About a week ago, I sent out a survey invitation to everyone who’s agreed to receive a free copy of 22 Scars from my friends over at Voracious Readers Only (highly recommend checking them out). I was curious to learn what they thought about the novel, about their reading preferences, and about the possibility of future works.
One of the questions, listed at the very end of the survey, was a space to ask me, the author, any question at all. Since the survey responses are anonymous I obviously can’t answer them individually, but since the questions were in most cases pretty interesting, I thought I would take the opportunity to answer them here in a public forum. I’d also like to invite anyone else who’s read 22 Scars to ask me anything, too! (I’m not famous enough for Reddit, I’m afraid!)
What was the hardest part of Amy’s story to write?
It’s funny, actually, because the entire damn thing was hard to write! Although there were plenty of challenges in writing a story about a suicidal teenage girl, there were probably two aspects that I recall as being particularly difficult.
The first was the scene involving Beth’s funeral. Writing from the perspective of a grieving father was exceptionally hard emotionally, because of course it put me in the place of imagining if my own child had died.
The second was the diary entries. From a technical and realism perspective, it was incredibly difficult to capture the voice of an aging child, from 10 to 16, especially one of a different gender than my own. The good news is that the diary entries are one of the most positively reviewed portions of the book, so I guess I must’ve done a good job!
I don’t usually ask people this, but I’m always curious. Do you think suicide should be assisted?
Wow. I guess I should’ve expected this, given the subject matter of the book, but it’s still a pretty difficult question to answer! I actually wrote a blog post a while ago on suicide, which answers much of this question, but the short answer is – maybe.
I think that suicide becomes an option for people who are suffering from despair – the genuinely-held belief that it is utterly impossible for things to ever get better, and that there is nothing left in life that is worth suffering through pain and agony for. Now, in the case of emotional and mental despair, I would strongly suggest that people look for help before considering suicide, as depression can be helped through therapy and medication.
However, in the instance of terminal illnesses, where it is objectively determined that the sufferer cannot ever, ever regain any measure of quality of life … then I think the right to die is something that should be available to people of sound mind, able to make that determination.
Where does the material come from for your stories?
Whilst some of what happens in 22 Scars is invented, a great deal of it is based on experiences I – or people I know – have had in their own lives. I’ve personally struggled with depression and self-harm, and carry the weight of hundreds of scars on my right arm. I know intimately what it’s like to feel despair; I know what it feels like and looks like to cut your own skin open. I don’t know what it’s like to be raped, but I know people who do.
For my upcoming novel, The Broken, there is going to be a great deal more fictional content, but the feelings and emotions the characters experience is nonetheless still based on a great deal of what I and others have gone through.
In general, I believe a good story should connect emotionally with the reader, and I don’t know if that’s possible if the writer hasn’t experienced at least something of what they’re writing about.
How are you feeling now around the marketing of your book?
Look out next week for a post about just this!
In general, I feel like I’m a terrible marketer, and I have no idea how I would have ever got the reader base I have without Voracious Readers Only (thank you, Larry!). That being said, I’ve given away over 1,000 copies of 22 Scars, which has resulted in over 100 ratings and nearly 100 reviews on Goodreads, so I’m pretty pleased with that!
Is this something you’ve experienced yourself, or as a parent figure?
Interestingly, both. Similar to the question above about where my material comes from, I’m all-too familiar with depression and self-harm, but as a parent I’ve seen the consequences of mental health issues in a parent. I struggle daily to keep myself from descending into despair, because I know how traumatic that could be for my son.
Inasmuch as my son takes after me, the good news is so far he isn’t showing any major signs of clinical depression, so I’m glad for that.
What was your inspiration to write 22 Scars?
I think this is a slightly different question to where I get my material from, so I’m happy to answer this one as well. Actually, the original idea for 22 Scars came from an album by Dutch symphonic metal band After Forever. Their 2004 album Invisible Circles is a concept album describing the young life of a girl who wasn’t wanted by her parents. For some reason this story connected deeply with me, and I realized then that I wanted to write a similar story – one about an abused and depressed young girl.
Soon, I realized I could use writing such a novel both as a catharsis for my own depression, and as a way of educating people who perhaps didn’t understand depression and self-harm as well as I did. I also wanted to write a story that could connect to sufferers of depression as well, and help them feel a little less alone.
Although it took a further 12 years to come to fruition, the original kernel of the idea for 22 Scars came from that album, and that idea.
Do you need an ARC reader?
I wish I knew who asked this question, because – hell yes! I would love people to read my work before it’s ready and provide feedback; sadly, it’s hard to find people who are both willing and able to read and provide critical feedback, and do it in a time frame that aligns with the progress of the book publishing process itself.
But yes – if you or someone you know would like to read ARC copies or chapters, please, please let me know!