If you were a lawyer and a psychotherapist, what would you write about

in your first novel? Titusville resident and debut novelist Dan

Martin wrote about a fictional drug, BNG, an hallucinogenic plant

extract that allows its users to vividly re-experience traumatic

scenes from their lives, to reprocess those memories, and ultimately

to come to terms with unresolved childhood issues. It is especially

beneficial to alcoholics and drug addicts, enabling them to face their

patterns of addiction and thus to embark on the road to recovery.

Interestingly, Martin has submitted three short stories to the U.S. 1

Summer Fiction issue, two of which we printed – "Losing His Grip" in

1998, and "Wisdom" in 2004. The third, "Journey Back," was submitted

for our 2001 issue, but was not chosen as one of the finalist. Clearly

(and luckily) undaunted, Martin, at the suggestion of a writing

teacher, stuck to it, as the saying goes, and that story and another

became chapters 1 and 2 of his novel.

Martin will speak on "Journey Back," Tuesday, September 12, at Barnes

& Noble MarketFair. A graduate of SUNY Albany and Cornell Law School,

Marin became interested in psychology after practicing law for 10

years in New York and New Jersey. So he went back to school, and

earned a masters in counseling services from Rider University.

Since then he has worked as both an attorney and a psychotherapist,

and in 1993 co-authored a scholarly monograph entitled "The

Danger-to-Self-and-Others Exception to Confidentiality," published by

the American Counseling Association. While most of his work as a

lawyer has been in private practice in New Jersey, for the past six

months he has been working in New York City.

In the novel, Martin explores the impact of BNG on a bright but

schizophrenic journalist plagued by his past. Richard Jones, the

story’s hero, is able with the help of BNG to access incidents from

his past, including debilitating bouts of paranoid schizophrenia that

had led him to flee New York City, leaving his past entirely behind.

Q. What differentiates "Journey Back" from other novels?

A. When you read "Journey Back" it feels as if you’re actually inside

the mind of the mentally unstable main character as he lives through

one intense experience after another, and it’s often hard to tell how

much of the non-stop action reported by Richard Jones is really

happening, and how much is a creation of his always overactive, and

frequently drug-fueled, imagination. It’s like an enthralling drug

trip, always entertaining and occasionally enlightening, but without

any of the accompanying physical, emotional, or legal dangers.

This book is intended for intelligent adults who I believe will

embrace a complex and flawed main character struggling to deal with

the difficult issues in his life. He doesn’t always make the right

choices, kind of like you and me, but Jones makes an effort to treat

people right, and he never gives up trying to figure things out. Plus

he has a great sense of humor.

Q. The plot of your novel centers around the discovery of a new drug

that has beneficial, mind-expanding qualities. Are you concerned that

it could be construed as promoting the use of illegal drugs?

A. BNG is a fictitious drug, and I am not in any way promoting the use

of illegal substances. But I am very concerned about the repressive

attitude of our government towards anything that tends to expand our

minds or our consciousness. When I was studying to be a

psychotherapist I was surprised and disturbed to discover that the

thrust of mainstream psychology is apparently to damp down the

intensity of people’s feelings. To be different is considered

pathological, and drugs are prescribed to smooth over the rough edges

of those whose minds work differently than the rest of us. Thus

Prozac, Valium, and Xanax are routinely prescribed for anxiety and

depression, while the underlying personal, existential, and spiritual

concerns that lead people to become anxious or depressed are largely

ignored.

The use of other drugs, like alcohol and sleeping pills, which

essentially deaden feelings, is also tolerated, if not encouraged,

while the one type of drug that is not acceptable is anything that

expands or alters human consciousness – drugs like peyote, psilocybin,

and ayahuasca. The irony is that our society prides itself on its

spiritual faith, yet it rejects the above drugs, many of which are

used in the spiritual rituals of other cultures. It seems as if our

government is not so much anti-drug as it is anti-consciousness

expansion, and I think that is wrong and needs to change.

Q. How did your background and experience as a psychotherapist

contribute to the novel?

A. I believe that my studies and work in psychology enabled me to get

inside the head of my main character, to see the world through his

eyes, and thus to allow my readers to experience life the way a

borderline psychotic does.

Booksigning, "Journey Back’ by Titusville author Dan Martin, Tuesday,

September 12, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble MarketFair, in conjuction with

the Writer’s Exhcange meeting. 609-716-1424.

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