GET LOST IN AN EDGY YA
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!
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
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'S GOTTA ASK -- CHERYL'S GOTTA ANSWER
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.
A QUESTION YOU’D LIKE TO ASK YOUR FANS
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.
YOU CAN FIND CHERYL ON THE WEB HERE:
Remember to stop by tomorrow when Simone hosts Amish suspense writer Marta Perry!