Why didn’t she tell the police? – A word on abuse, family and Beautiful Broken Things

Like all sensible authors, I don’t comment on reviews. At most I will thank kind reviewers who link me to their positive reviews, but I sometimes hesitate doing even that. Bad reviews, even those that sting, even those that I disagree with, are best left alone. But there are certain things that crop up occasionally that make my heart sink for a different reason than simple wounded pride. And that’s questions like this: “Why didn’t she tell the police?”

In Beautiful Broken Things, one of the three main characters, Suzanne, has been abused for much of her childhood. The book starts after she has moved to Brighton for a “fresh start”, so the abuse is only ever referred to, never seen. You know that it was physical and emotional, that it was at the hands of a step-parent, that it was a deep, ugly family secret. It’s not stated explicitly, but the abuse was never reported – not by Suzanne herself, and not by anyone else in her family.

And so to that question. Why not? Why didn’t Suzanne report her stepfather? Why didn’t she get help? And variations of the same. (And also “Why isn’t this discussed in the book?” which I’ll get to a bit later.)

Questions like this make me sad. They make me sad for abuse victims everywhere. For those going through it, and those recovering from it. Because what it says is this: why didn’t you save yourself?

And that says this: You could have saved yourself.

And that says this: You didn’t save yourself.

A child doesn’t stop loving their parents because they are abused by them. Maybe the whole thing would be a bit easier if they did; maybe breaking free would be easier; maybe “getting over it” would be easier. They want to be loved in return, it as as simple and as heart breaking as that.

How could a child who is desperate for their parents’ love and approval “report” them to the police? Think about how impossible that would seem. How unfathomable.

Suzanne grew up in a household where she was the only one being abused and so, alongside the physical violence, there was years of emotional manipulation from both her parents and her brother. For most of her life, she heard things like this from people she loved: “Don’t tell anyone, you’ll break up the family.” “You don’t want to be put in care, do you?” “They’re my parents too.” “You don’t want to be the reason your family gets split up, do you?” “What would people think of you if they knew?”

It wasn’t a choice for Suzanne to not report what happened to her; it was literally never an option, because it was never allowed to be. Manipulating children into keeping quiet is one of the most horrible parts of child abuse. Questioning why a child kept quiet is like asking them why they have a bruise. The answer is, “Because this is what was done to me.”

Now Suzanne, obviously, is fictional. But this happens in real life every day, and it happens to people who then have to read things like “Why didn’t this fictional character report this? They should have reported it, and then things would have been better.”

None of this is included in the text of Beautiful Broken Things for two main reasons. One is that there’s only so much backstory you can include in a story without sacrificing the actual story you’re trying to tell, especially when the character is not the protagonist. The second is that it’s the wrong question to ask, and including all of this justification for Suzanne not having done what she was “supposed” to do as a victim would feel like I was letting her down. What I would want to say is, Suze, you didn’t do anything wrong. You were let down by everyone around you, but it is not your fault.

Let’s keep the blame where it belongs, and that is with the abuser, not their victim.

 

 

Note to those who need it:

If you need help, if you are suffering, if you are being abused, and reporting it feels impossible for these reasons or any other reasons, there is support available. There are people who can help. 

If you are in the UK, Childline is a completely free, private and confidential service. When you’re ready, they’ll be there. 

 

 

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Please judge my book by this cover

There are certain milestones every young writer dreams of and, aside from holding your book in your hands, seeing the cover may be the very biggest. The face your book will wear in the hearts and minds of future readers everywhere. You hope for something eye-catching, something memorable. You dream of magic.

All the while knowing that magic is rare, that eye-catching design may not match the book, that something can be memorable for the wrong reasons. So you hope and you dream, but you try – try – to keep your expectations in check.

And then you get that email. It has an image file attached. Your heart goes: ZING! Your brain goes: Don’t get too excited. Just click the file. Click it.

