I was lucky enough to read this before it released and if you haven't already you can check out my review here.
I also got a chance to interview this awesome author and she was kind enough to indulge my questions. If you want an even closer look at the author check out her blog!
You can enter to WIN a copy of BREAKABLE with the rafflecopter below the interview! Or if you can't wait you can find her novel here or here or here!
Good luck and Happy Reading!
What was the inspiration behind the interesting concept of being able to speak to your future self in the mirror?
About two and a half years ago I came across the website www.dearteenme.com in which authors write letters to their teen selves. I noticed how many of the letters included something along the lines of “I know you won’t listen to me when I tell you this, but…” That was a sentiment that really resonated for me. I knew if I spoke to my 16-17 year old self, she’d listen and nod and smile, but inside she’d be thinking “Yes, but…” and go off and do whatever she wanted anyway.
It got me wondering about whether, in that situation, it would even be possible to help my teen self overcome or avoid any of the mistakes that I made.
The book was born out of that hypothetical conversation in my head!
Stacey has one major outlet in BREAKABLE and that is her art. How did you research this in order to make it so real and tangible for your character?
I’m glad it felt real for you. That’s one of the two parts of this book that’s really seeded in my own experience. Art was a passion for me when I was in high school, something I pursued for a couple years as an adult (I sold my paintings online for a while). From that perspective, I just thought back to what I experienced back then – though, Stacy is much more accomplished than I was. And I’m not just being modest when I say that. One of the virtues of writing fiction is that I can take my own knowledge and apply it so my characters act and achieve in ways that I wish I could have!
Stacey undergoes a daily battle with bullying--both verbal abuse and sometimes even physical. Did you do any special research to depict these gruesome scenes or did you pull inspiration from real-life experiences, either your own or stories from those close to you?
And there you’ve hit on the second part of this book that is drawn from my life. Unfortunately, I was bullied severely between 7-11th grades. Some of what happens to Stacy is essentially replicating what happened to me. Some of it is “themed” along the lines of my experience, and some of what I experienced that used to be in the book has come out. Ironically, early readers found it “implausible”. (Insert teeth grinding here).
One thing I have noticed as an adult is that people who haven’t experienced bullying tend to either think the impacts are being exaggerated by the emotions of the person experiencing it, or that the person could ignore or “walk away” from the targeting and thus solve the problem. I know that’s not always possible. But it seemed prudent to let people stay in the story even if that kind of experience didn’t resonate for them.
One thing I should probably point out though: While I did experience some physical bullying, my life was never endangered. So on that score, Stacy’s journey outpaces mine.
Are there any novels that helped inspire you to write Stacey’s story?
I can’t think of any novels that inspired the premise. But every time I read and enjoy a book I try to figure out what it was about the writing that was so effective for me and emulate it.
The day an early reader told me they’d found the experience of reading Breakable along the same lines as reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher I think I actually cried. That book is incredible. One of my favorites. And definitely has a raw tone and thoughtfulness I wanted to achieve with Breakable.
Are you hoping that YA readers will be moved by Stacey’s story and take action against the bullies in their own life?
Um…that’s a hard question. I always hope that if I come in contact with a teen who is being (or has been) bullied, that I can encourage them in some way, or help them feel stronger. But having experienced significant bullying myself, I know there’s often little that can be done in the middle of an altercation to stop it in its tracks. And sadly, many of the adult figures who are informed about bullying don’t understand how it works, or its impacts. Their input can – only at times – make the situation worse. It’s a very fine line to walk, and one I’d encourage everyone involved to take very seriously, and with mind to future ramifications.
More than some kind of revolution, what I really hoped for in writing Breakable was that teens going through that would see that I really do understand how that feels. And that not everyone who goes through it is ultimately defeated. I wasn’t.
The truth is, bullying doesn’t just happen in childhood and it doesn’t just happen at school or with peers. It happens at home, with parents and siblings. It happens at school – sometimes from teachers. And it happens to adults too (though it tends to be a little more sophisticated at that point). So patterns can emerge in anyone’s life. If anyone reads this interview who is experiencing that, I’d want them to know that I understand. That I’d never marginalize them for the fears and self-doubts they’re having because of it. And I’d encourage them to keep talking to adults until they find someone who takes the issue seriously.
If the adult has the opportunity to impact what’s happening, keep talking to them until they do something useful (like bringing victim and bully together privately). If they don’t, then keep talking to them so you know you aren’t alone in it. Draw whatever support and comfort you can. You need it. And that’s okay.
