Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Interview! Mark McCullough, author of Vienna's Will

Mark McCullough is the author of the true story, VIENNA’S WILL. He began writing his story over twenty years ago and was encouraged by family and friends to complete the book. “Since its release, I have bonded with others who have had similar experiences and have found that the concept of perhaps helping someone else is not only an amazing feeling, it has helped with my own growth and understanding of what is truly important as well.”
Mark worked in the pool and spa industry for eighteen years then turned to his true passion of helping others. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys spending time with his dog and going to the movies or the local pizza joint with his daughter, Vienna.

Mark has joined us today for a Q&A session!

1. How did I become a writer?

I became a writer as a way of expression. I have always found it to be easier to say what I’m feeling or thinking through written word. Also, I truly enjoy it and see it as an art form in the same way as a painter or a musician. 

2. How was I able to write a book like this without being overcome with emotions and unable to put my thoughts down to tell my story?
That was very hard. Probably the hardest part about writing the book because it’s a memoir so I wasn’t working off of imagination but rather through events that have occurred in my life. Some of which were quite painful to re-visit. However, I knew it was important to get things out of my head and onto paper where I could see it all and make sense of it. I knew there was no way I could grow as a person unless I faced up to the past regardless of how painful I knew it was going to be.

3. How did I get past this roadblock?
I actually wrote a letter to myself before I started the book. It was basically just a list of things affirming why I was writing the book and why it was important. If I ever found myself doubting the process or pondering giving up I would look at it for inspiration.

4. Who are my fave authors?
I have a few. Elmore Leonard is the first to come to mind. Followed closely by Carl Hiassen, James Lee Burke and John Sanford. 

5.  Did I ever plan to be a writer before my life took the turn it did?
I think I would have been a writer on some level regardless of the events in my life. I have always enjoyed reading so I think writing would have been in the picture at some point.

6. What do I want my readers to walk away with after reading VIENNA'S WILL? 
As corny and over spoken as it sounds, that it’s never too late to start over and life is never as bad as we think it is. I know for me, I never thought I would ever get passed some of the moments and events in my life but I have. I want others to realize they can as well if only they would chose to do so. Also, the power of love is the great equalizer for anything that has happened in life. I almost learned that lesson to late but now all I want to do is shout it from the rooftops.

7. What did I learn about myself once I wrote my book?
I learned that I am a lot stronger mentally and emotionally than I ever gave myself credit for. I thought I would get to a certain part in the book and chicken out or at least hold back but I didn’t. That’s what I had done in the past when I started writing it but this time I followed through. I am very proud of that.

8. Am I self-critical of my work as an author?
For sure. I always wonder if I’m truly getting my point across or expressing what I’m thinking. I’m even more critical now because I’m through the first draft of my next book and it’s a fictional piece. At least with Vienna’s Will I had my past memories for guidance, with the current book that I’m working on it’s all coming from imagination.

9.  What is my one major struggle as a writer?
Confidence. What makes me think I can actually do this is something I ask myself often but I enjoy it so much that I just keep going.

10. The one single thing I want my readers to know about me is?
That Vienna’s Will is meant to help others who have struggled down the same path(s) as me. Originally, I was only going to show the book to family but I was encouraged to share it with others. The statement “if it helps even one person” is a daily mantra I say to myself every day.

11. What other titles did I consider before choosing Vienna’s Will?
The starting title was Field #5. So much of who I am and who I was growing up was because of an event that took place at a baseball field near my house growing up. I was afraid that people would mistake it for a sports book so I changed it. I changed it because without my daughters ‘will’ to keep me going I probably wouldn’t be here right now.

12. What frustrates me the most about being a self-published author?
I thought writing the book would be the hard part. It turns out trying to share it with others is far more difficult. 

13. What are my goals for 2016?
I have two. One is to finish my next novel. The second is to start the Vienna’s Will Foundation. Its message will be twofold. First, it will help people who have been sexually abused feel comfortable seeking help for the depression it inevitably brings. And second, I want to be an advocate for suicide awareness and prevention. Too many people young and old are turning to this ultimate decision and it’s my belief that it’s because of the stigma that comes attached to it. They are too afraid or ashamed to ask for help so they see it as their only way out.

14. How do I plan to fund the Foundation?
That’s a tough task for sure. I have been reaching out to other similar organizations for guidance on how they got started and I’m setting aside 25% of the proceeds from Vienna’s Will towards the cause.

15. Last question, how does my daughter Vienna, the inspiration for the book feel after reading it?
I think it really affected her. I kept so much of my past from her. She really had no idea what had happened. I think waiting for her to finish it was the most nerve wracking experience in my life. She could only read a chapter or so at a time because it was very upsetting and emotional for her. It seemed to take forever but I can honestly say that although we were already close before the book, we are much closer and much more open about our lives and what’s going on day to day. I am so grateful to have her in my life and so conscious of the fact that she has gotten me through some of the most difficult times in my life without her even being aware she was doing so. I am truly blessed to call her my daughter.

