To understand me I have chosen to offer a few excerpts from my forthcoming autobiography, due out in October, 2002 by iUniverse.com. I hope you dont think of me as presumptuous because my life is very ordinary in many respects. I chose to begin writing at the age of fifty, which seemed appropriate as I had completed the half-century mark. I began with the autobiography in 1997 and have followed this rather painful self-analysis with eight fiction novels.
I enjoy action thrillers and adventure stories and I try to offer the reader a sense of place via my thoughts as if looking through a camera lens. Many of you who enjoy David Baldacci, Greg Rucka, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, John Grisham, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Deaver, and Michael Connelly, should enjoy my books. I consider myself a storyteller and desire to create a short 60,000 to 80,000 word-manuscript that captures your imagination and sense of adventure. Many of my experiences are drawn from actual places I lived during my fathers naval career as an officer from 1943 to 1966. These were exciting times for a navy brat and I enjoyed exciting locales in Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Virginia Beach, New Orleans, Saint Simons, Austin, and Houston.
My writing style is simple and consists of three plots running together with a main and two subplots. I typically center on two protagonists (male and female) to attract both genders to my books. The men have more character flaws in the beginning of my novels, but their strong female companions offer them confidence and a sense of purpose. The villains range from serial killers to corrupted medical and governmental officials in high places of public trust. Those of you who have enjoyed Baldaccis books should appreciate an abbreviated story in the same genre. I first started to write as self-therapy, but soon found that I wanted a wider audience and my intent is take the reader into the characters heads to understand their angst and imperfections in a complex world of inconsistencies and vulnerability. Much of our world today is now consumed with terrorist threats and it is becoming more difficult to create good action thrillers that offer a heightened sense of adventure juxtaposed with our current reality.
As I close on thirty years of clinical practice in psychology I wonder what the next twenty-five years holds in store for me. I imagine I will continue my practice but in a more limited way as I am growing weary of a thirty patient a week caseload. I would like to write but doubt that I can make a living at it. I have always thought of returning to my first love of teaching and may find a small, community college to teach and continue a smaller practice. I feel blessed already to have had the opportunity to become part of the intimacy shared by so many people who have turned to me for help. I dont know if I was particularly insightful to them, but for brief moments there was a connection that kept me going. I would like to take some time off and travel with my wife and adult children.
Kim, now twenty-six, has graduated from Vanderbilt and is pursuing her dream of becoming a production assistant in Los Angeles. Jenny continues with her job for an oil and gas company in Houston, and is quite active in our churchs Christian education program. We look forward to spending more time with our son, Greg, and his girlfriend. Greg continues to build his career at Exxon and we look forward to becoming grandparents someday. Of course, we have three dogs to keep us busy: a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Weimar, and King Charles Spaniel who enjoy their walks with me each evening.
I suspect that we will stay in Houston as mom and dad are not getting any younger and I want to be close to them as they become more dependent on us. I may want to explore more formal writing courses through Rice or the University of Houston. I have always wanted to write fiction but do not feel that I have the creative flair to make a story interesting. Time will tell if my story is interesting or entertaining. I do expect to live another thirty years and have no preconceived notion as to what I want to do with my life. But this is okay. I have learned in the first fifty years to take from life, and now wish to give back during the next thirty years. Im a slow learner.
As I pondered my first fifty years and tried to make sense of it, I began with an alternate title of A Very Ordinary Autobiography, as I had in many ways thought of myself as having lived a very ordinary life. But as my story began to unfold and take shape I carefully avoided the delusional trap of thinking that my life was in any way planned or orchestrated by me. My story, I hope, is your story as you approach your sixth decade of life. I hope your life resonates with my own. I have been blessed with excellent teachers throughout and have never wandered far from my role as student. I have not experienced the depths and pain shared by my patients, but I can communicate and live in their world if only for a brief hour at a time.
I respect my chosen profession of psychology and protect the sacredness of trust given to me. I hope it was earned by the many people who have touched me and kept me from taking myself too seriously. There is nothing magic about therapy. It answers two basic questions--who am I? And what do I want to do with my life? If we can begin to address these two questions, then I can retire from psychology and take up photography and writing fiction. But I doubt I will retire anytime soon, as long as we remain unconvinced about the outcome of these two questions. Thank God we are given the gray matter to address this old, existential quest.
The original title for my autobiography, Reflections From A Psychologist, was written five years ago, when I was going through some difficult times with my aging parents, children, changing jobs, and thinking about a writing career. Today, I am fortunate to have partnered with iUniverse.com, who has graciously printed eight novels over the last four years, which are available on Amazon.com, BN.com, Authorsden.com, as well as my personal URL: akeithbarton.com. I have no idea as to where my writing career will take me, but I definitely enjoy putting printed word to page. The creative process of writing fiction is a liberating and therapeutic experience for me, and I cannot imagine life without it. Whether I can make a living as an author is secondary to the tremendous satisfaction I receive in creating stories for others to read and enjoy.
A. Keith Barton