~Stephanie McAuliffe

 

Maggie:

Hello and welcome to another episode of Book Journeys Radio. Every week, on Book Journeys Radio, we talk to accomplished authors who’ve gone from having an idea for a book to a finished book that’s out there and making a difference in the world. So, our goal for this show is for you to walk away inspired and motivated to write your book, whether it’s your … first book or your third. Today, we have with us Stephanie McAuliffe, personal archaeologist and public speaker and the author of The Message in the Bottle. Welcome, Stephanie, it’s great to have you here!

 

Stephanie:

Thank you, Maggie. It is amazing to be here with you today.

 

Maggie:

Cool! To help orient our listeners, I … usually start with the same question with authors. The Message in the Bottle, can you tell us what your book is about and who it’s for?

 

Stephanie:

Yes. So, the subtitle says a lot. It’s Finding Hope and Peace Amidst the Chaos of Living with an Alcoholic. And I am a fourth generation of women in my family who grew up around and/or lived with alcoholics. And … there’s so much stigma that’s associated with this, and we’re not talking about what’s going on, and so, in this book, I share my very personal journey of growing up around this, the effects in … the family life, and then how I ultimately came to a peace of for – replacive – peace and … forgiveness and self-forgiveness. And it’s meant to be a book that any other person who is going through this can read my book and be inspired by my journey, and I share a lot of what I used to come to the place where I’m at, so that they know that they’re not alone, because so often, we feel alone where we are because we’re not talking about this. And so, I’m breaking the cycle of silence with this book.

 

Maggie:

Do you find – … even with a lot of … transparent celebrity disclosures and stuff like that, and the media, do you think – … I’m hearing that shame is still a really big issue.

 

Stephanie:

Shame is a huge issue. And I’m glad you brought up the … celebrity aspect, because it’s the celebrities that are going into rehab that we’re talking about. What we’re not talking about is the effect on the family. And a lot of times, we’re suffering from the same things as the drinker is, we’re just not drinking. And there is an incredible amount of shame and the stigma that goes with it, because we don’t wanna be seen as, “Oh, I married an alcoholic, there must be something wrong with me, I can’t talk about it because my friends won’t get it.” There is an incredible amount of shame, and we’re not talking a lot about the effects on the family.

 

Maggie:

Right. And I assume that’s the whole family, not just a partner, right? And it … could be ….

 

Stephanie:

Yes. Yes! And because I, as a … child – … I watched my grandmother numb herself through her thirty-two year marriage to her husband – well, the last parts of it that I saw, but – and then, that affected my mother and her brother, and it’s also affected my two brothers and so, it is. It’s the whole family unit that’s affected by this disease. And we need to make sure that … the alcoholics get the help that they need, but we need to remember, too, that the rest of the family comes along with the whole dynamic.

 

Maggie:

Right. Right. So, it sounds like – and some authors who come into our program are still feeling their way along towards their topic. Now, they’re not – they may have a few different topics they wanna write about, or … – was this the one you knew you wanted to write about, from the very beginning?

 

Stephanie:

Yes. Because I think it’s so important to get over this stigma … of shame and silence, and so many of us grew up in families where, I say quote unquote, we don’t talk about these things, and … it’s very interesting that we’re talking this week, because this week is the fifth anniversary of my husband going into rehab. And that was one of the greatest gifts for me. And I look at myself now, compared to five years ago, or even a year ago, when I had the first thought of writing a book. And I … knew that – I knew that I wanted to write about growing up around alcoholics, living with them and of my journey out, but the book I originally thought I was going to write wasn’t specifically the book that came out.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. So, what do you wish you’d known, … before you wrote it? Were there aspects of it that … completely threw you or surprised you?

