Lisa McCourt could very easily have rested on her laurels with the publication of her latest book – the kind of laurels targeted at very young eyes. After all, the Boca Raton-based author had cornered the market on children’s books with her best-selling “Stinky Face” series, launched in 2004, as well as the other kids’ stories she had been writing since the ‘90s. With more than 30 titles to her credit, McCourt has sold 5.5 million copies worldwide and been translated into 11 languages.

But, to paraphrase Monty Python, now was time for something completely different. Juicy Joy: 7 Simple Steps to Your Glorious, Gutsy Self (Hay House) hits stores March 27 on paperback, and it’s McCourt’s first foray into the self-help genre – a literary extension of her dual career as inspirational seminar leader.

McCourt will speak about Juicy Joy at 7 p.m. Monday, March 26 at Barnes & Noble, 1400 Glades Road, Boca Raton. Admission is free. But before that, she took some out of her busy schedule to discuss her transition to the self-help genre with Boca Raton.

The world is not shy of self-help books. What made you want to enter this busy field?

It wasn’t so much a decision to write in this genre, as it was a surrendering to it.  I’d been teaching my “Unleash Your Wild Mind” creativity workshops at venues all over the country, and I’d gradually begun taking more and more liberties with the word “create.” Over time, the presentations had morphed into practical instruction sessions for “creating” yourself as the person you most want to be, “creating” situations, relationships, and outcomes, and “creating” the life of your choosing. I was teaching New Thought principles to mainstreamers who had not come expecting that, and I got hooked on the thrilling experience of being a recruiter for the team.

One of the very basic tenets of Juicy Joy training – as well as most personal development programs – is that the only route to a successful career is to follow your heart explicitly and do what you’re most drawn to do. (We self-dev types define “success” in terms that go beyond financial success.) I was drawn to enter the “busy field” of personal development because I’d become so excited about applying its principles to my own life and so passionate about sharing those principles with others, that I simply could not imagine a career doing anything else.

You are absolutely right about the world not being “shy of self-help books,” and I’m thrilled that’s the case. There are billions of people on the planet right now who would be living vastly fuller, richer, more satisfying lives if they had the information self-help authors provide. We all deliver and receive information in our own unique ways. My specific life story and my delivery appeals to people who might not resonate with a single other self-help book out there, and that’s true for each of my colleagues as well. I love the fact that so many self-help books are circling the globe right now, shifting human consciousness, and I’m proud to join this peaceful army.

Your new book preaches “radical authenticity.” Why is authenticity radical?

Authenticity itself isn’t radical, but the Juicy Joy kind is. People often misunderstand that word “authenticity.”  They think of it as a virtue, like honesty or integrity … like you owe the world your authenticity and you should feel ashamed if you’re not being authentic. That’s not the Juicy Joy position. I want you to become more authentic because it’s your golden ticket – to abundance, to deeply connected relationships, to a life filled with passion and purpose.

When you take the steps to figure out who you most authentically are at your core, it becomes easy to streamline your life around what’s truly important for you. Sadly, most of us are living far, far off-base from that kind of alignment. We’ve dried out, and we’re always grasping for some external goal to try to get the juice back in our lives. The whole point of Juicy Joy is that you have to get that juice flowing internally first, and that’s what will draw in all the juicy circumstances you’re craving. You get the internal juice flowing by discovering radical authenticity. Without genuine authenticity and self-love, nothing else can bring you lasting happiness.  With them, nothing can fail to bring you lasting happiness.

Self-love is another key area of the book. With exhibitionism and narcissism so seemingly popular with YouTube, Facebook and the like, I might argue that we have too much self-love. What does what term mean in your writing?

Exhibitionists and narcissists are actually sadly lacking in true self-love. Becoming authentically self-loving means becoming exquisitely aware of your truest nature, and accepting that core so deeply that you feel blissfully comfortable in your own skin, all the time. When you live from that serene, self-loving place, there’s no need for exhibitionism.

Exhibitionists are trying to attract attention for the masks they choose to wear. They create a persona and try to convince everyone that persona is who they are because they’re terrified for anyone to know the true person underneath it. Narcissists, too, are very much out of touch with their core beings. Often delusional, they cling to their imagined sense of importance and superiority over others, which is the opposite of genuine self-love.

When you authentically love yourself, you can’t help but love everyone else. You start to feel the energetic, undeniable human connection that binds us all, and loving others in all their perfect imperfection becomes a natural, unavoidable extension of your own self-loving practice.

As someone who’s jumped into this genre for the first time, did you read other books for research? And how do you decide, generally, which of these books have genuine value and which are written by opportunists?

Hahahaha. I didn’t read any self-help books “for research.” I read them all because they’ve been an integral part of my life since I was 14 and somehow came upon Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones.  I have no idea how that book got into my hands, and I’m sure the title’s wordplay was lost on me, but the message wasn’t. I was a sensitive child who always felt strongly that I didn’t fit in with the world around me, and this book was my first glimpse that there were people – or from my then-perspective, at least this one other person– in the world who thought like I did. 

This courageous author was saying things that I knew intuitively were true, but wouldn’t have dared to talk about with anyone in my day-to-day life. It was thrilling to make such a profound connection with another human being, even if it was only a one-way, reader-author connection.  I still have all the journals I kept throughout my childhood, and this one from my 14thyear is filled with long passages I copied word-for-word from that book, along with their application to my personal circumstances. That book was a lifeline, one that profoundly shifted my direction, even then. 

Once I realized this wasn’t an isolated tome, but actually represented an entire category of similar reading opportunities, I was never again without a pop-psych, spirituality or self-dev book.  In college, I was so fascinated with comparative religion that the maverick psych-department-head at Drew University let me design an accredited independent study program on the overlap between ancient religious teaching and contemporary metaphysical thought.   

From the beginning of your career, did you envision yourself as a children’s writer?

No. Initially I wanted only to work in publishing, and build a career around books. My first real job was with a children’s book publisher, and I fell in love with that industry. I started writing kids’ books when I became a mom and felt consumed with the desire to provide picture books that would help parents show unconditional love to their kids.

Is writing for children easier, more difficult or comparable to writing for adults?

In my experience, neither is more difficult than the other. When you’re passionately inspired by an idea that truly excites you, writing is easy. When you’re trying to write something because you think it will make you money, or you believe you’ve identified an untapped niche in the marketplace, or you want an interesting answer to the cocktail-party question, “What do you do for a living?” then writing is hard. 

And how is the personal fulfillment you get out of Juicy Joy compare to the fulfillment of publishing so many successful children’s books?

Apples and oranges, John.  I do very much enjoy the success of my children’s books because I love feeling that I’ve impacted the world in some small way. But it’s very safe and cozy and private for me over here on the other side of those books.

Not so with Juicy Joy. Juicy Joy pushes me to my authenticity edges. It challenges me to be my most vulnerable, real self, in exactly the ways that I teach. It’s prickly-uncomfortable and exhilarating at the same time.  I’ve learned the best way to ever help anyone along on a personal development path is to lead by example. That’s what I’m doing with Juicy Joy, and my ever-evolving journey gets juicier every day.