Sean Paul Mahoney is one of the first bloggers I “met” and started “following” (because of his post about Chicago and cheesy 80’s love songs) about the time I began this blog about my own journey of healing and recovery. He is the fabulously creative, funny, and glittery gay best friend every straight, frumpy, and self-stifled woman should have. He has an amazing story to tell and he tells it with grace, humor, and great, big, sparkly, disco balls. He has written something for everyone, but especially for those who are striving to make it through the holidays with humor and sobriety. “A Tough Cookie Christmas” is available at Smashwords.com and it can be downloaded and read on Kindles, iPads, smarthphones and computer desktops. And starting this weekend, shoppers can get it for just 99 cents!
Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?
My parents used to own a bookstore and I worked there for years, so I sort of like everything. I’ll go through phases. I read lots of memoirs before starting UrTheInspiration. I thought “Guts” by Kristen Johnston was fabulous and “Queer and Pleasant Danger” by Kate Bornstein was terrific too. Nobody talks about mental illness and addiction with more humor and honesty than Carrie Fisher. She kind of created the humorous recovery memoir genre and I hope to humbly follow in her footsteps. I love fiction too. I don’t know if I will ever read a novel better than Junot Diaz’ “Brief and Wondrous life of Oscar Wao“. It blows my mind how good that book is. I love Raymond Carver. His short stories have saved me over and over again and are the kind of thing I’ll probably re-read until I die.
Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author?
I think so. I grew obsessed with Shel Silverstein, Jim Henson, Russel Hoban, Maurice Sendak and Judy Blume – all storytellers who used different mediums. I think telling stories is just something I always wanted to do, but when I was really young I didn’t know it was writing that would help me achieve that goal. Whether it was creating plays with my stuffed animals or drawing my own comic books, I think I started practicing telling stories at a really young age. When I actually started writing – poems, stories, journals – I knew had found “it”, the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to think or a special space where you think and create?
The shower! Hands down. All my ideas come from a hot shower. I only wish they made waterproof laptops. I also love walking and many of my ideas spring up after a long walk.
Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?
I’m a big fan of art, theater, movies, books, and pop culture in general. Those things always inspire me and are always referenced in my work. I grew up watching tons of TV, listening to hours of music, and seeing hundreds of movies. So, it’s part of who I am and I have fun observing that world even in the most remote sense. This is reflected in what I write. Travel inspires me too. Seeing how other people live in different places can only make me a better writer. I try to take any chance I get to be exposed to something other than my own little bubble. Emotional mysteries and transformations are what drive my work. How do people come back from really dark places? How do we live on a crowded planet that can feel so lonely and still find love? What’s the next chapter AFTER we’ve recovered from something awful? These are kind of things I find really interesting and want my work to try and answer.
Q: How would you describe your journey from alcoholism and addiction?
A total blessing. I know that sounds like Pollyanna garbage but it is the truth. All of the hard times-divorce, alcoholism, addiction, HIV- have turned me into a stronger and more compassionate person. Plus for the first time ever, I really like who I am and I sincerely want to use my creative outlets to help other people.
Q: When did you realize you had a book, a story to share with the rest of us?
With “A Tough Cookie Christmas,” it was just one of those inspired things. I hadn’t really planned on it and the whole process from inception to release was about a week. The e-book revolution is awesome like that! It’s so empowering to have an idea and just publish it without going through all the channels and self-doubt. I felt compelled, after hearing so many people I know in recovery talk about dealing with the holidays sober, to write about my own experience.
Q: Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that helped you give life to this book?
This is going to sound corny or like some hip hop artist at the Grammys but really it all comes from my Higher Power. Without my own version of God, I don’t know how well I’d create things. I tried for many years and just stalled out over and over again. So with faith, an incredible family, a reliable support system, and a truly wonderful husband, I’m able to get through the tough stuff and hopefully share those experiences with others.
Q: How did the journey of writing and getting this book publish change you?
Being an addict and alcoholic, so much of my life has been living in denial or living in lies. So I aim to just tell the truth when I write. Even if it’s a play or fiction, it has to come from a real place. This book, recipes and all, does that. It’s just me and my observations. If it resonates – fantastic! If not? That’s okay, too. I feel like it’s authentic, which is really all you can ask for. As far as the publishing journey goes, I self-published and it was really fun and educational. It takes a lot of patience and work, but it’s super creative in the sense that you have the ultimate say in how it looks and reads. I think it changed me in the fact that now I know what an incredible amount of work it is! I now have a lot of respect for indie authors who’ve built their own little empires.
Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?
Oh gosh. I try to keep my goals with readers simple. If they were able to smile or laugh or feel a little hope after reading my stuff, then I’ve done my job.
Q: Do you have other creative avocations that you are passionate about or express yourself through?
I love cooking and baking so I was thrilled to add that element into “A Tough Cookie Christmas“. Cooking is a really meditative and relaxing form of self expression for me. For a long time I wished I could sing or play guitar. Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that I’ll never be Prince or Stevie Nicks. But I’m totally okay with being a writer who can also make an amazing chocolate chip cookie.
Q: Was this a one time project or do we have more to look forward to?
So much more to come! My new play, The Singing Room opens in April. My collection of essays will be out next year too. And I really loved the process of publishing short stories in e-book form that I have a few more I want to publish next year too. My blog UrTheInspiration is nearly a year old and I’ll still be writing over there as well. Plus another play and a pilot for a TV show that I’ve had in my brain for a long time. That should keep me out of trouble for the next year (hopefully)
Here is a taste of what you will get inside:
Now, any baker worth their parchment paper has one or two cookie recipes they can bust out by memory in a moment’s notice. I, too, have a fail-proof cookie recipe stored in my brain, just in case. But If we’re going to split hairs, my cookie throwdown recipe is actually a bar. I know. An alcoholic who’s memorized a bar. What are the odds? Anyway, here it is:
Your Favorite Bar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup of preserves, jam, cooked fruit, melted chocolate, etc.
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.
Combine all crumb mixture ingredients in large bowl and beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 2 cups of the crumb mixture. Press the remaining crumbs in your greased up pan. Spread your filling within ½ of edge. I like these with apricot or raspberry preserves. But go ahead get creative. You want melted caramels and cooked apple slices? Go for it. You like walnuts more than pecans? Get down with your bad self. You have a half of a can of cherry pie filling in your fridge that you need to use? Rock it out. Just keep the proportions the same and you can do whatever your crazy cookie-making ass desires. It’s called ‘Your Favorite Bar’ for a reason, boo. Crumble those remaining crumbs over the filling.Bake 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely; cut into bars.