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
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.