Sunday, March 23, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Steven Whitacre, Author

Steven Whitacre, Author
Steven Whitacre has dared to write the true story of how as a child he endured abuse from his father in MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE: STORY OF A STOLEN CHILDHOOD. One reviewer said, “This book will make your blood boil and break your heart. Written with a flowing gait it captures you from page one and engages through to the end.” Although Mr. Whitacre found the writing of the book fairly easy, he did encounter difficulty with sharing it. But he realized that his story could help others who underwent the effects of childhood abuse which, he says, “literally causes the brain to wire itself differently.”

Today Mr. Whitacre lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, daughter, three cats, and two dogs. He is an IT consultant and small business owner. Since writing his book, he enjoys meeting people more and learning their stories. He has also renewed his interest in music and playing his bass.

Q: MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE is a very personal story, which must have been difficult for you to write. What compelled you to write your story?

Steven Whitacre: People ask me that a lot – whether it was difficult to write – and it really wasn’t.  It just poured out onto the page as if it were writing itself.  The only reason it took so long to write (about 10 weeks) was that I would only work on it in the early mornings on weekends while the rest of the family was still asleep.  So maybe an hour or two at a time.

As for what compelled me to write it, there were many things behind it.  But I think the biggest one was to help others understand that childhood abuse literally causes the brain to wire itself differently.  The constant stress on the developing brain is chemically very different than what is considered “normal”.  I have been a long(ish) time participant in the forums at, which I joined while trying to find support for raising a daughter who had also suffered trauma (although different from mine) as a very young girl.  It was there that I came to realize that I was living on both sides of that fence – I was not only the parent of a child who had experienced trauma, but I was a child of trauma myself.  I felt I would be able to provide a unique perspective, especially since I had managed to find a path to healing – which is really all any of us want for our children.

Q: One reviewer said MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE is “Honest and gritty. But best of all – hopeful,” while another reviewer praised your “courage.” Did you intend to deliver a message to readers who might be suffering abuse of any kind?

Steven Whitacre: While I was pondering the book, that was always in the back of my mind.  I wanted other victims of childhood abuse to be able to see themselves in me, and to tell them that healing is possible, that it doesn’t have to ruin your life.  Childhood abuse is a horrible thing that leaves lasting scars, but we CAN take our power back and live a life mostly free of what happened.  While many people have had it worse than me, I would like to think my story is worse than most (not because I want it to be, but because I don’t like the thought of others going through what I went through), and I want people to read it and realize that if I could find healing, then they certainly could as well.  Much like when I stood at the doorway to the rehab center telling myself “If Ozzy Osbourne can do this, so can I”. 

But if there is one thing I would want to tell other victims, it would be “stop internalizing it, let it out so you can heal”.  Unfortunately, we as a society are still at a place where abuse victims (especially males) feel like they are being victimized a second time if they come forward.  Even though that doesn’t make any sense – when we DO come forward, we receive nothing but support and healing.  Yet we feel stigmatized into keeping quiet about it and suffer in silence.  That has to change.  But it will only change when more people start coming forward and making it easier for those that follow.

Q: How important is honesty to telling your story?

Steven Whitacre: Honesty is everything. I think my story is compelling enough without having to embellish or change things around to make it more interesting. Of course, honesty comes with a price, too. There are parts of the book where I certainly don't come across as somebody you would look up to or want to be like. There are some things in there that I think most people rather not have the world to know about them. Even my wife asked me, "Are you sure you want to put that out there?" But that's what makes it so real. I didn't write it to make myself out to be some "hero" or whatever. I wrote it to tell the truth about how trauma affects us and the way we approach life. I couldn't do that if I wasn't going to be 100% honest.

Q: When did you realize that you wanted to write MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE?

Steven Whitacre: I think I had been mulling over the prospect for about 4 years before I ever put pen to paper.  But I didn’t have an ending.  I was still trying to figure out how to heal and put it all behind me, not knowing if I ever would, and what good is a story without an end?  I have always felt my story was unique and different, which was why I thought people would be interested.  Sadly, I have since learned that what happened to me isn’t nearly as unusual as people want to think.  So as the years passed, the intent behind telling my story went from “Look what happened to me”, to “This is who we are, and we are among you."