And everything you ever dreamed and hoped for appears on your screen. You actually gasp, even though you’re alone in your office.

I am so, so pleased to reveal the cover for my debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things, courtesy of the brilliantly talented folk at Macmillan Children’s. The designer is Rachel Vale, and I think you will agree she is a fantastic one.

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Isn’t it beautiful? The birds! The gold! The hands! MY NAME!

It’s memorable and eye-catching. It’s magic.

Please tell me what you think in the comments!

To find out more about Beautiful Broken Things, you can read my previous posts on the topic here or mosey on over to the Goodreads page, where you will also find reviews and ratings from people who have already read it.

And if this has all convinced you, you can pre-order the book now from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles!

The proof is in the… proof.

Something very special has arrived in the post.

It’s quite a deceptive package. It looks like a proof copy of an upcoming book, like a hundred other proof copies. It has the name of the book and the author on the front, a line about being an uncorrected proof copy. The design is simple, understated and beautiful. That’s a nice looking proof, you think.

But this proof is actually extremely special. It is different from all the hundred other proofs. And that’s because it’s mine.

MINE!

I could gush about how dreams come true (they do) and how this is everything I’d ever hoped for (it is) and how it’s the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever held in my hands (by far), but no doubt that will get boring for everyone else very fast.

So I will just say, BEHOLD! The proof copy of BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS. Coming at you January 2016 from Macmillan Children’s.

You should read it, it’s good.

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Find out a bit more about it over at MyKindaBook.

The week I went to Norway and got Goodreads Official

Welcome to May, everyone! I am currently in Norway, where it is Labour Day. I drank peach Fanta in the sun. I went from Oslo to Stavanger by train. I went on a boat. This has been an exciting week for me, partly because of said Norwegian adventures, but also because this is the week Beautiful Broken Things was added to Goodreads. Hooray!

As a big reader and all round lover of digital/social media, I’m a bit of a Goodreads addict. I love adding books to my lists and reading what other people think of books I love (and hate, let’s be honest). And now, mine is among them! Mine is an add-able book, with a blurb, and an ISBN, and a RELEASE DATE.

No mistake, these are exciting times for me. Hopeful writers share many dreams, I’m sure, but we all have our little, personal dreams alongside them. For me, Goodreads is right up there, because I associate it so much with everything I love about books nowadays, which goes beyond the physical reading experience. Now we can share the experience, build a community, receive and make recommendations. There’s never been a better time to be a reader.

I should add here that I’ve heard stories about how being a Goodreads Author is very different to being a Goodreads reader, and not in a good way. But I guess I’ll just let my future self worry about that.

So! Along with the title, I can now tell you a little more about what Beautiful Broken Things is about. It’s YA, set in contemporary Brighton and is, in essence, about girls, friendship and recovery from trauma.

Here’s the proper blurby blurb:

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

I plan to write a blog at some point in the near future that will go into a little more detail about BBT, how and why I wrote it and the long process from first draft to book deal. If there is anything specific you’d like to know, just let me know in the comments.

If you missed my previous flailing about getting said book deal, you can catch it here.

For now, tusen takk for reading!

Ha en fin dag 🙂

A little writer’s little wishlist

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post that was very special to me, about a topic that makes me fizz with joy: my book. The response to that blog post (which I’ll just drop a link to heeere) was overwhelming, in the best possible way. It was so overwhelming, in fact, that it rendered me utterly unable to follow it up.

So now I am going to ease myself back into my blog with something easy. My dreams as a writer.

I’ve always considered myself a writer in the most straightforward definition of the word. That is, I was a person who wrote on a daily basis. My overriding dream as a writer was to move into capital letter territory: to be A Writer.

Now that is on its way to happening (EEEE!!! etc), I can indulge myself a little more and talk about the other dreams I had, before now, hardly dared let myself dream. These are the dreams that I think most, if not all, young writers hold close.

