Friday, December 17, 2010

New Review from - WGTP Recommended!

Library Journal, a top publication for librarians, gave The Writer's Guide to Psychology a thumbs-up! My favorite line is the last one, because having a corner on a market is a big deal in publishing: "Because the guide is directed toward writers with general knowledge rather than experts in the field, it is the only book of its kind."

Here's the review, but you can find the original on's December 17th First Looks (you need to scroll down to Nonfiction).

Clinical psychologist and writing coach Kaufman (psychology, Columbus State Community Coll.) aims to assist fiction writers in portraying psychological disorders, clinical treatment, and sociopathic villains with more accuracy. She begins by dispelling some common mistakes authors make when portraying psychological problems. Boxes feature easily accessible bulleted tips and examples of what not to do, with references to well-known books, films, and authors. Realistic portrayals of treatments, differentiations within the profession, and disorders grouped by symptoms are included. Readers will be best served by checking the table of contents for what they are interested in rather than reading the book straight through; cross-references refer to other chapters to help them find what they need.

Verdict: At times, Kaufman gets a bit too clinical for the average reader, but her language is often user-friendly. Because the guide is directed toward writers with general knowledge rather than experts in the field, it is the only book of its kind. Recommended.
Karen McCoy, Fort Lewis Coll. Lib., Durango, CO

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guest Posts & WGTP Giveaway Winner

Be sure to stop by Murder by 4 for a guest post today (Friday) about mistakes writers make in thriller/suspense fiction, including misconceptions about the Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity plea and The Ambiguously Insane (But Often Brilliant) Villain.  On Monday, stop by Mary Lindsey's delightful Purposeful, Deliberate Waffling blog for a guest post on what I've learned (and wanted to pass on to you) about publishing a book.


Thanks to everyone who posted comments over on my Archetype Writing blog, through the Facebook feeds, and through email!  I threw all the names in a hat and the winner of the signed book and the fab mug is....Deb Salisbury!  Congratulations!  Deb, could you email me with your snail mail addy, please?  (My email address is here if you need it.)

Thank you too to everyone who participated in the blog tour, whether as a reader, a host, or a commenter! If you didn't win a signed copy to keep for yourself or give as a gift (or both!), Amazon has a great price -- and I've been promised that a Kindle edition is coming very soon! I will be sure to post again here when that happens.

Psychology Today Blog

In the meantime, if you haven't had a chance yet to check out out my Psychology Today blog, Psychology for Writers, please stop by!  So far we've talked about haunted asylums, what makes a good villain, The Vampire Diaries, and what to do when your personal issues show up in your stories!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writer's Guide to Psychology Release and Blog Tour!

Today is the day!  The day every writer waits for and dreams about -- the day her first book hits shelves.

For me, that book is THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior.

If you haven't ordered a copy yet, you can visit my WGTP website for more information including the media kit (which includes review excerpts) and a detailed table of contentsfollow me on Facebook, visit my new YouTube channel.  And you can always send me your psychology and writing question over at Archetype Writing.

I am also thrilled to announce that in addition to enthusiastic blurbs from novelists like Jonathan Kellerman, Jilliane Hoffman, and Roberta Isleib, my first reviews are in from the New York Journal of Books, and they're  excellent. Please read a brief review from the NYJB here and a much more extensive one (by a different reviewer) here.

Blog Tour & Giveaways

In the meantime, please celebrate my book release with me!  Over the next two weeks, I will be doing a blog tour.  Several of the stops will include giveaways of autographed books!

This week:
Dec 1: QueryTracker Blog
Dec 2: Shooting Stars
Dec 3: Murder by Four

Next week:
Dec 6: Danyelle Leafty/Myth-Stakes
Dec 7: Imperfect Clarity
Dec 8: Christine Fonseca
Dec 9: Elana Johnson -
          Also, Christine Fonseca is also going to review the book this day.
Dec 10: Mary Lindsey

Archetype Book and Mug Giveaway!

