Retired Professor Breaks into the Fiction World

A retired University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor has made his dream come true by publishing his first novel, “Charlie’s Angle.”

After retiring from Michigan State, Paul McKinney moved to Stevens Point with his wife.  While here, he met the chairman of human development on campus and was roped back into teaching and served as a professor at UWSP from 2000 to 2004.

McKinney was no stranger to writing. He wrote several research papers and textbooks in developmental psychology, but creative writing had always been at the back of his mind.

“The freedom to invent stories is wonderful. In psychological research, I couldn’t make it up. Editors wanted only the facts. In writing fiction, my goal is to entertain. Editors tell me to show, not tell.”

Years after getting into creative fiction, McKinney finally published his first novel called “Charlie’s Angle.”

The book is about a high school principal who faces a difficult ethical decision when one of his teachers is in hot water after flunking a star athlete. Charlie has to decide if the pursuit of justice is worth losing his job.

The inspiration for the book came from the number of high school teachers, principals and students McKinney met over the years.

The setting of the story should be familiar to Wisconsinites. It is set in the fictional town of Waumeka, Wisconsin.

“Waumeka is not Stevens Point, but it is plopped down halfway between there and the western side of the state. You will definitely see some things that remind you of Stevens Point,” McKinney said.

Inspiration for the fictional Wisconsin town came from the various towns McKinney visited and loved.

“I loved the physical beauty of the place, the kindness of its people. Like any other place, though, Wisconsin towns also have their struggles, political rivalries, petty disagreements and a few downright nasty folks. They are in the minority for sure, but their situations make for good story telling.”

Psychology also had a hand in the novel’s themes. McKinney knows that the study of personality can give insight into the attitudes and values that shape behavior. This understanding makes the development of characters in fiction become easier.

“The more you understand them, the more you like them, so writing in a fictional way about our common success and foibles becomes a real pleasure.”

The book has received a good deal of positive reviews on Amazon as well as on McKinney’s website. He has received a lot of encouraging emails.

McKinney’s training in academic writing of textbooks and journal articles made it difficult to transition to creative writing.

“I had to give up a lot of old habits and learn some new ones. I keep coming back to that ‘show, don’t tell’ dictum that has been hard for me,” McKinney said.

When asked if he had any advice for budding authors, McKinney stated that reading and writing every day is essential for an author.

“Keep a journal. Don’t let ideas go to waste. Master the fundamentals. Get help when you need it. There are a lot of people out there who are more than willing to help you, starting with your faculty,” McKinney said.

The positive reviews of “Charlie’s Angle” have prompted McKinney to consider writing a sequel.

Mary Marvin

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