interviewed on Mar 25, 2020
Pat McConnaughey is uniquely qualified to blend the search for personal growth and development of self-love with practical steps to make changes in the reader’s life. He is unusual because he holds a graduate degree in professional counseling as well as an M.B.A. He also has an associates’ degree in Management Information Systems and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in economics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Alma College, an M.B.A. with a concentration in marketing from Central Michigan University and a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University.
For the most part, his early career was focused on management and administration in various capacities. After retirement, he worked as a therapist, specializing in working with children in school settings, K-12. In addition, he operated an outpatient office working with clients of all ages; he was also a certified addictions counselor and held international certification.
The Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has awarded McConnaughey the Distinguished Service Medal, the Michigan Department of Amvets has chosen him as Citizen of the Year, and the Michigan Department of American Legion has awarded him their prestigious “Good Guy” award (Citizen of the Year). He lives in northeast Michigan, where he enjoys a range of outdoor activities and playing music with friends.
Q. You hold an M.B.A. as well as a Master's Degree in Professional Counseling and also have extensive experience as an executive and a counselor. How did you think of transitioning into a writer?
Well, it was a long journey. I couldn’t have written my book earlier than I did. I had to be in the right place. I finally reached a place where I felt I had something to say that would be helpful to others, and wanted to share what I discovered over the years, both through formal training and education as well as from life experiences.
Q. When did your writing journey begin and what kind of writing did you start with?
I began writing about three years ago. My first venture into writing was this book. I was ready, and the whole process, although it took a while because it can’t be rushed, was relatively effortless.
Q. How has your work experience influenced the content in your book "The Great Love Story of Your Life"?
It has had a tremendous influence, and was crucial to its content. First, as a counselor, I worked with many clients who struggled to make life changes, who never seemed to figure our where they were going or where they wanted to go, or how to get there. From my management experience, every day was filled with making decisions, making plans, and putting them into action. Systems change and behavior change was a routine thing. So writing this book made a sense to me because I could easily combine the two fields and produce a product that helped readers make life changes they wanted.
Q. The book's subtitle says "Learning to Love Yourself and Others and Find Purpose". Can you elaborate a bit on this?
Everything must begin with our learning to love yourself. Everything emanates from inside us. You can’t give to the world or others what you don’t have inside. Deep inside us is love, stillness, peace. It’s gets buried under a lot of distortion, garbage if you will. But love resides in our innermost being. By learning more about ourselves and how we got to where we are, we can learn to accept and love ourselves for who we are. When that happens, projecting it to the outside world and other others actually becomes easy, because what’s flowing outward is what we feel, what we know, deep inside. It’s the secret to living a happy and fulfilled life.
Q. "The Great Love Story of Your Life" is an inspirational and motivational how-to-guide. How would you like your readers to use this book in their lives to achieve life goals and discover their purpose?
My mission is to convince readers that change is possible. I begin by discussing how we got to where we are, believing things that aren’t necessarily true about our self and the world in general. Explaining why the person sitting next to us has a completely different view of the world. My aim in the book is to encourage readers to have faith in themselves, to step out into the relative unknown of their lives, and work toward being the person they want to be. If they are happy with the way things are, that’s great. Most people, I find, would like to move to a higher level of being, a higher level of functioning. That’s what my book is all about.
Q. What was your thought process when you started writing this book and how have you structured its content?
My thinking was that I first had to show readers how they came to believe things they believe, and point out that what they know isn’t necessarily true, but are really opinions. Then I encourage people to look at their life, and ask themselves if they are truly happy with things the way they are. If not, then we discuss how to go about making changes, step by step. To illustrate my points, I include several examples of regular, everyday people who I ran across that were making a great impact in the lives of others, offering inspiration to us all.
Q. Have you included any real-life examples from your extensive work experience in your book? If yes, would you like to share some of them with us?
My book includes many examples. It is so easy to find examples of inspiration—everywhere you look. We took a cross-country trip and examples were everywhere, and I offered a few of them in the book. The point was to emphasize that everywhere you look, people are living out a life of purpose. Not necessarily going to the mission field in a far—away land, but serving their fellow humans in their little home town. I get goose bumps thinking about all the wonderful people I have met. They’ll never be famous for what they do, but they are performing little miracles.
Q. Would you like to share a few of your favorite lines from your book?
I guess my favorite line in the opening line: “It is a short period of time between the moment we are born and evidence that we ever lived at all is carved in a granite headstone”. Life is short; how long we live is not important. It’s the quality of our life that matters. The entire book is based on encouraging the reader to ask “Am I living the life I want for myself?” If not, why not?
Q. What message do you want to convey through your book that can get the readers thinking?
Don’t sell yourself out. Look at your life. If you are happy with things the way they are, that’s great. But don’t end up like the character in a Tolstoy short story, that said on his death bed, “What if my whole life has been wrong?” I encourage readers to think about this. You only have this one chance to live on this earth. Don’t sacrifice your own peace of mind and happiness.
Q. How is your book "The Great Love Story of Your Life" different than other self-help & motivational books in the market?
Well, the most striking difference is that, because of my rather unique background, with graduate degrees in both business and professional counseling and experience in both arenas, I approach the subject of personal change in a way that, frankly, can’t be done by someone with experience in only one field. Actually, the field of business management has been using decision making techniques and executing plans for change for decades, and the field of therapy has only recently adopted these change techniques, or treatment plans. Most of what I learned about effecting change, I learned in executive capacities, where operational change as well as behavioral change has always been central to the mission.