I'll be keeping you posted on the various giveaways here.  I'm also going to be doing one over on the Archetype Writing blog.  Post a comment on my Archetype blog between now and next Thursday, December 9th, and you'll be entered to win not only an autographed copy of the book, but also a very special, very rare Writer's Guide to Psychology mug!  I'll announce the winner both here and there on Friday, December 10th.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blogging for Psychology Today

I'm excited to announce something I've had under my hat for about a week and a half now: Psychology Today asked me to join their illustrious group of bloggers!  My little corner of the Psychology Today universe is Psychology for Writers: Insights for the Writer and the Writing.

I just published my first post, which tackles the controversial issue of haunted asylums--controversial because mental health advocacy groups like NAMI strongly disagree with them.

Why should writers care?

Because they may be tempted to use stereotypes like the ones used for haunted asylums...when there's a trick to finding fresher (and even creepier) ideas.  Read more here and leave a comment behind to let me know you visited!

Edit: Psychology Today quoted me in their rotating header for the day, an honor only 5 people get a day. Pretty exciting for Day 1 of posting!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Official Media Kit Now Up!

Been dying for a preview of THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY?  Check out the official media kit, now available on the Writer's Guide to Psychology book website in either high  (print quality) or low (screen quality) resolution versions.  Feel free to point interested friends in that direction!

The official media kit includes:

  • Book overview
  • Book publication details
  • About the author
  • Advance praise
  • Excerpts:
    • Don't Let This Happen to You! samples
    • What Messages Are Your Characters Sending?
    • Heroes vs. Villains
    • The Truth About Dissociative Identity Disorder
The book will be available December 1, 2010 at your favorite online or brick-and-mortar bookstore!  Want to be sure you get yours as soon as it comes out? You can pre-order now!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Preview: Foreword to the Writer's Guide to Psychology

Jilliane Hoffman, the international bestselling author of the legal, psychological suspense thrillers Retribution, Last Witness, Plea of Insanity and Pretty Little Things, wrote a fantastic foreword for the soon-to-be-released (12/1/2010) Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior. A former felony prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Jilliane is also the former Regional Legal Advisor to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The foreword is also available as a downloadable PDF file on The Writer's Guide to Psychology website.

By international bestselling
suspense writer Jilliane Hoffman

Every writer—be it a novelist, journalist or screenwriter—has at one time or another attempted to create, explain or define in their work a complicated character who is afflicted with mental illness. We hear and see the slang medical terminology—“OCD”, “manic”, “schitzo”, “psycho”, “PTSD”—casually tossed about in conversations, literature, movies, and on TV everyday. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably; oftentimes they are used incorrectly, but their frequent overuse has led many writers to believe they understand a disease or affliction when they really don’t. Unfortunately, most writers aren’t psychiatrists and very few have earned a doctorate in psychology. Save for a few who might’ve spent some time in a psych ward or on a therapist’s couch, most writers have had no interaction with the schizophrenics, sociopaths, manic-depressives (a/k/a bi-polarites), borderlines, post-traumatically-stressed-out, or otherwise mentally ill characters we yearn to write about. Without a clinical background or field experience, most writers have thus relied on the same old misinformed stereotypes we’ve heard or seen through the years to create characters that are inaccurate, or in some cases, actually atypical of an individual suffering from a particular psychological disorder.

I’d love to say, “If you need a psych degree to truly understand the nuances of a particular mental illness, then but for psychiatrists and those with a doctorate on their walls, who’s the wiser if you rely on outdated or misinformed stereotypes?” but it doesn’t work that way. All writers worth their salt know that once a reader or a filmgoer catches on that an author or screenwriter hasn’t done their homework, they lose credibility with that audience. From there, it’s all downhill. But it’s not just the misuse of slang terminology that immediately identifies you, the writer, as a person who didn’t do his or her character research. It can be the situations you put your character in, how you make your character speak, what she looks like, how she dresses, what career choices she’s made, and the type of men she dates. While mental illness is unique in how it may affect an individual, each diagnosis has certain defining symptoms that will shape a character’s thought processes and how that character interacts with others.

