’80s teen heart throb Andrew McCarthy: Coming of age is a powerful thing

Andrew McCarthy
Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy is a multifaceted guy.

If you are of an, um, certain age, you may recall the actor as the dream date in “Pretty in Pink;” a sensitive, lovesick fool in “St. Elmo’s Fire”; a suffering friend in “Less than Zero.”

These days McCarthy, 54, is better known as a prolific travel writer and a television director — with episodes of “Orange is the New Black” and “The Blacklist” on his extensive resume. He can now also add YA novelist to the list.

McCarthy will be at Books & Books Coral Gables at 7 p.m. Friday to discuss “Just Fly Away,” about a teenage girl who finds out that her father isn’t as honorable a person as she thought. It’s written in first person, although the New Jersey native didn’t plan it that way.

“I’d been slogging through a few different versions of this story for a number of years — about a father who had an affair and had a kid. I was interested in the idea of secrecy in a marriage and how corrosive it is. But I could never quite crack the nut.”

One day an idea finally came to him: to write the book from the perspective of the protaganist, 15-year-old Lucy Willows, whose father has harbored this secret and disrupted her once happy family. Willow is the name of his 10-year-old daughter with current wife actress/director Dolores Rice.

“Lucy was always my favorite character,” says McCarthy by phone from Kansas City, Missouri, a stop on his book tour. “When I wrote as her, suddenly everything made sense and fell into place. I already knew this girl’s world and the dynamic. This was the change it needed and then it all started to flow.”

After all this hard work, don’t expect his own teen son Sam to sit down to read “Just Fly Away,” though.

“It’s a generational thing — he’s more into watching YouTube videos,” he said, laughing about the 15-year-old aspiring actor whose mother is McCarthy’s ex wife Carol Schneider. “He said he’ll wait for the audio book.”

Though last year he enjoyed watching his dad in the short lived ABC drama “The Family,” Sam isn’t into any of the former Brat Pack member’s old movies.

“He watched ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ and said, ‘Dad, that movie was really stupid.’ ”

Despite what his kid thinks, McCarthy does stand by a lot of his older fare, and he understands why Gen X-er’s are so excited to meet him at signings.

“Coming of age is a powerful thing. As an adolescent, you felt misunderstood and couldn’t wait for your life to change. Movies like ‘Pretty in Pink’ gave respect to teens,” he says. “I mean, c’mon: It didn’t have an intricate plot — it was about a girl [Molly Ringwald] who wanted to go to a dance and made a dress — but it took young people’s problems seriously and gave them respect.

“There was a rawness and a truthfulness there that wasn’t gimmicky at all.”

McCarthy still keeps in touch with a few folks.

“It’s been 30 or so years. It’s a long time to hang around! We’ve all had different careers, doing interesting things. I live in New York City so we run in different circles but it’s nice. I just emailed Molly a few weeks ago and I worked with James Spader on ‘The Blacklist.’ Someone asked him how was it working together after all this time. And he said, ‘It’s exactly the same.’”