Monday, December 13, 2010

Cheryl Rainfield


Today I’m thrilled to be hosting Cheryl Rainfield whom I met through a wonderful group of Toronto-based childrens writers: The Toronto MG/YA Writers Group. (Follow our #torkidlit hashtag on twitter. ☺)

What impressed me most about Cheryl’s book SCARS, beyond the utter bravery of it, was that although the novel’s subject matter is very serious, the story unfolds like a suspense or mystery with a romance subplot. Gripping, page-turning stuff!

First, a bit about Cheryl:

Cheryl Rainfield is a writer of realistic, edgy teen fiction, as well as fantasy. She is the author of Scars (WestSide Books, 2010) and Dragon Speaker: The Last Dragon (HIP Books, 2009). She describes herself as a book-a-holic, who edits and critiques teen and children’s fiction. Cheryl is also an accomplished artist who lives in Toronto with her dog, Willow, and her cat, Amazon.

Westside Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-1934813324

Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail-- her abuser's identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who's becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra's abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl's frightening path to the truth.

MAUREEN: What’s the first book you remember reading?
CHERYL: The Lorax, Babar, Green Eggs and Ham, Are You My Mother?, Madeline. I don’t know which one first, but those are the ones that came to mind.

MAUREEN: Are You My Mother? really stuck with me as a kid, too. What turns you off like nothing else?
CHERYL: People being arrogant or superior; people enjoying violence; people abusing others; people using their power to hurt.

MAUREEN: Where do you read and how often?
CHERYL: I read most often sitting on my couch in my living room, but also in bed—every day. I can’t not read!

MAUREEN: What sound or noise do you love?
CHERYL: The loud pigeon-like purr of my 20-year-old cat, Amazon, and the sound of my little dog’s (Willow’s) nails clicking on the floor as she whirls around in circles when I come home.

MAUREEN: What is something you’d like to tell your fans?
CHERYL: No matter what anyone tells you, it’s important to love yourself; to treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love (with gentleness and compassion); to listen to and to trust your gut reactions or instincts; and to find out what makes YOU happy, what makes you feel good.

MAUREEN: Oh, that is such good advice. If you couldn’t be a writer anymore, what profession would you take up?
CHERYL: An artist. But I need to write like I need to breathe. It’s just in me.

MAUREEN: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
CHERYL: Let my agent and editor and good friends know. Then put it away for a while. Then come back to it to edit it.

MAUREEN: What do you like on your burger? (and do you like your burgers veggie or beefy?)
CHERYL: I’m strongly vegetarian. So it’d be a veggie burger, with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese on it. I never learned to like condiments (or coffee).

MAUREEN: No ketchup? No coffee? How do you survive? ☺ What do you do to unwind and relax?
CHERYL: Read in a comfortable chair, or in my hammock. Play (blow bubbles, play with my dog and cat). Sometimes writing or drawing does that, too.

MAUREEN: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
CHERYL: Yes, I read all the reviews of my books. I try to remember that each review is subjective—each reviewer is coming from their own experiences and emotions that color their experience, as it does for us all—but I also try to notice when things are repeated. If many people say the same thing, then likely there’s a lot of merit to it.

Because of the abuse I endured for so much of my life, it’s harder for me to take in positives, and so easy for a small negative to wipe out all the positives for me. I’m working on that. I’m also lucky to have a fantastic editor, and some good friends, who I can check out a negative portion of a review with.

MAUREEN: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
CHERYL: Being published! That was my big dream, the thing that’s in my blood. Being published, and reaching people with my writing, my voice. Putting good and truth out into the world, but in a way that can be heard. (I think we can hear it best through fiction.)

I also hope to be able to make a living from my writing. That’s another big dream.


MAUREEN: SCARS centers on very serious and difficult topics. Did you always plan to write this story as a novel for young adult readers?

CHERYL: Hm. Well, I wrote, edited, and rewrote Scars for at least ten years. It was a story that was very important to me to get out there. A story I felt I had to write. I *know* what it’s like to feel alone and in pain. I know what it’s like to be sexually abused, and to use self-harm to survive. I know what it’s like to be queer. And for all those things—I felt there was too much silence. Silence makes wounds fester. I wanted to break the silence about those things, *and* to bring more compassion about all those things, help people really understand—self-harm is NOT about getting attention. It’s about finding ways to escape the emotional pain, finding ways to just get through when things are too hard. Sexual abuse can happen by someone you trust, and you can repress memories. I did. And being queer doesn’t make you abnormal. It makes you a person who loves someone else.