Q: The reviews of MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE on Amazon are quite insightful as well as praiseworthy.  One of them says, “Written with a flowing gait it captures you from page one and engages through to the end.” How do you “engage” your readers? What makes them want to turn the page?

Steven Whitacre: I read a lot of technical books, and each section is a piece in itself.  I don’t find that very exciting and it’s easy to set it aside for a while and forget about it.  I didn’t want that to be the case with my story – I wanted it to hit hard and fast to make people really think.  I feel that to really understand the true effect of childhood trauma, it needs to be right there in your face, and I didn’t see that happening if people were to read one chapter at a time, with a day or so in between.  So I tried to pull from my High School English class (in which I earned a big fat F) and used foreshadowing and cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.  I didn’t want people to put it down – I wanted them to think “oh wow…what next?”  

It seems to make a difference I’ve found.  From the emails I’ve received, the people that couldn’t put it down and read it all the way through seem to be the ones that were most impacted by it. 

Q: What did you find most challenging when writing MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE?

Steven Whitacre: Again, the act of writing it came easy.  I just let it flow out.  Interestingly (well, to me anyway), although I had spent 4 years or so thinking about it, planning it, picturing it in my mind how it would be, it came out nothing like I had thought.  But it came out.  There were a couple of mornings when I didn’t feel like writing, so I didn’t, but most mornings I found myself getting up early and diving right in. 

More challenging than writing it though, was sharing it.  I created a Facebook page for it and started to invite a bunch of my friends to it.  Hitting that “send” button was FAR harder than any of the writing was.  It’s one thing to share my story with people I’ve never met, or who I don’t have a history with, but totally different to share it with people I have known since childhood. 

Another challenge was leaving it there.  For the first couple of weeks after I published, I experienced waves of panic wondering what I had just done.  I had moments where I just wanted to delete the book, remove the Facebook page, and go back to how things were before I published.  But invariably, it wasn’t long before I would receive an email from somebody telling me how my story had inspired them.  Either to speak out about their own childhood trauma, or to seek healing.  It was those emails that reminded me that this is a story that needs to be told.  In one of my chapters I talk about how I worked with a group to track down online predators, and my driving force behind that was “If I can save just one child, this whole thing is worth it”.  This was pretty much the same.  If I can make a difference in just one person’s life, then that gives meaning to it all.

Q: Who do you think will most benefit from reading your story?

Steven Whitacre: I would like to think that the people who get the most out of it would be other victims of childhood trauma.  Not just victims of sexual abuse, but trauma in general.  The stories may be different, but the chemical changes in the brain are the same.  We all walk similar paths.  But the people who I think will really benefit from it are foster parents, people who adopt, therapists…basically anybody who cares for a child of trauma.  I like to think my story gives good insight into how that trauma affects our mindset, and it is important for people to understand that if they are going to help. I can’t think of a single foster or adoptive parent who cares for a child of trauma and doesn’t want to make that child’s life better. But I guess that does come full circle, and the victims themselves end up benefitting from their caregivers having a better understanding.  It’s a win-win.

I also have pledged to donate up to 25% of the proceeds to the Attachment and Trauma network to help spread the word about how childhood trauma really does affect everybody.  I believe in what they are doing and am proud to be able to help them help children.

Q:  Can you offer any tips to those suffering from abuse?

Steven Whitacre: This is almost a trick question.  One might think that the answer would be “tell somebody”.  But it isn’t nearly that simple.  They teach that in school – if somebody is hurting you, tell somebody.  I knew that.  I knew that if I were to do that, it would end the abuse.  But I also knew that it would drastically change my life, and oftentimes the known is preferable to the unknown – even when the “known” is no good.  Sadly, when abuse starts at such a young age, that just becomes how life is and we develop coping strategies to deal with it.  Those strategies are great at helping us cope, but they also stand in the way of making things different.  When people would say “tell somebody”, my reaction was along the lines of “yeah, that’s easy to say but you don’t know what it’s like.” It almost has the opposite effect of what people think – telling a child to “just tell somebody” feeds the “you don’t understand me, nobody understands me” mentality and they, well I did anyway, tend to withdraw even further.

