The Caseworker’s Memoirs by Dan Thompson-A Review and Interview with the Author
THE CASEWORKER’S MEMOIRS by Dan Thompson
ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date April 10, 2013
Malcolm was losing touch with the world; a retired counsellor and recently widowed, he lived each day sat at his desk, watching the world pass him by. That’s until his daughter gave him a leather-bound notebook. She encouraged him to write about times long past that he shared with his loving wife, but as dreams of his previous patients take hold of him, he has no choice but to share his experiences and thoughts.
The Caseworker’s Memoirs is a collection of short stories with one particular theme; phobias. Phobias can ruin lives, whilst some dictate and others poke fun, but the seven cases that keep Malcolm up at night range from the bizarre to the psychotic. This is Malcolm’s attempt to rid himself of his pent-up guilt, his emotional involvement with his former occupation, but perhaps most of all, his attempt to have a purpose in life.
From the rational fear of heights to the peculiar fear of time, from the obsessive fear of terrorism to the psychological ignorance of homophobia, The Caseworker’s Memoirs is not only a tale of one man’s grief, but also the tale of seven other families that are affected by real phobias.
REVIEW: THE CASEWORKER’S MEMOIRS is a poignant and fictional look at seven individual cases of phobias from the perspective of counselor/caseworker Malcolm. Malcolm is a recently widowed man whose daughter begins to worry that her father is giving up. Hoping to keep his mind and body occupied, she offers him a journal to write down his thoughts and memories. What she will discover is that Malcolm has written a collection of seven stories told in flashback and dream sequences-seven cases of phobia in which Malcolm believes he has failed the client on his or her road to acceptance or recovery.
The storyline is told in journal format with each case manifesting as a flashback or dream. Malcolm’s guilt and emotional fall-out are documented in a story of one caseworker’s inability to get past the failures and ultimate grief that coincides with a memory of his late wife.
The Caseworker’s Memoires is a fascinating and introspective look at seven people and the man who believes he has failed them all. Although fear is a natural part of our daily lives there are those people whose fear becomes all consuming-whether because of something that has happened or a disorder that has grown beyond their ability to cope. Dan Thompson walks the reader through a private look back at the lives and loss of one caseworker, who above all else, wanted to help those who were unable to help themselves.
Copy supplied by the author.
Reviewed by Sandy
TRC: Hi Dan and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of The Caseworker’s Memoirs.
We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Dan: I live in England in with my four year old daughter, who seems to be growing up more and more each day! I love reading a wide variety of genres, but I fell in love with a good adventure story thanks to Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series. There are some people who find them a little outdated nowadays, but I could read them over and over again. I love tennis too, but sadly I don’t have much spare time to play anymore, so I settle with just watching it on the TV.
TRC: Who or what precipitated your desire to write or have you always had an interest in writing?
Dan: I’ve always had an interest for writing stories. I love the freedom it gives you, and I find it ever so calming. I’ve only recently just had my work read by the public, which is more of a scary ordeal. I remember writing my first story when I was nine – about a martial arts competition. I still have it! From there, I wrote a series of children’s books and drew my own illustrations too. I use to read them to my little sister when she was growing up. The first was called Animals Hide and Seek.
TRC: THE CASEWORKER’S MEMOIRS is your April 2013 release. Would you please tell us something about the novel?
Dan: Originally starting out as a collection of short stories, The Caseworker’s Memoirs evolved and reshaped into a novel that follows retired counsellor, Malcolm. He is struggling to cope with the death of his wife, and locks himself away from the world. That is until his daughter gives him a leather-bound notebook to write his memories down. He is plagued however with dreams of his former patients, and the personal fears each one suffered. As the journal takes hold of him, he must learn to deal with his own demons about the loss of his wife, by reliving the personal phobias of his dreams. It a contemporary novel that questions the human spirit, as well as the readers understanding.
TRC: Phobias are an interesting field of study in psychiatry as well as psychology. What was the deciding factor to make the storyline premise about phobias as opposed to another psychological disease or disorder?
Dan: What a great question! There were two deciding factors actually that ultimately paved the way for this novel. In November 2012, I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation, and whilst I was in the recovery ward, a lot of men came in and out. One common factor among them however, was the fear of hospitals, needles, nurses … it was so interesting to lay in the background and just listen to all of their fears. As a result, it got me thinking more about phobias and fears, and as I researched into some of the more unheard of fears, it became very clear in my own head that this was a field I desperately wanted to explore further.
I myself suffer from a rather strange phobia. It is one that a lot of people laugh at, mock or pull that really weird face in total confusion: ‘How the hell could I, a grown man, be scared of that?’ It isn’t until you start to really look at how personal some of these phobias are to people, that you really start to understand how for some it could be the most pleasant, beautiful thing in the world, yet for another it could be the source of a horrific nightmare. I haven’t said what phobia I have, I’ll let you read the book and guess, for it features inside.
TRC: How much research (logistical, historical or medical etc) was involved in the writing of The Caseworker’s Memoirs?