 

Stephanie:

Yes, some of the emotions. And they were three things in particular … that came, one of which – I had always grown up saying, “I don’t want kids,” and I remember when I was writing a certain chapter, it – two o’clock on a Saturday morning, and I realized that I didn’t want kids. And so, there were things that came up, when I was writing, that just had me in tears, but they were good tears, because it was the release of some emotions that I had held on to. And then, the roller coaster of the emotions … once the book was published, because you put so much effort into it, and it’s – … I poured my heart and soul into this. And then it’s – you’re published and … it’s almost like a void of time and space and energy, and it’s a, “Holy crap, what do I do with myself now?”

 

Maggie:

Right. Right. And it’s … – a lot of our authors say – and … I’ve experienced this myself, when I wrote a book in the program, that even – no matter how much work you’ve done on the stuff that you’re writing about, there’s a certain – not just remembering, but reliving it as you write about it, and it’s … – I think it’s a … overwhelming, but I think it also can be this really good opportunity to go, “Alrighty, then, I’m just gonna deal with this once and for all,” put it to bed.

 

Stephanie:

Yes. It can – yes, it can be incredibly cathartic, and a lot of these things I had already dealt with, through my own healing, and so, it was nice, as I wrote certain aspects of the book, that I was almost looking at them from an observer perspective. That the – that deep, wounding emotions weren’t driving me anymore. But there were still a few things that came up, and it was so – a cathartic process to go through this. So, … it’s a great process to do this, because we’re all holding onto things that, as much as we think we’ve dealt with them, there’s still things that come up. And it’s good, because … it releases what we don’t need anymore.

 

Maggie:

Right. There’s a – … great quote, and … it’s back to the days before computers, so I’m going to adapt it and update it, and it says, “Write – writing is easy, you just stare at the screen until drops of blood form on your forehead.” So, … did you have those writer block moments … as passionately as you felt about your subject, and obviously, you had a wealth of … not just personal experience but personal work and healing to draw upon. Nonetheless, did you have those “stare at the blank computer screen” moments?

 

Stephanie:

Absolutely. One of the things that we do in the process is, we write up a character study. And I think, because I was so close to the topic, I went through five rounds of this, and I kept thinking, “What else do I need to put?” And … finally, it was in one of our group calls with Angela that – … I guess I said the magic sentence, and she said, “Yes, that’s it.” And so, I finally – I think, because I was thinking about it too much as well, I needed to get out of my head and just really approach it from my heart. And once I got past that point, it flew.

 

Maggie:

Yeah, I really get that. I really get that. That’s the good moment, when Angela says, “Yes,” isn’t it?

 

Stephanie:

It’s awesome. Yes.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah. So, have you tried to write about this before, or … about anything? Have you tried to write a book before?

 

Stephanie:

No. I – it’s interesting, because in – I wanna say, “In my prior life,” because I spent twenty-seven years on Wall Street, and I was trying to – I had been released from my job and did a consulting gig for awhile. And then, I was just trying to figure out what I wanted next, and I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t quite know how. And then, a year ago, September, I just got this whisper of, “You’re gonna write a book.”

 

Maggie:

… thing.

 

Stephanie:

And this, of course, was – yes, … so, was the one natural thing for me to write about. I had started doing some stream-of-consciousness writing, and I have about thirty-five thousand words somewhere in a file in my computer.

 

Maggie:

That’s a lot of words!

 

Stephanie:

But really, when … to write the book – it is, but … it was just – I think sometimes, you just need to blather and get these things out of you, because very little of it actually ended up in the book that was published.

 

Maggie:

What’s – well, I hear that you were writing stream-of-consciousness, but what’s the difference between writing on your own, with you and your computer, versus writing in the Author Incubator program?

 

Stephanie:

I had no structure on my own. It didn’t have a plan –

 

Maggie:

I know that song!

 

Stephanie:

– … just didn’t write. Yes! Yes. I would just sit and write, and whatever came to me, … I just wrote, and I thought, “Well, you know, maybe I’ll be able to use some of this.” But really, there was no plan, no deadline, no push to get it done. So, had I been doing it on my own, I might still be writing and editing.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah. So, I’m hearing deadline, structure, accountability, maybe?