Q. What genres do you enjoy the most- both for writing and reading?
For writing, I am only interested in self-help topics. I want to offer advice for people who would like to improve their lives and are looking for input they might be able to use. As far as reading is concerned, I of course enjoy reading books about psychology, self-help, but also history and classic novels.
Q. Are you planning to write more books? Tell us about them and what stage are they at?
I have one more book in mind and have been gathering notes for it over the past six months. For now, I am choosing to concentrate on this book, and have been busy designing a website, starting a YouTube Channel, etc. My new book will be a meditation/inspirational book, short, and written to offer encouraging thoughts that can help the reader maintain a positive outlook throughout their day.
Q. What else do you like to do apart from writing?
I have always had many hobbies, or curiosities, to keep life exciting. Being raised in northern Michigan, I like many kinds of outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. Last year, my wife and I hiked a section of the Camino in Spain and had a wonderful time staying at little lodges and monasteries along the way. I play several musical instruments and am learning to play the saxophone at the moment. I like to build and repair instruments, and have given away many instruments to young people to encourage a love of music and to help families who are unable to afford an instrument for their child.
Q. What role has your family played in your writing career?
My family has been very supportive, especially my wife Sally, who has been so understanding. It takes a lot of time to write a book, to prepare it for publishing, to design websites and make videos. Through it all, she has been encouraging.
Q. Talk to us about your growing years and your home. Did it influence your writing?
There are five children in my family, an I am the youngest. My parents encouraged self-responsibility and a good work ethic. My mother was a school teacher and I think is the reason to this day that I read every morning before I begin my day. She always read works of nonfiction in the morning.
Q. What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Well, I am on a shoe-string budget, so I have had to do the best I can with the resources I have. I started out by using Facebook but am finding that, in my case, YouTube videos can be highly effective, enabling me to reach a wider audience. In the end, it’s all about visibility, about promotion.
Q. What do you think makes a book sell, or makes a reader buy it?
Of course, my M.B.A. has a concentration in Marketing, so I’m going to say that books sell by being promoted, by being advertised. People aren’t going to buy a book unless they are aware of it, and that means advertising. But then ads are expensive. And even if you have a large advertising budget or have visibility or some reason—such as being a celebrity—a book is going to have limited sales if it isn’t good. So, the answer is, promotion and having a great product.
Q. What’s the most moving or affecting thing a reader has said to you?
It was that my book had made them realize that change is indeed possible and that it gave them courage to try. He also stated that he wished I had been his life coach years ago. Comments like that make writing the book worthwhile. In the end, it’s what it’s all about.
Q. What are your favourite three books, and why?
Oh, picking three books is hard! It’s like asking me what my favorite songs are. An author that immediately comes to mind is Dr. Wayne Dyer, who wrote many fine books, but I particularly like his “Change Your Thought, Change Your Life”. He emphasize the importance of examining our thoughts, and encouraged us to change them if we don’t like them. Very good.
br>Of course, I have to include Ernest Hemingway. He was a master. He was a master of clear, clean writing. He didn’t waste words, and he wrote what he knew from first hand experience. It gave his writing so much credibility, like a camera taping a story. He wrote true.
I like the writings of the late Richard Carlson, who wrote a book titled “Shortcut Through Therapy,” where he argued that therapy, making life changes, need not be a long and expensive undertaking. I credit him for writing on a complex subject in a clear manner.
Q. Who are your favourite three authors and what do you like the most about them?
I would have to say Dr. Wayne Dyer, Ernest Hemingway, Dave Barry.
Q. Tell us about your publishing journey and why did you choose to self publish?
Well, I sent my manuscript to a dozen publishers and didn’t have success. I could have chosen to continue, or to try to land an agent, but instead I chose the self-publishing route. I guess I like the challenge and the adventure. I have learned a lot. For my next book, I plan on seeking out an agent, who has more access to large publishers. I also will have a stronger platform by then.
Q. What challenges do you think are faced by writers, what’s the worst thing about the book industry according to you?
I think the main challenges for writers have to do with their writing. Writer’s block, writing on topics that are marketable, and so on. I don’t criticize the publishing industry probably because, having an M.B.A. with concentration in marketing, I understand completely why they behave the way they do. It’s a business; they are in it make money. And that’s not a criticism. If I had a publishing company, I would want to make money too. If I didn’t my company wouldn’t survive. They use agents to help screen all the manuscripts that are out there. They also take a large percentage, but then they also have a lot of expense, overhead. So it’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is
Q. At QwertyThoughts.com, we are trying to bring authors and readers under the same roof, to connect, discuss and socialize over books. What's your take on this?
I think what you are doing is a wonderful thing. It’s unique in that it offers a more personal ways to learn about new books, new authors. We all appreciate very much the service you are providing to us all.
Q. What message do you want to share with budding writers?
Don’t give up. Follow your dreams. Live your dreams. Learn your craft, keep practicing your writing. And write regularly whether or not you feel inspired. Just do it. Get something down on paper—there will be plenty of time for editing later. Always write from your heart. If you do, your writing will be true and the reader will sense it.
Buy Pat McConnaughey's books here