I’d read very few books on those subjects, especially self-harm, and the ones I’d read—most of them didn’t seem to really get it, or come from an insider perspective, or to be written with compassion. That was missing for me in many of the books I read.

I also needed to be heard. That’s another reason I needed to write Scars. But most of all, I wanted to reach people. Help people know they’re not alone. Help others who don’t have that experience to be a bit kinder, a bit more understanding. And I think Scars is doing that.


What do you feel alone about?
Have books helped you?


Cheryl has generously offered to give away a signed copy of Scars, with bookmarks to a randomly selected commenter!

Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.



Remember to stop by tomorrow when Simone hosts Amish suspense writer Marta Perry!


  1. Cheryl welcome! What a powerful topic to write about for YA. I've always viewed cutting like eating disorders as a way that people have to try and have control over one aspect of their life. I'm definitely going to put Scars on my list of books to read.

    As for if I ever feel alone about something. I grew up an only child so I have a higher tolerance for it than most and probably internalize most disappointments without ever sharing. I do feel that sharing is better, however and try to encourage conversation with my daughter (another only child.)

    Terrific post. Thanks again for joining us.

  2. Thanks so much for doing the interview, Cheryl!

    What I (negligently) failed to mention in my introduction **Maureen slaps herself** is that SCARS was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award this year. This is perhaps the biggest literary award in Canada.

  3. Congratulations on SCARS, and the Governor General's Literary Award nomination. What an achievement, Cheryl!

    I have always been introverted, so being alone feels safer than socializing. But I get out there and do it when I have to. And books are great companions!

  4. I realized I never answered Cheryl's question. Hmmm..

    I'm fortunate that at the age of Cheryl's heroine the most traumatic thing I went through was puberty. But that was traumatic enough. And it did make me feel alone. Judy Blume helped. As did reading in general. Escaping into other worlds, empathizing with other people's problems really helped me cope with my trivial ones.

  5. Welcome Cheryl! What a brave book.

    Books have always made me feel less alone. That's why books are so wonderful :)

  6. Hi Cheryl! Great to see you here at GLIAS today :) We've tweeted back and forth a couple of times, but I so enjoyed getting to know you better in this interview.

    SCARS sounds fantastic...I never realized being part of this blog would make my already towering TBR pile grow to mammoth proportions!

    I am an internalizer. I present a very confident persona to the world, have always done so to compensate for some difficult things in my life. I'm a master at blocking :) Of course, I've done that for so long, it's also become a part of me and not something I think I will ever stop doing.

    Neither will I ever stop reading :) It's the ultimate escapism that still allows me to really use my mind and imagination.

    Thanks again for coming by today, Cheryl! We hope to see you back again!

  7. Congratulations on the award nomination, Cheryl, and welcome to Get Lost...

    I was very fotunate to only deal with the normal puberty problems, and a dramatic move from my childhood home in the city to the "country" classic small town. Dealt with the lonliness through reading and writing my first romance novel. LOL

    Thanks again for writing this very BRAVE book.

  8. You are an inspiration, Cheryl! Great book!

  9. Cheryl: Thanks for joining the Get Lost Crew and Maureen thanks for asking Cheryl to blog so we get a chance to meet this phenomenal author. Your answers were so compelling and I'm glad your dream of being a published author came true. I'm also glad that YA is stepping into such important topics. I loved what you said about silence. A teen alone and not knowing where to turn is a tragedy. Ideally your book speaks to them. Thanks for being here!

  10. You are a brave woman. Good luck with your career!

  11. Hi Cheryl :)
    Thank you for the interview here.
    I liked your advice!
    I felt alone about... depression.
    Books didn't really help - but medicine, friends, family & doctors did.
    Thank you again for sharing here,
    All the best,

  12. Wonderful interview, Maureen and Cheryl. What a powerful topic to take on. We had a family member who struggled with an eating disorder, alcoholism and self-harm until her death at age 30. She led a tortured life and despite years of counseling could not overcome whatever evil led her to this life. I hope your book helps many people understand and learn to love.