So my advice would be to look inside yourself.  Find the good person that you are – he or she is in there - and remember that you aren’t bad, you aren’t weak, and you certainly aren’t to blame.  There is nothing “wrong” with you and you don’t have to suffer in silence.  You can take back your power, take back your life.  I won’t lie and say it’s easy, but it’s worth the work.  For me, what helped was to remember that the abuse caused physical changes in my brain.  Changes that made me look at the world differently, but also could be ‘retrained’.  The brain is an amazing thing that is never static – it’s always changing.  The challenge is to control those changes and take back what belongs to you.  The beauty of the world.

Q:  What’s next? Will you write another book? Have you considered writing fiction? Have you always wanted to write?

Steven Whitacre: I hadn’t considered writing anything more, but I have had people ask me about it.  They want to hear more about my time in the band (especially what it was like on tour), or think I should write about when I was involved with a group of hackers going after predators and how it impacted me knowing that we were helping those children.  There are certainly several things I could expand on that I think would make for interesting reading, but for now I just want to focus on this one book, this one message.  Sure, those other adventures may be more interesting and “fun”, but what I’m trying to do with this book is too important to me to let myself get distracted.

As for writing fiction, I think what might come out of my head would be too weird for people to really get into.  I did some fiction writing when I was a teenager about a gumdrop named Joey and his adventures sitting on the porch.  But it rained, he melted and the story ended.  Other than that, I don’t know.  Maybe? 

Q: Tell us about you. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies? Favorite movies? Books? Etc.

Steven Whitacre: To be honest, I’m not much of a reader.  I was when I was younger, but these days it’s rare to find me with a book in my hands.  I’m much more likely to be found wasting my time on Facebook.  I enjoy the social aspect of things much more than I used to.  Interestingly (well, to me anyway), I took the Myers-Briggs personality test both before and after writing my book (I didn’t plan on it, it just happened), and while I had spent all of my life scoring as a solid Introvert, once the book was done that score had moved over the line into the Extroversion region.  Not by a lot, but I really do enjoy being out and meeting new people these days.  I believe everybody has a story and I love to hear about them.

But I also love being alone (or with my family) out in the woods.  Especially after the rains.  There is something so peaceful and magical about being outside with nature.  I prefer the ocean to the mountains, but it’s kind of difficult to go on a long hike in the ocean. (Smile)  

Also, when I’m not working or doing any of the above, I have started to play music again.  I gave up on it many years ago when I just couldn’t find the room in my life for it after having kids, but my wife recently bought me an amp for my bass and has encouraged me to play, so I have picked it back up.  Even though I haven’t played in 20+ years, it’s like riding a bicycle.  A squeaky, rusted out bicycle for sure, but it’s still there inside me. 

About Steven Whitacre

Steven is an IT consultant and small business owner in the Pacific Northwest.  Although new to the publishing world, his other endeavors have landed him on stage, live radio, television, and the big screen.  Steven enjoys spending his spare time with his wife, daughter, 3 cats and 2 dogs, and can frequently be found somewhere out on any one of the hundreds of regional trails.  You can visit him at

An honest, and sometimes brutal, true story of one man’s struggle growing up in the shadow of childhood sexual abuse. From his difficulties growing up, to his drug addiction, failed relationships, and struggles with parenthood, the author takes us through the ups and downs of a life spent in the shadows, trying to make sense of the events that formed the basis of his being. Sometimes tragic, sometimes hopeful, but never sugar coated, MY FATHER’S PROSTITUTE – STORY OF A STOLEN CHILDHOOD takes the reader on an emotional ride which reminds us that the human spirit is more powerful than the demons that haunt us


Twitter – @SAWhitacre

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