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Interview with author Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit

I don't think it's extreme in the least to inform you that your Friday has just gotten hot damn awesome! "Why for?" you ask. Because I was able to catch Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit, author of A Life Lived Ridiculously, and in return for her release back into the wilds of San Francisco, she answered a few questions.

Annabelle has a PhD in Neuroscience, has written for, and has written a play, Sound Advice, which was performed by CP Theatre Productions in London, UK. And now she has written a wonderfully touching, hilarious debut novel. So read on. And if Annabelle sounds like she knows what she's talking about, don't second guess, because she has the street creds to back her.

When a girl with obsessive compulsive disorder falls in love with a sociopath, she must fight for her sanity and her life.
Maxine’s brain is stuck. Everything around her feels wrong and the only way to fix it is to check, double-check, rearrange and count everything. What Maxine can’t fix though is her parents’ constant nagging over the absence of a husband. A humiliation that is further compounded when her younger brother runs off with Miss Perfect. Then she meets Sam, a smooth-talking charmer with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and enough terminal diseases to wipe out a small village. Maxine decides that Sam is her salvation, never mind that his life is more depressing than a Greek tragedy, and others are urging her to get away from him. The problem is that Sam has Maxine under his spell. Will Maxine escape from Sam before it is too late?

Eight serious questions:

1)  First, tell us a little about yourself. What are you up to when you are not writing? Do you have any special hobbies/interests/causes? 

Right now, when not writing. I am either looking after my ten month old daughter or selling all my earthly belongings on ebay. Ebay is so addictive!

2)  How did you come up with such a unique storyline for A Life Lived Ridiculously? 

I’ve always had a little OCD myself, and struggled a lot when I first lived alone. Plus bad people prey on you when you’re at your most vulnerable, and I’ve certainly been surrounded by predators during my weakest moments. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through in life, predators will sniff you out, as though you are oozing sucker pheromones. I chose a sociopath for the novel, because sociopaths are the lowest form of human life, evil to the core. And with four percent of the population (one in twenty five), falling into the category of sociopath, it’s important for us to acknowledge that we are surrounded and must remain on guard at all time. No, I’m not paranoid. Okay, maybe just a little…

3)  Adrian Monk, Felix Unger, Elektra, Wall-E (okay, totally speculative), Jerry Fletcher (Conspiracy Theory)… Characters. Howard Hughes, Joan Crawford, Howie Mandel… Real people. What do all of these names have in common? They all have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Characterized as anything from superhero-esque to comical to annoying to total hell on earth, what exactly is OCD?  

Obsessive compulsive disorder is the fourth most common psychiatric illness in the United States, with as many as 2.5 % of the population (one in forty), afflicted.

It is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that produce a sense of dread or alarm. Persons then engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in an attempt to rid themselves of the obsessive thoughts and calm the anxiety. (National Institute of Mental Health

The sufferer cannot stop the thoughts, nor can they stop acting on them, because of the pure feeling of dread that accompanies the thoughts until the compulsions are correctly performed. The problem is that the relief brought about by the compulsions is temporary, and the obsessions and anxiety always return. Hence the OCD sufferer becomes trapped in a vicious cycle of: obsessions - compulsions - relief- obsessions. This vicious cycle is now known as “brain lock." (Jeffrey Schwartz, The Mind and The Brain)

4)  How would you characterize Maxine’s OCD? And how does it affect her relationships with family and friends? 

Maxine is ashamed of her OCD, so she does her best to keep it a secret. It affects her relationship with her family, in that they know she’s not quite right in the head, but they don’t understand why. So they respond by disrespecting her and treating her like an incompetent child.
5)  I’m sure most women can sympathize with Maxine? A lot of us have been tempted by high octane feelings to hit the gas. Let’s face it, ask any woman if she’s dated a sociopath and the answer is gonna be, “Oh honey, let me tell you!” But joking aside, what really makes an individual a sociopath? 

Sociopaths feel no remorse, guilt, empathy, compassion or love. Their emotions are shallow, their relationships loveless and one-sided, and they have no interest in bonding emotionally with anyone.
The causes of this sociopathic disorder are thought to involve abnormal growth mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for self-control, planning, judgment, the balance of individual versus social needs, and many other essential functions underlying effective social response. (Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door)

6)  Sam… Wow, what a character! Can you explain, in a nutshell, the dynamics between Sam and Maxine? What is it that makes Sam so charming and so alarming? (what will readers most likely love about him, and what will they despise about him?)

Sam is the only person that makes Maxine feel alive, in a world where her OCD consumes her every waking moment. When Maxine is with Sam, she forgets her OCD. Sam lures Maxine with his charm, intelligence and ability to make her feel special. And then he snatches it all away, leaving her wanting. Readers will probably love Sam’s apparent vulnerability and his intelligence. But most of all, readers will despise Sam, because he is manipulative, shrouded in secrecy, and oozes evil from the top of his hunched shoulders to the bottom of his stick thin legs.