 

Stephanie:

Oh, absolutely, because … it was – I’ve always worked well with deadlines, … being in project management, that was my life for thirty years. So, I liked the structure of the program, and … it’s amazing, how everything builds on top of each other, as it should with a normal plan, but it was also the structure, and it’s … – I wanna use the word “sneaky,” but sneaky in a good way, of Angela having you write certain things to help get you out of your head and really form the book that’s going to be created before it’s created, if that makes sense. So that, once you sit down to write, it’s – the writing process was easy, because there was so much structure that was put ahead of it. And when I say, “structure,” I don’t wanna come across as it being rigid, ‘cause there’s no rigidity in it at all, other than there’s the … structured timeline, but what goes in is purely your own. And that’s part of the beauty of the whole process.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah. I get that. So, … it’s … a playground, right? There … are fences, and so, you know where you’re not supposed to go, you’re not supposed to run out into the street, but within that playground you can do what you want.

 

Stephanie:

Absolutely. And … the concept of … keep writing forward, because, like I said, … if I had stayed with my stream-of-consciousness writing, I’d still be editing it, and I think I finally found my voice in Chapter Six. So, … it’s an interesting process to go through.

 

Maggie:

Didn’t you wanna just stop right then and there and go back to Chapter One and fix it?

 

Stephanie:

No, because I saw how much better my writing was getting, and I also had a deadline of … “We need your first cut of your manuscript, and then you’re gonna have time to go back and edit.” And that was part of what was nice with the whole process, was … you know you’re going to have something complete and to be able to say, “On this day, I’m going to have a first draft of a completed manuscript,” was really cool, and that was almost like the carrot that was – I was dangling in front of myself, of – I know, after I have this, I’m gonna be able to go back and do whatever edits I need to do, so that I can either leave Chapter One as I want or I can then … go back and … rework Chapter One so it’s kinda like Number Six, but I don’t have to fudge with it now.

 

Maggie:

At … the beginning, … did that concept of having a finished manuscript, … of even having a completed book, did – was that something you could even wrap your mind around? Did that seem real?

 

Stephanie:

It did and it didn’t. It was when I actually – … it was a concept, but I knew I wanted to do something, and I saw how I was doing on my own. And once I got into the process, it seemed real. And it seemed more real when I finally got through my character study. I actually needed to go away for – on a cruise for a week. It just totally disconnects from everything. And then I came back, and then I was good to go. Yeah, in the beginning, I knew it was going to happen, but it was when I really got into more of the inline and more of the structure that I really saw … the end goal in sight.

 

Maggie:

So, that’s interesting. I’m hearing that, on your own, your first step would be to just write, to just vomit out whatever was in your head. I think a lot of us ….

 

Stephanie:

…. Yeah, and that’s exactly what I did. And ….

 

Maggie:

But in the program, it’s different, right?

 

Stephanie:

Yes. It is different, ‘cause it’s not – … just to … blather doesn’t really do anything other than … to blather. It wasn’t a structure, there wasn’t a timeline. And so, being in the program was … absolutely what I needed to – really, for me to refine my thoughts of how I wanted to pull this together, … into something that I could offer other people, so they could heal.

 

Maggie:

We talked about what was different about the writing process that surprised you. What would – to you – your book is out on – in Kindle, right?

 

Stephanie:

Yes.

 

Maggie:

Is – is it – is it going further? Is it going to be in bookstores?

 

Stephanie:

It will, yes, it’s been picked up by Morgan James and it will be in bookstores on July 8th – at the latest, 18th – of 2018, or July 17th, 2018. … –

 

Maggie:

… very …. Congratulations!

 

Stephanie:

– so, I have – thank you! Yes. And so, it will be in bookstores. What’s even cooler is that the thought of it being in airport bookstores. … that.

 

Maggie:

Oh, I know, right?

 

Stephanie:

Yes! Because ….

 

Maggie:

So, … for authors, for some reason, that’s … the ultimate in making it. “I’m in an airport bookstore!”

