Millions of people remember Andrew McCarthy from his performances in ’80s favorites such as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Weekend at Bernie’s,” but in addition to his movie roles, McCarthy has also found success on Broadway, as a TV director and more recently as a writer.
In 2012, his travel memoir, “The Longest Way Home,” became a New York Times best seller and was named as one of the best books of the year by the Financial Times of London. He’s also served as guest editor for the prestigious Best American Travel series and is an editor-at-large at “National Geographic Traveler.”
Last month, McCarthy released his first novel, "Just Fly Away," a young-adult thriller that is written from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl named Lucy.
“I had been writing a different book; I spent seven to eight years writing about a man who had a child out of wedlock and kept the secret from his family, and my favorite character was always the 15-year-old daughter,” McCarthy says. “One day, I decided to change the perspective of it and started writing the story from her point of view, and I became an accidental YA author.”
On April 25, McCarthy will be discussing his book at a reading and book signing at the Barnes & Noble at MarketFair in West Windsor.
Although he has young kids of his own, McCarthy doesn’t have any teens. Once he started writing the story, he says, he heard the voice clearly and followed where it led.
“When I finished, I gave the book to my 15-year-old neighbor and asked her to read it, and she said it sounded just like her and her friends, so that was a relief,” he says. “It’s not based on anything I know; I don’t have a secret family out there or anything, but I wanted to write something about secrets and families and marriage and what secrecy can do.”
McCarthy spent years and wrote draft after draft of his original idea, but once the new format clicked, he said it came much easier.
“I knew the world; I knew the family, the town and all the secrets, so once I got inside her head, the rest was easy because I was so familiar with it,” he says. “The rest of what I had worked on over the years is gone, and good riddance in a certain way.”
Although people have asked him what happens next to the character, McCarthy says he doesn't see Lucy's story continuing because the book's ending is strong. He does say the story isn't finished because “stories never are.”
But that doesn’t mean he might not change his mind in the future. And more can even come in the form of a different medium.
“I’m an actor and director and see things visually so I am sure as I was writing it, I could see it being a movie, so if it’s successful I can see that happening,” he says.
Two of McCarthy’s three kids are following in his acting footsteps. His daughter Willow recently played the title role of Matilda on Broadway and his son, Sam, is currently filming the movie, “All These Small Moments,” where McCarthy’s former co-star Molly Ringwald will be playing his son’s mom.
Although he himself has been concentrating more on directing over the last decade, including episodes of “Blacklist” and “Orange is the New Black," last year he did get back into acting to take on the role of a troubled sex offender in ABC’s short-lived drama, “The Family.”
“I hadn’t acted in a number of years before that and I really loved it," he says. "I forgot how much I really enjoyed acting so it was nice that I got to do it again. I would like to do more of it, but I have been busy with directing.”
Next month, McCarthy will get to work as producer and director of a 10-part series, “Condor” based the James Grady novel, "Six Days of the Condor," which was adapted into a 1975 movie ("Three Days of the Condor") starring Robert Redford. Until that project starts shooting, he'll be on the road promoting "Just Fly Away."
“What’s really interesting is that I’ve had about two dozen people come up to me and tell me they have secret siblings, or their parents who they thought were step-parents are really biological parents, so there’s a lot of secretive people out there,” he says. “I was surprised at how fairly not uncommon this all really is.”
He was also surprised to learn that a majority of YA readers are adults and that many of these books get into some serious issues.
“It ain’t the Hardy Boys,” McCarthy says. “They are really dealing with some interesting subjects and social issues full-on and I think it’s great.”
Andrew McCarthy will discuss and sign copies of his book, "Just Fly Away" at MarketFair, 3535 Route 1 South, West Windsor, April 25, 7 p.m. For more information, go to stores.barnesandnoble.com/store/2368 or call 609-750-9010.