7)  How would you describe/summarize A Life Lived Ridiculously in:

10 words: A girl with OCD is seduced by a sociopath.
50 words: This is the story of how Maxine deals with life in the real world, fending off a sociopath, dealing with her over-critical family, concocting outrageous schemes with her friend Tina, all in a bid to conquer her OCD and deal with the pain of losing her brother to Miss Perfect.
100 words: Everything around her feels wrong and the only way to fix it is to check, double-check, rearrange and count everything. What Maxine can’t fix is her parents’ nagging over the absence of a husband. A humiliation that is further compounded when her younger brother runs off with Miss Perfect. Then she meets Sam, a smooth-talking charmer with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and enough terminal diseases to wipe out a small village. Maxine decides that Sam is her salvation, never mind that others are urging her to get away from him. The problem is that Sam has Maxine under his spell. Will Maxine escape from Sam before it is too late? 
1 word: Ridiculous

8)  What would you like readers to take away from A Life Lived Ridiculously?

Firstly I want readers to be entertained. Then I hope they will relate and feel less alone, whether they too suffer from some type of embarrassing mental illness or have been preyed upon in any way. We all have emotional pain, and I am just one person writing about it. But I hope that the way I write about it touches and speaks to some people. 

Two silly-ass questions:

9)  I believe there should be 30 hours in a day. How many would you suggest?

I used to think the same thing. But since having my daughter, I think there should be just twenty. That way I wouldn't have to change so many diapers... -So true, Annabelle!

10)  If you could teleport to any time period or event in history, what would it be and why? 

To be honest, no period in the past is all that appealing, and I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a time before antibiotics or hair relaxer. Therefore I’d say the 1980s, when music was worth listening to and every story had not yet been written.    

And now, one of my favorite clips from A Life Lived Ridiculously (because, well, who hasn’t had a conversation like this with your best friend?):

 “It’s not that I’m falling for him, of course not, I mean I still don’t fancy him, I think it’s curiosity. His lips, Bird, they looked so soft.”
Tina let out a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“Are you on drugs?” She laughed. “Where are you seeing soft lips? His lips are so thin he looks like a hand puppet.”
“Bird, that’s mean.”
“Never trust a man with thin lips,” she said.
“Where did you come across that inspired theory?”
“Not a theory. I once kissed a man with thin lips, turns out he was stealing from the company.”
“Yes, but seriously, first of all you have to stop this business of dating people you work with and second of all, how does one thin-lipped thief give your theory any substance?”
“Because it’s true, everyone knows it.”
Now it was my turn to laugh. “I never heard such nonsense. Anyway you only met Sam once, so you’re not allowed to judge.”
I heard the click of a lighter. Waiting for her to exhale, I stretched on the bed and extended one arm behind my head. I figured she must be seated beside her kitchen window, as it was the only place in the house where she smoked.
“It’s a gut feeling. I always trust my gut.”
“Really? How did you manage to be fooled by Mr. Thin Lip Company Pilferer then?”
“I was definitely repulsed by his lips when we kissed, but I didn’t follow my gut, that’s how.”
“Well, my gut says that Sam is good people.”
“That’s not your gut talking. Think how you felt the very first time you laid eyes on him.”
As she exhaled, I recalled how repulsed I had been by his stooped, toad-like demeanor and apparent disapproval of my surroundings.
Annabelle, when should we look for A Life Lived Ridiculously?

A Life Lived Ridiculously will be available for sale in both print and ebook versions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and more from April 12th 2012.

If you feel the overwhelming need to stalk Annabelle (in an absolutely healthy, "the Internet-is-my-minion" sort of way) you can find her here:
Twitter: annabellerc

Annabelle, I appreciate that you have taken the time to really flesh out Maxine’s character because there are, in fact, comical instances, annoying moments, total hell on earth, and maybe even superhero-esque events in a day in the life of OCD. But whether we’re talking about OCD, sociopath rendezvous, or one of those awkward "acceleration incidents", Maxine is just a person struggling in the world like everyone else. She is relatable on countless levels, and effortlessly transcends the written page. 

And, for as much time as I spend using and breaking electronics, nothing replaces the feel of a book as I grip the pages during a tense scene or rub the edges while sympathizing with a character. I will tell you right now, I cannot wait to get my hands on a printed copy and snuggle into Maxine’s world to finish this wild ride with her. Oh, and since I know a little about Maxine's driving style, I’ll be sure to buckle up and brace myself first. 
Now, Annabelle and I leave you with this... Her answers to James Lipton's "Final Ten" (from 'The Actors Studio'):

1)  What is your favorite word?Chocolate
2)  What is your least favorite word? - Fat
3)  What turns you on? – Chocolate
4)  What turns you off? – Feeling fat
5)  What sound or noise do you love? – That sound puppies make when they nuzzle against their mother
6)  What sound or noise do you hate? – TV commercials that shout at you
7)  What is your favorite curse word? – fuckadoodledoo (I LOVE this, by the way!)
8)8)  What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Plumber (seriously think how powerful you’d feel if you could fix your own leaks)
9)  What profession would you not like to do? Professional sports of any kind
10) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?  
– You matter

Thank you Dr. Annabelle R. Charbit for a wonderful interview! May your character, Maxine, touch the hearts of many.  

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