Sometimes you just have to break away. You leave behind family, friends and career to pursue your passion. And it often turns out that what you left behind is what shapes your future. Scranton resident, R.J. McDonnell can attest to
McDonnell is this year's winner of the Premiere Book Awards "Novel of the Year" in the Mystery/Thriller category for "Rock & Roll Rip-Off," the second novel in his Rock & Roll Mystery Series. He is
also the creator of a unique program which teaches parents how to generate and
sustain interest in reading among their adult children, ages 18 to 30.
Last month, McDonnell conducted a 90-minute presentation at the Hoyt Library where he taught parents how to incorporate reading into the lifestyles of their adult children. The presentation was free of charge and incorporated music into
the learning process. McDonnell promotes his books and programs at libraries
and book stores, using an acoustic guitar to get his points across.
"It's a way of giving back to the community," he said. "I can do something to benefit my readers and local libraries."
Since publication of the first book, Rock & Roll Homicide in 2008, the mystery series has caused quite a stir. Research shows that a large number of people between the ages of 18 and 30 stop reading books after graduation from
high school. McDonnell however, has been able to capture the attention and
interest of this non-reading age group.
In 2008, an article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor reporting on this phenomenon. Citing information taken from MarketWatch, a website that provides information on business news, stock market data and analysis, the
article stated that about half of the first 200 purchasers of Rock & Roll
Homicide were between 18 and 35.
Non-readers were introduced to the book on the social networking site, MySpace. McDonnell used his MySpace site to promote the book, which is about a former rock & roll musician turned detective. Though many of the 18 through
35 year-old age group proclaimed they were not book readers, with profile
statements such as "I don't read," or "I hate books," they
did like rock music. It was their interest in music that helped link them to
McDonnell said about three weeks after the article appeared he began receiving phone calls from parents of adult children across the country. They were happy their children were reading his book, and wanted to know when the
next one was coming out.
Inspired by such a response, McDonnell consulted one of his former professors from Penn State, Dr. Alan Kazdin, who was then president of the American Psychological Association. Drawing upon the teachings and research
material of Kazdin, McDonnell developed the instructional program for parents.
McDonnell was born and raised in Moscow, Pa. His interest in music, reading and writing developed at an early age.
McDonnell began playing the guitar at age nine. As a young adult, he was a performing member of two bands and manager for one band. He currently plays the acoustic guitar as part of his presentations at book stores and libraries.
McDonnell said he always loved literature. He became a fan of the crime drama genre because of his father, who was a detective with the state police. As he and his father watched TV together, his father would critique the crime
shows, explaining what was real and what was Hollywood.
"I was a reader as a kid, and had some excellent teachers who helped develop my skills in that area," he said. "It's good when you can put your finger on a skill early on."
McDonnell earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Penn State and a master's degree in social work from Marywood. He worked as human services planner at a social services agency in Pittston for several years before moving
to San Diego to pursue his passion for music and writing.
McDonnell resided in San Diego for 20 years, where he worked as a writer for the largest resume writing service in the USA. Working his way up in the company, he eventually bought out nine county offices and ran them for 10
Though he moved away from the area shortly after college, McDonnell said much of the material for his books comes from local experiences. Having returned to the area in 2006, to help take care of his mother, he now lives in
Scranton and is currently working on his third novel.
"I love the people here," McDonnell said. "I have a lot of family and college friends here so I decided to stay."Local author R.J. McDonnell performs during a program at the Hoyt Library in Kingston. His
90-minute presentation taught parents how to incorporate reading into the
lifestyles of their adult children.
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