So here it is, to share with you all. A little writer’s little wishlist of dreams:

– My name on a spine in Waterstones

– A nice comment from someone who is not related to me, nor someone paid to champion my writing (though these are wonderful too)

– A five star review

– A one star review (perversely)

– My book translated into another language

– An audiobook (I *love* audiobooks)

– Fanart (I think I would actually cry)

– Questions from readers

– Emails from readers

– Tweets from readers

– Readers

The right words, the right time.

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a story about a girl.

I was thirteen at the time, and writing stories was what I did. And not just about girls. Planets that spoke to each other, mice who lived in the Underground, magic meerkats and friendly boats. Writing was my thing; it was beyond a hobby and more than just something I enjoyed. It was how I understood the world. Words had all the magic and possibility anyone could ever need. Put them in the right order, and you could create a world of your own. And maybe, if you got them just right, that world would be a place that would mean something to other people.

I’d written countless stories by the time I was thirteen – the first at age 6, in which the acknowledgements page listed all our family pets by name, including the guinea pigs – of varying length and quality. Each abandoned and finished project was a step closer to Being A Writer; my ultimate goal. My dream. A book on a shelf with my name on it. A book that someone could hold. A book that had a sentence in it that made someone’s eyes go wide with “yes. this.”

There was something different about that story about a girl, not least because it was the first full-length novel I’d ever written. There was something about the story, something about the characters, that worked. I was thirteen, but I knew that. But I also knew something else – it wasn’t right. They weren’t the right words, and it wasn’t the right time.

I tried revisiting the story and the girl several times over the next few years, but it never came together. I got better at writing. I read yet more books. I went to university, where writing came with grades and books were to be approached critically. I learned the difference between writing for someone else and writing for yourself.

By the time I graduated, I had stopped writing stories. I went to work. I learned how to write professionally. How to fall asleep on a train in the morning and still get off at the right stop. The best time of the day to schedule tea breaks. The number of people who actually care about where to put apostrophes (depressingly few). How to write presentations. How to interview people.

And all the time, I thought about that story of a girl. The story I’d never quite been able to tell. I thought about what she would be doing three, five, ten years in her own future. How many other people there were in her story. How they all had stories too. Her world grew. New characters appeared, one with a voice that felt right.

A new protagonist. A new story of a girl. A feeling I’d never quite had before, of certainty.

I wrote in the work canteen at lunchtimes and on the train home. I wrote in the ten minutes before the light turned off, then carried on write-dreaming until I fell asleep. I nestled into Starbucks sofas on the weekends. Conversations became scenes. Scenes became chapters. Soon it was 50,000 words. And then 80,000. And then it was finished.

I’m going to skim over what happened next, because the getting-an-agent process and everything after is too much to fit into a single blog. I’ll save it for another time, but suffice it to say it involves a lot of waiting. A lot of refreshing my inbox. A lot of nail-biting. And then all that agony forgotten in that one, perfect sentence: “Are you around next week to come in to my office and have a chat about representation?” (YES. YES I AM.)

What follows: editing. Revising. A crash course in the world of publishing. More editing. A few tears. A few drafts. Submission. More agony.

And then: “I would like to make an offer…”

It’s a funny thing, getting something you’ve always wanted. Realising a dream. It’s joyous and exhilarating, but it’s also scary. Like happiness vertigo. These characters who existed only in my head for over a decade now come up in conversation with people who have job titles like Senior Commissioning Editor. People I’ve never met know them better than they know me. They now have lives in the imaginations of other people. It’s wonderful. It’s terrifying.

When I was thirteen, I wrote a story about a girl. And now that story is a book. A book that will have pages and a spine. A Goodreads page. Readers. Reviews. It took a long time to find the right words and the right time for them to come together, but now it has I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And so, the words I once only dreamed of being able to say: My debut novel, Beautiful Broken Things, will be published by Macmillan in Spring, 2016. And I am ecstatic.