I went through extreme abuse as a child and teen (I’m a ritual abuse survivor) and I used self-harm to cope. I felt so alone growing up, and was frequently told by my abusers that no one would believe me if I talked, that people would think I was crazy, and that I’d made the abuse happen. It is painful and hard to believe that you’re the only one, that the abuse is your fault, or that you’re crazy. I needed to know I wasn’t alone, and was always looking for my own experiences to be reflected in the books I read—books were a big part of my survival—but I never found it, not completely. So part of the reason I wrote Scars was because it was what I needed. I also really wanted to reach other survivors and people who’ve used self-harm to cope, and let them know they’re not alone. I also wanted people who hadn’t had such experiences to come away with greater compassion and understanding.
You're walking down the street - what song is following you?
Depends where in my healing process you’re talking about. As a teen, when I was afraid and just remembering the abuse, it would probably have been Holly Near’s “Fight Back!” I needed that bolstering.
Now, perhaps, I’d be more likely to hear something calming or encouraging—or, sometimes, the latest catchy song that’s stuck in my head.
When writing did you have a playlist? If so, could you share a few songs with us?
I didn’t have a playlist when I wrote (and edited and re-edited) Scars; I
work best in quiet. But if I was creating a playlist, I’d include these
-Christina Aguilera “Fighter” (survivor, fighter – like Kendra she does not give up; she keeps fighting to survive, heal, get safe, find happiness and love.)
-Train – “Calling All Angels” (if you leave out the one homophobic line, and don’t take religious connotations from this, it speaks to me (and would to Kendra) SO strongly “When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head/ When you feel the world shake from the words that are said” I think that fits Kendra’s world perfectly. And it used to fit mine.)
-Jewel – “Hands” (I think we all need the message that we’re okay. We can heal. That we have inner strength. That’s what this song means to me. Facing pain, abuse, not letting others control us.)
-Celine Dion – “Love Is All We Need” (When you’re being abused, and no one does anything, it feels like no one cares. I also have never understood how someone can enjoy abusing anyone else. So I especially relate to this song. “I don't understand the concept of/The power of one is stronger/Why don't people seem to care at all/As long as it's not about them”
-Delphonics – “Ooh Child”. I think it’s especially important for survivors, or anyone going through a hard time, to know that it can and will get better. That it won’t always be so hard. It’s easy to forget that when you’re going through it—especially, I think, for survivors.
-Destiny’s Child – “Survivor” (when you get away from abusers, life is better. And you can survive—and then thrive.)
-Libby Roderick – “How Could Anyone?” (“How could anyone ever tell you/you were anything less than beautiful?/How could anyone ever tell you/you were less than whole” Those words are true, and so important. The act of repeated abuse, alone, tells a victim that they are not equal or worthy of good treatment. To realize that the abuser is wrong—and that you matter—is
-Sweet Honey In the Rock – “On Children” (“You can give them your love, but not your thoughts; They have their own thoughts, they have their own thoughts.” I was SO controlled by my abusers—as was Kendra, by hers. They tried to control how we thought. I find this song powerful and liberating. I am not what my abusers tried to make me, and they can’t control my thoughts, my soul, my emotions, just as Kendra’s abuser could not control her.)
-Kirtana – “Come Out.” (There is safety and love and goodness in the world, and you can find it.)
The initial draft may have taken me a few months—but then I wrote and rewrote, and edited and re-edited Scars more than 40 times over a 10 year period (and also submitted it to, and received many rejections from, publishers and agents in that period).
Where there any major changes from the first draft to what's on shelves now?
Yes. First, I had to learn to put a bit of breathing room in for the reader. Even though it may feel like there’s not much now (laughing) there’s a heck of a lot more than there was before. I struggled to put in much happiness and lightness for most of the drafts; it wasn’t something I
knew. Kendra’s gay friend and mentor, Sandy, was a recent addition. I also had to rewrite the parents a lot. My own parents were extremely abusive; they were part of an intergenerational cult. I didn’t get anything good or kind or loving from them.
The good that I put into Scars, I first learned from other books and movies and shows, from the tiny bits I got from a few people over the years, and from the way I felt about others—and eventually from a few good people in my life who gave me some real nurturance and a sense of family.
I was careful not to write Kendra’s parents as abusive as mine were, and to not make Kendra’s experiences as extreme as mine; I didn’t want to overwhelm readers and turn them off. I wanted them to be drawn into the story and entertained, even as they felt and learned. But the pain—that was there. I had to learn how to put in lightness.
Who is your favorite band/artist? Why are they your favorite?
I have a few favourites: Meg Christian (lesbian singer); Margie Adams; Kirtana; Savage Garden. For the most part, I find their songs affirming, healing, encouraging, or soothing. They speak to me. And Karen Carpenter—I love her voice, and Abba—their music is just so catchy. It depends on my mood, though. Sometimes I just want to listen to Sinead O’Connor, Dido, Jann Arden.
Name a song that you think would make a great book.
“On Children” and “Love Is All We Need.”
Now onto the giveaway!
I have one SINGED copy of Scars plus a couple bookmarks that Cheryl graciously added to today's post! Thanks, Cheryl!
- Must be over the age of 13 to enter!
- Giveaway is for US mailing address ONLY!
- Giveaway ends September 30th at 11:59 central time.
- Winner will be contacted by email.
- To enter fill out this form
- Comments on this post do not count as your entry for the giveaway. Make sure you fill out the form above. (Though they do count as an entry for September's Commenter Contest.)