Bullying is incredibly isolating and can make us think things about ourselves that are wrong. The best way to counter-act those destructive effects is to find people who help us understand that those messages aren’t true. The more we understand what’s valuable about ourselves, the less we become a target for people who – consciously, or subconsciously – are looking to exploit weakness.
Was it hard for you to write the scenes in which Stacey is abused by her peers? Especially the scenes with Finn--he is incredibly cruel.
The first draft of this book was harrowing for me. It brought a lot of pain and anger to the surface which I thought I’d already let go. But over time, it actually became very therapeutic.
One of the advantages to being the author of this kind of book is that I’m behind the eyes of every character – including Finn. I know what drives him and what he experiences off the page. And I know he’s doing this out of his own pain. I’m far enough away from the years I spent targeted this way to have had some pretty interesting conversations and interactions with my former bullies. I’ve also learned a lot about some of their lives from other people in later years. One of the things that helped me let go of my anger towards one particularly bad perpetrator was learning about the hell she lived in. Much, much worse than what she brought into my life.
So now when I read or work on any of those scenes I just feel sad because I know there are kids (and adults!) out there going through that every day. It breaks my heart.
Who are some authors that have inspired you?
Oh, gosh… so many! And for so many different reasons.
Even more than being inspired, I wish I was in the head of Katja Millay. Her book The Sea of Tranquility is the book I wish I wrote. (If you want to talk about someone who mines the depths of personal hell and self-destruction, that’s the book to read. And she’s funny too).
Earlier I mentioned Jay Asher and his book Thirteen Reasons Why, mainly because it hit really hard for me. That’s probably the other book I wish I could write.
Sarah Dessen writes in a way that is a very different style to mine, but she really gets into the hearts and heads of her characters in a way I’d hope to emulate. I’ve read and loved something like eight of her books, but Just Listen is my favorite.
When I think about it, the authors I admire are always really strong character builders. They don’t shy away from the hard questions, or the real conflicts of a story. They don’t generate action or arguments purely for dramatic value. Their characters feel like real people, responding realistically to the circumstances they’re experiencing.
If you could pick a theme song for Stacey’s experiences, what would it be?
That’s easy: Breakable by Ingrid Michelson. It’s actually quite a “light” song in its tone, but the lyrics, to me, do an amazing job of accurately describing the true fragility of people’s hearts and how we often ignore or take that for granted.
I should probably note her e that my Breakable was originally titled Listen to Me. When I realized I had to change my title for commercial reasons, there were only two words that really fit for this book – and Breakable was one of them. It wasn’t until later I realized I’d subconsciously been given the idea from that song.
Is there any advice you think your future self would give you if you could see her in the mirror?
She’d know she should be brutally honest with me, that I only want to deal with what’s really going on. Right at the heart of whatever is happening. So I have no doubt she’d have some very hard-hitting advice. And that would suck. But at the same time, I’d do better than my teen self. Now, I’d actually listen!
(Oh, and I also hope she’d tell me to figure out how to deal with being a bestselling author, ‘cause, you know, that wouldn’t suck at all).
Will Stacey’s story continue?
Oh! Another hard question! (You’re good at those).
Here’s the thing – I know what happens in Stacy’s story later. And yes, there’s a book in it. But I don’t know if it’s a book my readers would want to read. So I’m going to have to see how people respond to this one, and see whether the sequel is worth putting “out there”.
(If you’re still curious after that very vague answer, there’s a clue earlier in this interview, and some extra / deleted scenes on my website that might offer some insight…)
Thank you so much for having me, Molly! That was a really thoughtful interview. As an author it’s so great to see people thinking about my story and wondering about the actual implications of it. So this has been a real blessing to me. Thank you!
Aimee L. Salter isa Pacific North-Westerner who spent much of her young (and not-so-young) life in New Zealand. After picking up a Kiwi husband and son, she’s recently returned to Oregon. She writes novels for teens and the occasional adult who, like herself, are still in touch with their inner-high schooler. Aimee is the author behind Seeking the Write Life, a popular blog for writers at www.aimeelsalter.com. You can also find her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/@AimeeLSalter) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/AimeeLSalter).
Aimee’s debut novel, Breakable, releases November 4th for Kindle, Nook and in paperback. You can add Breakable to your to-read list on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18377058-breakable