Sunday, March 20, 2011

Psychologist Gael McCarte - The Con

As a psychologist Gael McCarte worked with offenders in Perth, Western Australia. She has fictionalized this experience in her book, The Con. She gives readers a ring side seat into Aussie life, working with criminals, raising kids in Australian elite private schools.

Gael is a Marriage and Family Therapist, forensic psychologist and seminar speaker who is often complimented on her unique story telling abilities, and her Celtic sense of humor.

Thank you for joining us at Writers in Business. With the combination of psychology and crime, your book sounds intriguing. I understand you have fictionalized your work with offenders, but what inspired you to bring this information out as a book?

I had 3 inspiration sources.

My first inspiration was Sandra Fleury. I mention her in the acknowledgements. Sandra's position was to convince churches, business owners and government agencies to give criminals with power tools access to their buildings to make necessary repairs. This 'community service' was part of their sentencing. She was petite to tiny. The vision of restoring the Dufken, a boat used by the first settlers who came to Australia, gripped her. She took it on as a project. Huge, gruff offenders complained, they were hot, they did not like the cramped hull, they did not want to sand. This tiny woman answered, "too bad, too sad, you owe a debt to society, and smile, this is how you get to repay it". That wooden ship rebuild was amazing. And the offenders gained valuable skills, staying at a job they did not necessarily like, being one of them.

I saw an opportunity. Former inmates could utilize their talent in the real world upon their release from prison. Sandra helped me institute the Justice Through Art program to do that. Prisons had an excellent art teacher, Jeff. He actually went into the prisons and assisted inmates to develop their art. He was willing to continue the classes once the inmates were released. Using the same artistic methods, products and style he provided a seamless transition venue from prison to the real world.

My second inspiration was that I left the department before I could add the prison tattoo element to the art. It was an itch I could not scratch. It had to be done. I did it in the book. I would very much like to do it in reality here. Prison art is sought after. The current overwhelming popularity of tattoos has catapulted them into the mainstream. From a business perspective, prison tattoo designs could be a wealth creator, among other things, for their designers. If prisons caught the vision it could not only be cost neutral but end the offending cycle thereby negating the cost of re-incarceration. Sheriff Joe, are you listening?

The third inspiration was the offenders themselves, some of whom were the most amazing people I have ever met. I have fictionalized them but the essence of their tragedies, life stories and even successes are in the book.

Did these experiences have an impact on you personally?

I could not work with this population and not have it affect me. As I portray in my book with Anna, a psychologist, it changes your language, your attitude, your world outlook and increases your cynicism and fear for your children's safety. It bleeds into every part of your life, and personal experience. The stories are the same, young parents, absent father, violence, neglect, trauma, leaving school early, crashing from one tragedy to another finally coming to rest in the arms of the law. A tsunami of broken and abused lives crashes down on you day after day.

What two promotional ideas have you used to market your book?

I advertise the book through my blogs, and Facebook. I write for an e-zine to increase my online presence. I advertise it on different Facebook sites such as Women on Writing, and through my writer's group. I am a long time 'inhabitant' of a political chat room. It is amazing how many others in the chat room are interested or employed working with offenders. I am shameless about promoting the book there as I believe in it. It has cultural and psychological integrity and is fun. I have been offered a radio interview which I am arranging now and a book signing. I will continue to write, interview and promote the book through seminars.

To learn more about Gael's work and purchase her book, The Con, please visit her online at BlogHer. You can also find her on Facebook.


  1. You painted a clear picture of your friend, Sandra Fleury. Reading your words I could picture her standing tall despite being surrounded by larger, sometimes threatening people. Such an inspiring woman.

  2. Do you have a web site?

  3. Will you post your book signings on Facebook or do you have a web site where I can find out?

  4. You have certainly had your share of interesting inspirations for writing. Any more books planned?

  5. What are your daily tasks as forensic psychologist? Were you ever concerned for your safety at work?

  6. Thank you all for responding.

    AVan thank you for your kind words about Sandra, she is still an inspiration.

    Douglas I am working on my website, I have a FB author page under my name. I uploaded pics of the places mentioned in the book to add context. While the characters are fully fictional the places are not (bar one).

    Kdon book signings are being arranged now, they will be posted on my fb page.

    Lisa the sequel is being hatched and written now. I also wrote Jayden Daze a book for grandparents to read to their grand kids. The hero is a darling boy with ADHD whose grandmother is his stabilizing force. She knows which battles to pick. I am looking for a publisher. Have another book in the works on parenting, hoping to leave a bread crumb trail for other parents to follow in the desert of hard times. A number of "seasoned by life" parents contributed chapters.

    Tracy in my work I held psychological interventions and assessments for offenders going into or leaving prison. I also conducted clinical interviews on prospecticve prison guard applicants. Was I ever afraid? You betcha. The department had solid guidlelines, and we stayed alert but there were always opportunites for some to wreak havoc. Sad to say the department was not always responsive to our concerns.

    I want to thank Brigette again for affording me the opportunity to be interviewed and highlight The Con. My hope is that those working with mandated clients in DoJ will draw support and inspiration from it, both in the US and Australia.



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