I pen legal thrillers, and so the characters that I try to create, define or explain are usually diabolical psychopathic killers. As a former Miami prosecutor, I have some real life experience to help guide me in the killer department, but I’m no Sigmund Freud or Jennifer Melfi when it comes to understanding why my nasty characters do what they do. When it came time to tackle a different psychological disorder in my third thriller, Plea of Insanity, I actually had to read whole treatises on schizophrenia just so I could create an accurate depiction of a schizophrenic character. Of course, before digesting such exciting reads as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Version IV (DSM-IV) and Surviving Schizophrenia, I first scoured the shelves of bookstores and libraries alike in search of an easy to understand guide to Psych 101. Unfortunately for me, there was nothing.

Until now.

I wish Carolyn Kaufman had written The Writer’s Guide to Psychology a few years ago. She not only defines the most complicated of mental illnesses in an easy-to understand manner, but she actually thinks like a writer, offering her invaluable insight as a seasoned clinician in character development. She debunks the myths and dismantles the stereotypes, gives an insider’s view as to what really happens when a client lies down on that proverbial therapy couch (that is most likely a therapy chair nowadays), and in the end even helps you medicate your crazed character properly. She draws upon the past mistakes of other writers to provide readers with cautionary tales of what not to do and lauds the ones who hit a Hannibal Lector homerun in an effort to better illustrate how a writer can get it right.

And that’s what it really comes down to in the end—getting it right. Because even in works of fiction, the reader and the audience expect nothing less.

-Jilliane Hoffman

Get a copy for your bookshelf!  The WGTP is available now for pre-order at Amazon.comBarnes & NobleBorders, or your favorite online bookstore!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Detailed Table of Contents for WGTP

September is almost here, and that means only 3 more months until the Writer's Guide to Psychology hits shelves on December 1st!  Everything is coming together as we polish up the final manuscript and prep the media kit.  While we finish those things up, here's a detailed Table of Contents. Want a printable version?  Download the PDF here.

Chapter 1: Common Myths and Mistakes –
A Look at Fictional Portrayals of Psychological Problems, Professionals, and Treatments

What are the most common mistakes writers make?  Read about typical misconceptions, how other writers have fallen prey to them, and how you can avoid doing the same!
Chapter 2: Why People Do What They Do - Learning to Think Like a Shrink
Make your therapist sound like a real shrink! This chapter clues you in to common therapist stereotypes, shows you the differences among theoretical orientations, and supplies you with all the right buzzwords and questions.  You’ll also learn new ways to see and understand your characters.

Chapter 3: The Therapist’s Profession - Degrees, Training, and Ethics

Should your character be a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a professional counselor, or a social worker?  Find out how each is unique, how therapists are trained, and which ethical dilemmas can add excitement to your story.

Chapter 4: Behind Closed Doors - How Real Therapy Sessions Work

Which questions do therapists ask during the first session, and why do they want to know?  How can you convince characters who don’t want to talk to open up?  And how do therapists always seem to know what someone is thinking?  Learn all the tricks your therapist needs in this chapter.  Also—learn which messages your character may unintentionally be sending, what goes in client records, and how insurance companies decide how many sessions your client character should get.

Chapter 5: Disorders and Diagnosis –
When Problems Become Disorders and How They’re Diagnosed

When does a problem become a disorder?  Is someone who has the genetics for a particular disorder doomed to develop a problem?  What does an official diagnosis look like?  Find out when your therapist character should make a diagnosis, how to use diagnostic jargon, and how disorders can vary depending on your cultural setting.

Chapter 6: The Disorders Part I - Mood, Anxiety, and Psychotic Disorders

In addition to a description of each disorder, the four disorders chapters include unusual tidbits from clinical experience and research to help you bring your character’s problems to life.  To help you avoid making common mistakes, misconceptions are also addressed. And treatment specifics will help you decide which type of therapy, medication, or alternative approach your therapist should use.