Title: Vienna’s Will
Author: Mark McCullough
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 254
Genre: Memoir
New author, Mark McCullough, shares his inspirational journey through chronic depression and addiction in VIENNA’S WILL ( After struggling for years to control the negative thoughts that he attempted to quiet with drugs and alcohol, Mark’s life changes when he finds the unconditional love of a little girl and her mother.
In April of 1992, Mark McCullough’s distraught parents delivered their twenty-five-year-old son to Butner Federal Prison after he committed a bank robbery. The court had arranged for the prison to complete a psychiatric evaluation of the troubled young man. Mark had intended for the crime to result in his death.
The author explores a lifetime battle with depression that was a result of sexual abuse by men he trusted and cared for as a child. At ten years old, Mark was obsessed with playing baseball and greatly admired his coach, who treated him like a son. The young boy’s first experience with betrayal came one afternoon when the coach molested him. Mark held the secret of the abuse inside, and it fed his depression for years to come. Later, when Mark was attending a Catholic high school, a priest befriended him and soon revealed his true intentions for forming the relationship.
The anguish of abuse and depression that Mark suffered drove him deeper into a life of drug and alcohol dependency. When Mark moved to Boston to attend college, he dropped out of school after attending one class. Thereafter, Mark spent his time seeking his next high and a place to sleep at night. He sold drugs to support his habit, until one day a friend persuaded him to return home before his addiction killed him.
After returning home, the drug use continued and Mark became suicidal. The plan he conceived that was supposed to lead to his death landed him in prison instead. During the time that Mark spent in prison, he faced anxiety and violence, but he also found companionship, as well as support from the psychiatrist responsible for his evaluation.
Mark continued to struggle with his addiction and depression for several years after his release from prison. Then he met the woman who would become his wife and her then four-year-old daughter, Vienna. Mark credits them with changing his life. The love of his daughter, Vienna, pulled Mark from the darkness and renewed his gratitude for his life and his family.
Mark’s decision to share his story of addiction, abuse, and mental illness came after many years of keeping secrets from his family and loved ones. “Some of the experiences I speak of in the book, some of the things I thought would stay hidden within me forever, needed to be spoken about and explained to people in my life who care about me and love me.”
The author hopes that VIENNA’S WILL will shed light on sexual abuse, addiction, and depression and help other people to face these issues in their lives and in the lives of others. Mark says, “So much of what happens in the book has, in some way, affected a great deal of people in our society, but they feel resistant to express it or discuss it. Whether it’s them personally, a friend, a family member, or even a coworker, if the book inspires them to help themselves or others, it will have served its true purpose.”
In VIENNA’S WILL, Mark reveals that the love and support of his family, especially from his daughter, Vienna, has been a powerful catalyst in his recovery and his decision to embrace life after so many years of enduring emotional hardship. The author states that he often “smiles at the thought of a child and her unconditional love being strong enough to overcome all the events of the past.”

For More Information

Book Excerpt:
We approached a series of doors, then descended down a long set of steps and walked through a maze of never ending corridors. It felt as if we were plunging into the dark depths of hell, like we were headed to someplace that once you entered, you would never find your way back. A one way ticket to nowhere. Everything was concrete and steel. The light was bright in my eyes and showed every stain and blemish that had accumulated over the years. It all seemed unfit for an animal, never mind anything associated with the human race. The guard grabbed my arm and finally spoke. “Stop right here.”
I turned to face a door with a single keyhole and a small, narrow slit. It was marred with deep scratches and riddled with dents. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to know how any of it got there, nor the likely aggression needed to make its presence known.
I’m gonna take these cuffs off. No funny business, hear?”
He started to loosen the cuffs.
How long do you have son?”
I’m not sure. I’m here on an evaluation.”
He paused with the key still in the cuffs then said, “Opened ended, pending?”
Yes, sir.”
He whistled and I could see him shaking his head from the corner of my eye. He keyed the cuffs, then the door, then he spun me toward him. I can’t imagine that was protocol but I’m sure in his eyes, I didn’t present much of a danger.
What’d you do?”
Robbed a bank.”
He paused.
I took a deep breath and exhaled.
And you’re here on evaluation?”
Yes, sir.”
Bank robbery with a gun and you’re here on evaluation?”
He shook his head, and sighed quietly.
Things didn’t go quite as planned.” I said.
What’s that mean?”
I didn’t answer.
Damn shame. It’d be better to have 5-10, at least then you’d know where you stand.”
He led me inside and closed the door behind me. As he did he said, “Look through the slot son. Down here.”
I knelt down and listened as he spoke through the opening that I would later learn is how my meals would be dispersed to me.
I’m gonna give you some advice whether you want it or not. Understand?”
Yes, sir.”
Tell the docs’ you want to do your time down here, got me?”
Have you ever been in prison son? In any jail of any kind?”
No, sir.”
Then believe me when I tell you this, anything down here is better than everything up there. Understand?”
No sir, I don’t.”
Just trust me. I don’t understand why you’re here, and I don’t much care to understand it. That’s not for me to judge. That’s not the man I am, but listen…. the yard is no place for someone like you. Good luck son, and God bless you.”
I heard his steps grow softer as he left me alone with his words. I knew what he meant but tried not to allow myself to process its true meaning. I turned to face my surroundings. My new home was approximately eight feet by ten feet. The bed was on my right and appeared to be molded straight into the wall. The mattress was thin and coated with stains. A stainless steel toilet sat to my left. I wasn’t certain, but it appeared that some type of satanic emblem was etched into the floor directly beneath my feet. I could hear screaming and pounding from somewhere down the hall and a guard screaming back telling whoever it was to shut the fuck up. I slid down the wall and slumped to the floor and for the first time realized my shoes were two different sizes. One a nine, the other an eleven. I looked back up at the setting before me and leaned back on the door and thought that I could actually hear my heart pounding. I was sure it was going to burst.

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