 

Stephanie:

I know! Well, because you figure, so many people – and I buy a lot of books in … airport bookstores myself, and I’m always going to look – it’s like, when I have my preserves business, I … had to go – always had to go look at the preserves books. Now, I’ll be looking at … the self-help and … seeing what’s out there and – and there’s always … great books, and the great thing about travel is, … – as I said before, a lot of people don’t wanna talk about, “I live with an alcoholic,” “I grew up with alcoholics,” “It runs in my family.” They can … go into a bookstore, or they could go online and they can pick up this book and they can be on a trip and read it. And it might be the first step that they need to start their own healing, which is awesome. So, … there’s a lot of books that you can see in the airport bookstore that you might not see anywhere else!

 

Maggie:

Right! Right on. I can’t wait until – I’m gonna be in the airport in two weeks, … I’ve gotta go look now, with your words in mind. What was – was there anything ….

 

Stephanie:

Yes. So, it’s exciting then, that, next July, the height of travel –

 

Maggie:

Right! Right!

 

Stephanie:

Yes.

 

Maggie:

Was there anything about – oh, … your book came out … on Kindle first, which I … think, maybe, to some people, sounds backward of what they’re expecting. Di – was that whole process other than what you thought it would be, coming out in the e-book, getting a contract to go into print?

 

Stephanie:

It was really pretty seamless. … I know there are people who like … a book in their hand.

 

Maggie:

Right.

 

Stephanie:

So there – I still have friends who are waiting for my author copies, which I should have in a couple of weeks, which is awesome. But other people, it’s … electronic, which means you can read it anywhere, and you can read it on your iPad or your … Kindle or whatever. But what was nice is, my cover … is changing from the e-book to the print book, and it gave me an opportunity to make any changes that I needed to, before it went to print. Which was really nice, so I knew that, if it wasn’t perfect, or if I found a typo, which I did, or I needed to change … something specific, I had the ability to do that, which was a really nice way for the process to work. Yes.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. I understand completely. I understand. So, so far, what’s the best thing that’s come out of having your own book out there? Or just a fun thing, … if you don’t have a “top of the charts” moment.

 

Stephanie:

Well, … the fun thing is – … I’m now – and the best thing is, I’m now helping women who are where I was, five years ago. So, I’m saying that it’s wonderful, that we’re talking, and this is the fifth anniversary of my ex going into rehab.

 

Maggie:

Right.

 

Stephanie:

Because … I’m taking away our – my goal is to take away this stigma of … the shame and of not being able to talk about the fact that we’re … – life happens. Fifty-three percent of us are affected by a loved one’s alcohol dependency. There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma in saying, “You know what? Life handed me a bowl of lemons, and … now I wanna make lemonade out of it.”

 

Maggie:

“But I don’t have the recipe.” Right?

 

Stephanie:

Well, my book’s a recipe.

 

Maggie:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Stephanie:

Or you can work with me and – I’ve got the recipe, and as much as we think that … we’re alone in our thoughts, and we are alone in our thoughts, but we think we’re unique, … I’m finding more and more, we’re not. And so many of the people I talk to who … are struggling with this, the struggles are so much the same. And so, the big message is, … you’re not alone, you don’t have to be alone, you don’t have to struggle by yourself. There are people who have lived through this and are now shining.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome! Couldn’t you – could you have done that, without the book? ….

 

Stephanie:

Could I have, maybe, but … I don’t think so. I think having a book gives a huge level of credibility. Besides the fact that I can say that I’m an international best selling author, which is pretty freaking cool in and of itself.

 

Maggie:

Indeed!

 

Stephanie:

But it’s – yes! But you’re now – … you’ve written about it. You’ve – you’re showing people there is the way. These are the tools that you use. This is how you came out of it. For me to just talk about it, without having the book behind it, … the level of credibility isn’t the same.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. I get that. I mean – … and in any – in … – any program, can definitely find people to commiserate, right?

 

Stephanie:

Right.

 

Maggie:

But it’s a little different … from a guide.