How are major depressions different from chronic, low grade depressions? How can your therapist character tell the difference between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia? How are creativity and mental illness related? And what is a nervous breakdown, anyway? Find out in this chapter!
Chapter 7: The Disorders Part II - Childhood Disorders, Dementia, and Eating Disorders

In this chapter, you’ll learn about disorders that typically appear during a particular stage of life and how to apply them to your characters.  Find out, for example, the difference between ADHD and ADD, how Alzheimer’s differs from other dementias, and how eating disorders are culturally influenced.
Chapter 8: The Disorders Part III - PTSD and Dissociation

How is children’s PTSD different from adults’?  How does hypnosis work, and is it an appropriate way to force your hero to remember and deal with a trauma?  Is there really such a thing as repressed memory?  Why do some therapists and researchers argue that multiple personality disorder doesn’t exist?  Be sure your therapist is up to date on all the controversies!

Chapter 9: The Disorders Part IV - Personality Disorders
In this section you’ll discover which disorder might be a mild form of schizophrenia, how your psychopathic villain would be diagnosed, and why your client character may be self-injuring.

Chapter 10: Psychopaths and Villains - Crossing the Line

From difficult childhoods to brain abnormalities, get all the details you need to flesh out your wickedest antagonists!

Chapter 11: Physical and Biological Interventions –
Medications, Electroshock Therapy, and One Really Horrible Idea
Which medications would be easiest for your suicidal character to overdose on?  What is electro-convulsive therapy really like?  How were lobotomies performed historically and when was the last one done in the US? Learn how to apply both historical and cutting-edge biological treatments to your story in this chapter.

Chapter 12: Emergencies in Psychotherapy - Suicidality, Homicidality, and Hospitalization

How will your therapist decide when to commit someone who’s suicidal to the hospital, and what is the hospital like when the patient gets there?  When are seclusion, restraints, and forced medication used? Get all the details you need to accurately portray historical and modern institutionalization!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Writer's Guide to Psychology Now Available for Pre-Order!

The Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior is now available for pre-order on and other online retailers, including Barnes & Noble, and Borders.  I signed up for Amazon's Author Central tonight, so I will add a profile and a pic soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Final Book Cover Design and Title

I'm excited to finally be able to unveil some information: the cover, the title, and the publication date.  Since you're all writers too, I thought you might be interested in the process we went through to reach these decisions -- read on!

I turned in my completed and polished manuscript last October  to the fab team at Quill Driver Books (hereafter referred to as QD). We took the holidays off and then dove into January with some fine-tuning in anticipation of the book listing going out with Quill Driver's fall catalog.  (Yes, it's just now spring, but remember, publishing almost always operates months in advance.)

First, we changed the title from Nervous Breakdowns and Psychopathic Killers: The Writer's Guide to Psychology to The Writer's Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior.  

Why?  Well, my original goal was to create a title that grabbed the browser -- NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS AND PSYCHOPATHIC KILLERS! -- and made her want to pause long enough to look at the subtitle and then the book.  However, QD made a really good point: many, many people browse books online, and the subtitle often isn't visible.  So we needed a title that made clear the book's purpose.  We banged around some possible titles and subtitles and finally came up with one that not only clearly explained what the book was about, but was interesting, too.

Next came the book cover.  QD had a design firm come up with three different cover options, all of them quite different.  I  asked some of the people I was closest to what they thought; meanwhile, QD discussed the options internally and also asked the book distributor folks for their input.  In the end, we chose a design that best seemed to convey the concept captured by the new title.  Seeing the book cover is kind of like putting on a wedding veil -- you realize in a way you hadn't before that this is really going to happen!

Most recently, I got a publication date: December 1, 2010 -- just in time for holiday shopping!  The book isn't yet available for pre-order, but it should be soon.  I'll be sure to let you know.

More soon!