Sean Paul Mahoney: Author Interview

27042_1355362812997_3806118_nSean 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 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)

tough cookie one

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

Crumb Topping

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter, softened

1 egg


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.


An Award for Blogging?

When I first started this blog, in mid-December, it was intended to do three things:

  1. Be a space for me to work through my healing and recovery issues regarding my “hurts, hangups, and habits,” as they are referred to in the Celebrate Recovery, Christian subculture.
  2. Help me to keep track of where I’ve been and what I’ve done and come through in the process (my memory isn’t reliable for a lot of reasons and I’m too disorganized for hard copy journals)
  3. To be a place where others who stop by can see me sharing my experience, strength and hope, and hopefully find something to help them on their journeys

Slowly, I began visiting the blogs of others, finding inspiration, humor in the face of devastation, information, and interests in so many things, I was astounded. I guess I’m a very egocentric person and on some level didn’t really expect to find or make connections with others in the blogging world. I don’t know what my preconceptions were about blogging and bloggers, but I was certain I wouldn’t fit in and discover lines of connectedness in so many different ways.

The more I visited and was visited by other bloggers, I began to notice what I considered to be a strange, perhaps even silly phenomenon, of them giving each other Awards: The Versatile Blogger Award, being one of the most common, as well as a large variety of other awards, examples of which can be found here, here, and here. Curious about these things, I would read through the posts that included such awards and came to the conclusion that these awards were part of a mutual admiration society between bloggers who had developed an interconnected circle amongst themselves. The cynical and bitter part of myself scorned the concept of award giving and receiving ~ my writing was for me and not really for others, though I hoped others might benefit at some point. I didn’t know anyone in my personal life who blogged and while I regularly visited and occasionally commented on a couple of blogs, it seemed like a bit of a frou frou, space filler and waste of time.

Gradually, that changed. I saw an award recently that was created by someone who had been going through an incredibly difficult time (I can’t recall the blogger and searching through my blogroll didn’t net any results, sorry) and none of the people in her “real world” life had visited or supported her as she was going through her trials. She found a WWII photo of her grandfather and his cohorts after a victorious battle and used that as a basis for creating an award for those in her circle of the blogosphere who had offered continual encouragement and support. It was a beautiful sentiment and made me realize that while, yes, bloggers giving other bloggers awards is a bit of a mutual appreciation society, what’s important is that people are offering appreciation and encouragement to others who take a risk every time the “publish” button is hit.

The other important aspect, is that with these awards come rules which entail expressing gratitude for the nomination. Gratitude has become a bit of a lost art. Being thankful and appreciative of the little, ordinary things that make life better and worth living and expressing that thankfulness are things a lot of us have lost sight of or may struggle with recognizing because of health issues and life-altering circumstances. So, having a requirement to express gratitude for a little blogging award, is a re-humanizing thing. The second rule is a bit humanizing as well. It is to share a few facts and tidbits of information about the award receiver. It encourages the receiver to risk a little more and pull the curtain aside to reveal as much or as little about him or herself as is comfortable, thereby allowing those who read to fill in the picture and get a better sense of the person behind the keyboard. The third and final rule is to pay it forward. Pass the award onto other bloggers who have impacted the receiver in positive ways.

No, blogging awards aren’t silly and nonsensical, unless that’s the sort of award it is designed to be, they are humanizing and a unique way those of us in the blogging culture can connect to others and build our community in constructive and positive ways.

All of which brings me…(drum roll please!)

to the part where I express my gratitude for Cate at Infinite Sadness or Hope for bestowing on me my very first blogging award:

The Daisy Award

The rules for this Award are:

* Thank the person who nominated you.

* Tell your readers 7 unusual things about yourself.

* Nominate some worthy bloggers.

Let’s see if I can come up with 7 unusual things about me:

1) I have hit just about every statistical group of motherhood there is to hit: teen mom, single mom, welfare mom, working mom, late in life mom, and last night I achieved one not previously identified, but recognized by moms everywhere, MOMBIE = 2 weeks of insomnia+carb overload+enervating heat+repetitious pre-school “edutainment”

2) I had such a belief in the 70’s & 80’s cartoon admonition that “Knowledge is Power” and GI Joe’s motto that, “Knowing is half the battle,” that I earned two GEDs and a High School Diploma. Which leads to the next fact.

3) As a pregnant, teenage runaway, I enrolled in an alternative educational and vocational program under an alias and earned my first GED.

4) From the time I ran away at 16 until the time I returned “home” at 19 with my two year old son, I lived out of cars and hitchhiked across the country with my son’s father, living off the good will and good intentions of good people. Not proud of it, but it happened and contributed to me being the woman I am today.

5) I attended a church service at Melody Land, across the street from Disneyland, but have never been to Disneyland.

6) Towards the end of my second pregnancy, I participated in a DECA competition for the first time and qualified to go to Nationals in Florida. Heat and humidity in the third trimester = not fun.

7) I once procrastinated completing a revision of one paper AND the creation of my final paper until the night before finals. I got to finals one hour late, had to wait and take them with another section later that day and still managed to pass the course with an “A” . . . my version of living on the edge.

Now, my nominees are:

Going Bananas by Paloma ~ a brand new blog by a young woman finding her voice against the unjust things in her world. I hope this encourages her to continue seeking.

Sleepless in Newcastle by Keith ~ I found his blog through The Ultimate Blog Challenge and to read a man’s perspective on coping with multiple and co-existing life challenges has been good for me.

In Case I’m Gone by Leigh ~ I’ve had no direct contact with her, however the letters she writes to her son, inspire me, cause me to question myself, and make me want to be a better person and mother. I hope she accepts.

Things I Want To Tell My Mother by Marilyn ~ Many of the reasons In Case I’m Gone gets my nomination are true for this one as well. However, never having had the opportunity to have an adult relationship with my mother, being able to witness the depth of love and length of memory is indescribable for me.