As a psychologist in New York City, writer Michael C. Quadland is often asked to what extent his practice informs his fiction. “Never directly, of course,” Quadland says. “That would be unethical. But in my work, I listen to people’s stories and together we analyze them. This is like discovering a rich new vein in a mine each day,” he says, “and, in a general way, it can’t help but influence my writing.”
Quadland graduated from Dartmouth College and received a Master of Public Health degree from Yale University and a PhD in psychology from New York University. In addition to his psychotherapy practice, he has taught human sexuality at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He was involved in the AIDS epidemic from its inception in the early 1980s as a founder of clinical programs at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He also oversaw research on ways to change sexual behavior in order to reduce the risk of viral transmission. In this context, he published a number of journal articles and spoke out publicly about risk reduction. He also lost many friends to the disease.
Like many burnt-out health professionals at that time, Quadland left AIDS work in 1994 and became devoted full-time to his private practice. He also turned to writing fiction. The Los Angeles Times published a nonfiction article of his in 1995 about the death of a friend. That Was Then (Red Hen Press 2007) is his third novel. The first two, he says, have been consigned to a drawer labeled “Learning to Write.”
The backstory of That Was Then, chronicling an adolescent boy’s relationship with his school teacher, was the story Quadland had initially set out to tell, back in 1994. Now it is part of a larger work, intended to show how intense early-life experiences influence adult lives. Unlike most stories of sexual abuse, however, this is not a story of innocence versus evil, of victim and perpetrator. Quadland makes his readers work harder than that, posing questions and forcing us to search our own internal margins for the answers.
“The thrill of writing fiction,” Quadland says, “is taking control of how my characters respond to situations, something I can’t do with my patients! Writing is my passion. My psychotherapy practice puts bread on the table. The combination makes for an interesting, challenging and fun time.”