Wednesday, October 2, 2013

STAINED Blog Tour: Q&A and Giveaway!


Yesterday I posted my review of Cheryl Rainfield's new novel, Stained. Today I'm here with a fabulous Q&A with Cheryl and a pretty awesome giveaway, too. :) Read on to find out a bit more about the mind behind one of my favorite novels of 2013 and to enter for a chance to win some of Cheryl's books. Thanks for dropping by!
I've read or been well aware of several stories involving kidnapping and / or rape in YA in the past couple years. STAINED is far more gritty and stark then what I generally see. (Note: I commend you for this. It takes guts.) Did the way STAINED was told present any unique challenges for you as a writer? Were you ever worried about how readers might react to what is here, as opposed to what you are trying to say or what these characters' story needed?

I think sometimes abduction is shown as almost romantic or thrilling—or at least some TV shows and movies and even books gloss over the harsh reality, the pain and utter loneliness and despair and terror. I wanted to put readers right into Sarah—to have them feel what it’s like and hopefully come out of the experience grateful for the good things they have. I also wanted people who’d been through similar experiences, such as rape or confinement or bullying, to know that they’re not alone, that someone else understands, and that you can survive that and still be strong. To do that, I have to write honestly, emotionally, and deeply, and that’s what I did. I also focused on telling as good a story as I could—as real and emotional and heartfelt as I could, while keeping up the suspense.

Since I drew on my own trauma experience to write STAINED, at times it was painful or triggering of my own abuse when I wrote and edited the book. But I also knew that I was writing a strong girl character (and an emotionally strong boy character in Nick), and reminding others that survivors are strong and that we can save ourselves and heal. That felt important to me.

I love Nick. I felt that the way that having his POVs balanced against Sarah's provided a bit of breathing room and a way to cope or get my brain around what was happening. I also think that the connection between these two characters was unique, since we have Nick loving her from word go and Sarah realizing her feelings for Nick and having to deal with them in light of her own situation. Was there any particular inspiration for Nick? Did anything in particular help you come up with how the situation with him and Sarah would work?

I’m glad you love Nick and that you got some breathing room from having his POV! That’s lovely to hear. (smiling)

I put bits of myself into Nick. I’ve always loved comics and superheroes, so I enjoyed giving that love to Nick (and Sarah, too), and I love to draw, like Nick does. I also eat emotionally, or have, the way Nick does, and I’ve been uncomfortable with my body and weight. I’m also, like Nick, a geek and a bit of a loner and socially awkward—more so as a teen, but some of that is definitely still there for me. And like Nick I love my tech toys. (smiling)

When I created Nick, I also thought about someone I know who longed for a girl who didn’t reciprocate his feelings, and how long he hung in there hoping she’d change her mind. And I thought about how sometimes those of us who are geeky and awkward and deep are sometimes initially passed over for others who appear confident.

There have been a few contemporary books this year where super heroes or comics have mingled with a lead character's self perception and self worth. (Blaze and The Summer I Became A Nerd both immediately spring to mind.) Each of these books has had a very different feel and tone, but the interest in connecting image to heroes for female characters seems to be a 'thing' in 2013. How did Sarah's interest in comics come about? Were you already really into comics, or did writing this aspect of her character take a lot of research?

I am a comic and superhero geek. I’ve loved comic since I was a kid. When I was a kid being abused, I used to wish I could be like Superman and have the weapons used against me bounce off my skin the way they would Superman, or could rage like the Hulk and escape when I was imprisoned or being abused. A lot of the superhero material in STAINED comes from my own longings and thoughts over the years. I have a lot of Superman and Wonder Woman paraphernalia in my place, I love wearing superhero T-shirts, and (grinning) I’m dressing up my little dog Petal as Wonder Woman this Hallowe’en.

Petal, looking adorable in her
Wonder Woman Costume. :)
When I was a kid and teen, the focus for me in superhero comics and movies was the way the heroes could save and protect themselves and others, their goodness, the ways they couldn’t get hurt—or endured more than most people could, like me. I also identified with the ways they felt different or other, just like Sarah does. In later years, I also came to really appreciate well-written, powerful comic writing, and how much more appealing a good writer can make a super hero. How she or he can help us identify with them and care about them.

Cheryl Rainfield, a true
Superman fan. :)
I also think it’s important for us all to see strong girl characters and strong girl/women superheroes (in books, comics, movie, and TV)—there aren’t enough, and there aren’t enough that aren’t overly sexualized. White, straight, male superheroes still crowd out all the others, and there are very few female superheroes that actually feel strong to me. I love Batgirl (Cassandra) and Batwoman—they’re both my favorites.

Many people, much like the police and reporters in your book, have an assumption that if a missing person is not found within 48 hours they have likely been killed. I must admit that I was actually really surprised by the length of time that Bryan had Sarah before she got free. Did this present any particular challenges for you when writing STAINED? Was there a purpose or reason for going this route? (I will say that I felt it would leave a much more lasting impact on the character. It was also, as I said above, unexpected. Which is always welcome.)

