How would you classify your latest work, what inspired its inception?
My latest book was inspired by a primal impulse to stop adults bullying and abusing children. I was pulled into an abuse crisis at a private school where I heard directly from students about the emotional and physical abuse they were suffering at the hands of teachers. I then witnessed these students being dragged through a broken-system that concluded the abuse was their fault. Now that I have researched adult abuse of children, I’ve learned this is typical victim-blaming. This discovery poured fuel on the fire that originally ignited in me to bring adult bullying to a halt.
How long did it take you to complete?
Ten years. The abuse was exposed to me in 2012. I watched the private school cover it up with the extensive help of government agencies entrusted with child protection. The coverup of school and government was then exposed on the front page of The Toronto Star and covered by investigative journalists on CTV W5. I wrote a book about it, Teaching Bullies. It went to number one on Amazon in the sport psychology category and I realized people want this knowledge. I did a deep dive into the neuroscience as I believe that’s how we can make positive change.
Who are some of your top 5 authors or writers you look up to & admire?
I greatly admire the work of psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroscientists – all of them also authors – Dr. Michael Merzenich, Dr. Marian Diamond, Dr. Helen Reiss, Dr. Lee-Anne Gray, and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Why do you write?
I write because I believe the pen is mightier than the sword and I am in a battle. I write because the teachers who were abusing students at the private school victimized my son. I write because my son had the courage with the other students to speak up and he was humiliated and ostracized by corrupt adults in positions of power. I write because I believe we can change society. I write because living in a society where suicide has risen 57% in the U. S. between 2000 and 2018 is tragically wrong. I write because it infuriates me that we keep talking about the epidemic of childhood bullying without speaking the truth and saying: bullying is learned behavior; we must stop adults from teaching and role-modelling it.
What’s the biggest take away you want your readers to come away with after reading your latest work?
I want readers to understand that if they ignore their brain, it’s at their peril. I want them to know that housed in their skull is the most powerful ally in leading a healthy, successful, happy life. The brain is the ultimate command center and it has the capacity to change based on what we practice. If we practice healthy brain activity, mindfulness, and empathy, we could change much of the suffering in our world and lives.
How is the writing/reading scene in your locale?
Pretty quiet. Canadians lack the fiery nature of Americans and Europeans. I find that they prefer the status quo and are not open to changing our systems, regardless how broken they are. While I cannot seem to make headway in Canada, I have had excited, positive, supportive reactions to the neuroscience-informed approach by many in the United States, Australia, and England. I think there’s a zeitgeist at work.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
My favorite book of all time is Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’m not much of a crier, but that brilliant, beautiful book broke my heart into many pieces.
When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
When I clued in that if I stayed in university and did a Masters and then a PhD, all I’d have to do is write in order to earn the privilege to spend my days in libraries.
How have you evolved as a writer over the last year?
I learned that readers do not want research, facts, and figures. The reader wants you to share your own story, become a fellow traveler in the book’s journey. Much of my evolution in the last year is due to my wise and loyal agent, John Willig.
If you could meet, have dinner, have a drink with anyone (writer/non-writer) (dead or alive) who would it be?
I’d like to go walking in garden with Virginia Woolf and then out for drinks.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a book called Cloud of False Echoes: A Memoir about Why the Truth Matters.
End of Interview