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Author Chicago native Jenny McCarthy talks about her new book 'Bad Habits' Monday October 15 2012 North Central College's Wentz

Author and Chicago native Jenny McCarthy talks about her new book, "Bad Habits," on Monday, October 15, 2012, at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:40AM

Author, actress, television host, and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy appeared in Naperville Monday night to talk about her life and new book, “Bad Habits — Confessions of a Recovering Catholic,” in which she looks at her world and coming to grips with a sense of faith.

Before appearing at North Central College, McCarthy spoke exclusively with The Sun about a variety of topics from her relationship with the Bears’ Brian Urlacher to her current ideas about religion.

Q: You and I are actually both from the same town — Evergreen Park. So were you really a Mother McAuley girl back in the day?

A: “I was a “Mighty Mac” and went all four years. I was an “A” honor student there for two years as well.”

Q: So this book is autobiographical. Why the decision to write about your life at this point?

A: “It is autobiographical with some exaggerated stories. The past seven books have all been about something particular in my life and this was a “coming of age” story, reflecting back on my own faith growing up and the switch I had in my 20s to open my mind a little bit more. I looked at my own son, which made me reflect on all the things I went through from growing up in a Catholic family and I figured I should write them down.”

Q: Would you say your son was the element that got your more in touch with your own “faith” life? Was he the catalyst?

A: “He’s always the catalyst because I’m a single mother and I better think of something every year. So yes, he’s the catalyst for every single book.”

Q: Tell us about the times with Playboy. Given your Catholic, conservative upbringing, it strikes me as sort of a rebellion thing. Was it?

A: “I do call it the “Madonna Syndrome” — the good girl gone bad. There is something in that. Maybe there is a psychological definition in that — or there should be. I don’t know — I felt I was locked up in a box from questioning belief systems and having to trust in everybody else’s. I feel like I needed to break free and find myself — that and being $20,000 in debt did the trick.”

Q: So, the economics then was part of it?

A: “It was 99.9 percent about the economics, not a revolt. That little other part was me just being OK with going through with it. For the most part, I was in debt from college and I wanted to get a chance to get to Hollywood.”

Q: How did you handle the barrage of male attention that must have followed after you appeared in Playboy?

A: “There was “odd” attention — I wasn’t quite used to the “correction facility” mail that we got boxes of.”

Q: Did it make you feel objectified?

A: “Well, I didn’t read it —my dad read all the fan mail.”

Q: What was your family’s reaction to doing this?

A: “My mom was upset at first, and then she was willing to trust I was going to do something good with it. It took some faith of my own first and my mom trusted that I would do something good. Driving all the way to Hollywood, I thought — the next time I come back to Chicago, she’s going to be proud of me.”

Q: We often ask authors what readers should learn by the time they reach the end of their book. What are you hoping readers get from it?

A: “I’m hoping that besides finding some offbeat humor that I always have in my books — there is a little bit of a window cracking. A lot of people are so closed off in their thinking. If I can offer a little bit of insight into questioning any belief system — you might find something wonderful on the other side.”

Q: What have you learned from your faith journey that might inspire others?

A: “I’ve learned from having gone through the whole gamut in the book from Indian sweat lodges to having Mormons come over that I have faith in people who have faith — period. I don’t care if you worship an elephant — if you are in a state of grace — while worshipping that elephant — you can keep doing that. It’s the people that really try to concern themselves in your business and try and save your soul. They should really be worrying about their own.”

Q: Are you a practicing Catholic today?

A: “No. I still have it in me. I just don’t go to church and I wouldn’t raise my son necessarily Catholic, but still a lot of things that go with it.”

Q: People are understandably curious about your relationship with Brian Urlacher. Anything you’d like to share?

A: “What a wonderful human being he is, and I’m sure he’ll continue to be an awesome friend for the rest of my life.”

Q: Do you watch Bears games on Sunday?

A: “Heck yeah. I want to be a Honey Bear.”

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