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Beginnings: At Age16, Tara Allred's Intrigue in Mental Health Inspired a Career as an Author

Updated: Feb 21

How did you get the idea for the John Sanders series? Why did you choose to make him a psychologist?

At sixteen, I stumbled upon a poignant narrative about mental illness that resonated deeply within me, igniting an idea that refused to leave. When I read Dale Carnegie's best-selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People I was struck by the question he posed: "Why do people go insane?

Carnegie goes on to share a physician's story of a woman whose tragic life brought her to his psychiatric hospital. In my novel, Sanders' Starfish, I shaped the character of Rebecca after this woman because I was so deeply troubled by the last words Carnegie shared about her in his account: "Tragic? Oh, I don't know. Her physician said to me: 'If I could stretch out my hand and restore her sanity, I wouldn't do it. She's much happier as she is.'"

Those lines sparked the beginning sketch of Sanders’ Starfish. Over the next ten years, I researched, listened, and learned whatever I could about this self-posed question, “Is a person better off trying to escape reality than face the life they are given?”

Which of your characters in "Sanders Starfish" do you feel most drawn to and why do you think that is?

Dr. John Sanders is very green, as in naïve as a new psychologist. I used his character to channel my insecurities and aspirations of becoming an author. Rebecca’s character also became very symbolic. She represents an unwillingness to face her fears. Instead, she looks at her dreams through the comforts and safety of a window. To reach who she really wants to become, she must be courageous, step out into the unknown, and face life's uncertainties. This symbolism helped me to work past my fears about publishing my first novel.

In 2003, I brought this vision to life in my debut novel, Sanders’ Starfish. While I crafted a fictional story around mental illness, I strived to bring research and hope to the readers. Now, two decades later, the audiobook rendition of this tale has just been completed, marking a profoundly personal journey, and a special chance to revisit this story. The significance of my first novel has only deepened over time, as it has connected me with readers who found solace and connection through the book’s pages, forging friendships that have become an invaluable reward of this writing endeavor.

"The true test is what you make out of your life despite the illness you face. So the poor want to become rich, or the chronically ill hope to find a cure for their ailments. However, most of us may not ever become free of what distresses us. The true victory comes from working to make a positive, happy life happen, regardless of the challenges we struggle with."

—John Sanders, Sanders Starfish

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