One challenge I had over the length of time that Sarah was held captive alone was the worry that it would get boring without anyone else for her to interact with. But I believe that her memories, her attempts to get free, the visits from her abductor, and Nick’s POV interwoven with hers, along with the increasing threat to her life, help keep it interesting.

I chose to have Sarah held captive for a long period of time because I really wanted to show the impact of long-term trauma—it’s what I know personally, since I’m an incest and ritual abuse survivor, and I also don’t think that it’s often portrayed realistically or well or from an insider perspective, and I wanted to bring that. Some people who are abducted are held for longer periods rather than shorter—as seen by some recent cases in the news where the survivors managed to get free, and people who grow up abused and confined experience it on an ongoing basis. My own periods of confinement were shorter than Sarah’s, but they were repeated for years and years, especially during the summer months. I wanted people coming away from

STAINED to see the effects of trauma, but also to appreciate their own freedom and the good things they have. I think sometimes we need to be reminded that we have some good things in our lives right now, or that perhaps they’re not as bad as we think they are. And I wanted people who’ve experienced trauma and rape to find validation and empathy, knowing someone else understands. I wanted readers to remember that survivors are strong, and that we can fight back and find ways to save ourselves.

Because I grew up being abused and tortured, frequently raped, confined, having food and water withheld from me, and having my life threatened verbally and physically, I could never use phrases like “I’m starving,” “I’m dying,” or “that’s torture,” like people around me did, because I knew what those things really feel like. That’s an insight that I gave Sarah, as well as a renewed appreciation of being alive and a desire to live and follow her dreams.

Sarah is a very distinct and unique character, both based on the obvious (her port wine stain) but far more importantly because of the balance between determination and fear that we experience through her. How did STAINED come to you? Was this a situation where Sarah had a story to tell us, or where a story had need of Sarah? I don't think just any character could have made it through STAINED, so I'd love to know more about how the heroine came to be and what her role was in the story's overall progression.

I needed to tell the story I told, with all the threads it has, because it’s part of my own experience that has caused me so much pain. I want to make a positive healing difference in the world through my books. STAINED gave me a voice, and allowed me to remind others that they’re not alone, that someone else understands, and that they are strong and can find happiness even after trauma. I also hope to increase compassion in people who haven’t gone through similar experience through the power of emotionally honest story. Books are powerful; through them we can step into someone else’s experience and soul in a way that I don’t think we can so deeply through any other medium.

There is so much of me in Sarah—in her pain and her emotional strength, her doggedness to survive, the way she kept her soul and inner self intact and untwisted by mind control, the way she was able to protect others from bullies but not herself, the way she fought back psychologically and sometimes physically against her abuser, the ways she tried to and actually did save herself—multiple times. Like Sarah, I also struggled with body image issues and low self esteem, didn’t believe anyone really liked me or could like me or find me attractive, and was bullied. I don’t have a port wine stain, but I do have pretty visible scars on my arm and leg that people have stared at, made rude comments about, etc. And like Sarah, I’ve used writing as a way of healing, and I love superheroes and comics.

I drew on a lot of my trauma experiences and the effects to write Sarah. Like Sarah, I was confined, withheld food and water, repeatedly raped, and had my life threatened (only it was by my own parents, not a family friend), and the way those things affected me, affected Sarah. Like Sarah, I had to be the one to save myself—over and over again, in many different ways—telling people and asking for help, running away, fighting back against my abusers psychologically and sometimes physically—until finally I was completely and totally safe.

I believe books can help us heal, know we’re not alone, gain greater insight and compassion, and help us see our own strengths and new ways to cope. I hope readers find those things in STAINED.

Me: Thanks so much for dropping by I Write, I Read, I Review, Cheryl. I think this interview sheds a lot of light on some of the key parts of STAINED. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. :) 

Cheryl: Thank you so much, Kathy, for your thoughtful, insightful questions; I so appreciate it!
As if a totally awesome interview (complete with Petal in her totally cute Wonder Woman costume--makes me want to dress Coco and D'Argo up) wasn't enough, I also have a totally amazing giveaway for everyone to enter. :) 

This is your chance to win not one, not two, but THREE ebooks! Click the links under the covers to check 'em out on GoodReads, and then enter for your chance to win. (Trust me, you want these. :) There are some authors who have earned auto-buy status from me. Cheryl is one of them.) 

GoodReads
GoodReads
GoodReads
This giveaway is open internationally. It will run from today (October 2nd) until 12:00 EST on October 16th. On the 16th a name will be chosen and that person will win eBook copies of all three novels. For your chance to win, just use the Rafflecopter below! :) 

Good luck! :)


A tremendous thank you to Samantha Lien for contacting me and asking me to be a part of the Stained blog tour. Also, a tremendous thank you to Cheryl Rainfield for writing such an amazing book, and for taking the time to answer my interview questions.

So, are you ready to read Stained yet? :D Did you find Cheryl's interview interesting? And (just to remind you) who is your favorite super hero? 

Don't miss a single stop on the Stained blog tour. For a complete schedule, click here

10 comments:

  1. I do love Batman. A Dark Knight indeed.

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