Dan: Like all of my work, a lot of research is needed. Not only to make the novel much more authentic, but also to help my own mind sieve through the nonsense and really start to put a proper plan into place. I start off with Wikipedia; contrary to popular belief, it is a great site for general information. From there, I read scientific journals. One source of valuable research was in fact real accounts of phobias on people’s blogs. It gave a very real, genuine account of feelings and emotion. Capturing the very essence of suspense and reaction was very important for me.
There is one man’s story within the book that rewinds time and follows his life during World War II. It was vital I portrayed a very accurate description of the times and also, in particular, of WWII aircraft. The heavy bomber, the Lancaster features within that story, and researching historical manuals and non-fiction books was also a must.
TRC: Are any of the characters or the premise based on personal experience or people in real life?
Dan: As I have already mentioned, my own personal phobia is included in the book. I wasn’t comfortable with not including it, like I was some sort of fraud otherwise. My very good friend has a fear of heights, and I didn’t believe him. Well, that’s a lie. Obviously you can believe someone doesn’t like heights, but I didn’t realise the actual reality of his fear. At a Theme Park, I forced him onto a Ferris Wheel, and he totally freaked out and lost control of his body. It was such a scary ordeal. I certainly believed him after we’d left. His story made it into the book.
TRC: Is there a message you would like the reader to take from this particular storyline?
Dan: Not so much a message, but perhaps a more clear understanding of how people can appear to be similar on the outside, but on the inside, we are all different. I may sound like I’m repeating myself, but one of the most important things I realised whilst writing The Caseworker’s Memoirs was just how personal phobias are to each person. We need to respect what impact these fears have on their lives. One reviewer recently said that as they read the story which focuses on homophobia, she suddenly realised that she was perhaps being a little ignorant about other people’s opinions. I’m certainly not trying to tell people how to think, but it was really pleasing to hear that my stories actually made this reader stop and question their own thoughts.
TRC: What five things would you like to accomplish in the next ten years?
Dan: Being able to support myself financially from my writing most definitely has to be the first. I love writing, but with working full-time, it can often get shoved into the background. Being signed by a publishing house and going on the road, doing a book signing tour would be absolutely awesome! I’ve always wanted to be able to play a musical instrument too – guitars are cool, but maybe the piano. Perhaps all this writing has made my fingers nimble enough to pull off Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star? Being a single parent isn’t easy – if my daughter would come to me in ten years time and say “Dad, you’ve done a great job.” Then I suppose that would definitely have to be the greatest of accomplishments.
TRC: If you could become a contestant on a reality television program, which program do you feel would best suit your personality and why?
Dan: Undoubtedly, it would have to be Total Wipeout. I know there are versions of this show all over the world, so I’m sure you know what I mean. Doesn’t it look great? A sort of assault course over pools of water and mud! Surely, any fun-loving person would be up for a go at that! I’d probably not make it to the end of the course, and almost certainly make myself look like an idiot, but if it’s fun, why not?
TRC: Many authors share ideas and concerns with other authors, family members or friends. With who do you share ideas?
Dan: I never use to share ideas or concerns, but now I do. I feel by connecting with like-minded people, not only has my writing improved, but my confidence too. I’d definitely recommend any wannabe writer to join the online community and befriend other writers. They really are a great bunch of people. I’ve had so much help and advice from a number of people, but at this current moment in time, two authors stand out the most. Jack Croxall has stuck with me now for almost a year now, and I always consult him if I get a bit stuck, need to vent or simply to just catch-up. Sharon Sant and I have only been talking for a couple of months, but already in this short time, she’s made me laugh out loud and also been there to listen when I’ve needed some advice. I have a lot of respect for these two authors, and after reading their books myself, I urge lovers of adventure to check them out.
TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about yourself?
Dan: Probably that I’m mardy. Not a lot of people know the word mardy, but I think it’s a fantastic word. It’s quite local to my area, but it simply means grumpy, moody or sulky. I can be quite a quiet person, especially around people I don’t know, and that can be misconstrued as me being mardy. When people get to know me however, and I feel more comfortable around people, then you get to see the real me.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Dan: I’m currently working on the sequel to my Young Adult Fantasy novel, The Black Petal. That book is currently in the hands of an editor, and I hope to publish that soon. The sequel is a much longer book, so it needs my undivided attention. The Black Petal follows two protagonists as they are pulled from their own world into a world of fantasy and myth. I have a love of classical mythology and so you can expect to see elements of that within.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Dan: When I’m not at work, writing or reading, you can find me pottering about on the internet. I always enjoy saying hi to new people. You can catch me on my blog at danpentagram.wordpress.com or my author facebook page facebook.com/theblackpetal – I tweet too (get me!) at @dan_pentagram – come and say hi!
Favorite Food – Steak
Favorite Dessert – Cherry Bakewell
Favorite TV Show – Farscape
Last Movie You Saw – Looper
Favorite Musical Group – Avril Lavigne
Dark or Milk Chocolate – Milk
Iron Man or Thor – Thor
Dream Car – Aston Martin Vanquish
TRC: Thank you Dan for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all the best in your writing career