 

Stephanie:

Oh, absolutely. And … I love my twelve-step program, I love my groups, but they only took me so far. And it was when I sought further help, and I started to work with a coach, that’s when my transformation really started to happen. And so, this is – … The Message in the Bottle is a tool for people to help them in their transformation. It’s … another tool to take people beyond where they might currently be with dealing with this.

 

Maggie:

Yeah. And you can – and soon, they can hold it in their hands next to the cash register.

 

Stephanie:

Yes. Of an airport bookstore.

 

Maggie:

Yes. Yes. Yes. It’s so very cool.I will be … making my way to an airport in July.

 

Stephanie:

I just – I love that idea. This – like I said, because as I just – I traveled and fly probably half a dozen times a year, and I’m always looking in the bookstore. There’s always something cool and new to find. … – the bookstore and a cooking store are the two places that are … my Christmas to me. It’s – I’m a kid in a candy store, just –

 

Maggie:

I got that.

 

Stephanie:

– yeah, absolutely.

 

Maggie:

I absolutely get it. You gotta know that, out there, listening to this podcast – excuse me, either live or in a recording, there are people out there listening, going, “Um, I’ve … tried to write a book,” or, “I wanna write a book, but I haven’t been able to pull it off.” Wha – what would you tell them to do?

 

Stephanie:

If you want to – are you seriously wanna write a book and you wanna write a book that makes a difference, sign up for Angela’s program. It’s a great group of people to work with, it’s heart-centered people who wanna make a difference. What I love is that you’re going through the process together, and so, again, you’re not alone in your thoughts, you’re not alone in your struggles. Angela and others are there to help us get through the drama of writing a book, of which there is drama, ‘cause it’s bringing up things in ourselves that we didn’t know were there, and it’s a great community of support that lasts long beyond the writing … of the book, which is really awesome.

 

Maggie:

With the drama, what do you think would happen outside, if a program .. came up?

 

Stephanie:

Oh, I would find excuses, that’s ‘cause – why I had to find something else to do, other than work on my book.

 

Maggie:

Oh, sure. So, you needed more coaching.

 

Stephanie:

Oh, yes. Yes.

 

Maggie:

Where you needed to … a plane and go somewhere else. Yeah. I hear you.

 

Stephanie:

Well – and the thing is, … – I also knew that I didn’t – there was – there is an expertise that Angela offers, that I didn’t wanna have to try to figure it all out on my own.

 

Maggie:

Right.

 

Stephanie:

Which is huge, … she’s been in the business, and this is where … we put on our … big boy and big girl pants and say, “You know what? Raising my hand, I need help, I know I wanna do this, but I want the structure and the guidance that is offered in this program so that I can get out there and make the difference I wanna make more quickly – much, much more quickly than if I ever tried to do it on my own.”

 

Maggie:

Staring at that computer screen with the … drops of blood forming on the forehead.

 

Stephanie:

Yes. Yes, yes. From … banging my head on the … computer or the desk. Yes. Yeah. And I don’t know if … I would have a book, … and the other thing … that’s beautiful about this process is, … we think we need to write something that’s going to appeal to everyone, and this is where Angela turns that on … its head, and my book is a love letter to one person. And by writing a love letter to the one person, it will appeal to other people, but it’s a very – if you’re – when you’re writing to one person, it’s a very personal exchange, and it … creates a much deeper and richer product.

 

Maggie:

That’s beautiful. Thank you.

 

Stephanie:

You’re welcome!

 

Maggie:

Today’s author is definitely McAuliffe Stephanie, I’m so glad you were able to be here. Thank you.

 

Stephanie:

Oh, thank you, Maggie, this is always a blast, catching up with you, and this has been a very fun half an hour.

 

Maggie:

Stephanie is the author of The Message in the Bottle, available on Kindle and – in next July, in bookstores, and especially airport bookstores near you. Thanks, Stephanie, and thanks, everybody, for hanging with us. Until next time.

 

Stephanie:

Thank you, Maggie.