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INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
I love books. I used to read almost constantly—even while walking to school or getting dressed in the morning. It helped me escape the abuse I was living, and gave me hope, comfort, and validation. So I had a deep love of books. And writing, for me, came more naturally than speaking—it was my safe way of communicating. My abusers told me they’d kill me if I talked—but they didn’t mention writing. (smiling) In my head, writing wasn’t talking. I loved writing—it felt safe to me—and I was also good at it; I got a lot of praise from my teachers. And I had a deep need to break silence about the abuse and torture, to try to make a healing difference. So my love of fiction and writing, and my need to have a voice and be heard, drove me to write and later to try to get published.
How did you decide to make the move into becoming a published author?
I’ve always had a strong desire to be heard (after being silenced for so long by my abusers) and to try to make a positive, healing difference in the world. Books are my way to do that. But I didn’t get serious about getting published, about studying writing technique and getting feedback from other authors and persistently resubmitting my work rejection after rejection, until I took a course on children’s writing that turned into a writing critique group. I stuck with that group for almost ten years, and kept honing my craft and submitting and resubmitting my work, until finally an editor picked my book out of the slush pile. That book was SCARS. And with that, I got my dream. STAINED is my third book published through a US publisher (I’ve also had two books published through a small Canadian press, and one self-published book) and it’s a delight to me every time. I’m so excited about STAINED coming out!
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I want readers to know that no matter how deep their pain or what trauma they’ve suffered, they are not alone, there are other people who’ve been there and understand, and they are strong—usually stronger than they know. I want them to know that healing is possible, that things can and do get better, and that they can save themselves if they need to. Sometimes we have to be the ones to save ourselves—just as Sarah did in STAINED, and just as I had to over and over again until I was truly safe.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love the feeling of writing flowing onto a page, of emotional truths being mixed into fiction and becoming more powerful, of having a voice now instead of being silenced—and of making a positive difference in the world through my books. It’s incredibly rewarding to get reader letters telling me how much they loved my books or identified with my characters or how SCARS helped them not kill themselves, stop cutting, get help or talk to someone for the very first time about their pain, feel less alone, or understand someone they know—even their child—who’s cutting or queer or a sexual abuse survivor. It’s such a wonderful thing to get those letters.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
I love writing and editing—it gives me a voice and it feels so right for me—but sometimes, because I’m drawing on my own trauma to write, I find it painful or find myself reliving some of my trauma. But what’s harder for me are the challenges in the business of writing. Sometimes I can find it painful to read a negative review—though I have to step back and remind myself that my book is not me, even if so much of myself is in my book. It’s so much easier for me to take in negative than positive (I was taught that through abuse), and even though I have so many glowing reviews, the bits of negative ones stick with me.
I also find it very painful when people try to challenge my books and remove them from libraries; I remember how much pain I was in and how horribly alone I felt as a child and teen, always looking for something in books that would tell me I wasn’t the only one and I wasn’t crazy. Books helped me survive, and I know from reader letters that I receive that my books are helping others survive and thrive now. So keeping my books out of the hands of teens who need it hurts. And all those years of rejections I received before I got published—those were hard and wore at my soul. Not the first few years as much, but after 7, 8, 9 years it really got to me and I started to feel despair. Thankfully I got published after about 10 years of rejections! It’s also hard when things happen like if you lose an editor you love or your publisher closes—my first publisher WestSide Books closed before HUNTED even got into the stores, and so I also lost my editor. BUT something wonderful came out of that—I’m now with a much bigger publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and am working with another amazing editor, both of who have treated me and STAINED wonderfully.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
If you want to get published, I think it helps to read as much as you can, especially in the genre you write. Learn writing technique and editing—through books, conferences, classes, critique groups, and listen to the feedback you receive, especially if more than one person says it; it will help you get published sooner. But always listen to and trust your gut; sift through the feedback and only use what works best for you.
Research before you submit your book to either publishers or agents (or both); make sure you’re submitting your book to the appropriate people. Get a copy of Writer’s Market or subscribe to their website to find publishers and agents accepting submissions and their contact info. And if your dream is to get published, then don’t give up. Keep submitting, revising, and resubmitting your work. It took me 10 years and hundreds of rejections before I got published.
You can see some of the writing technique books I really recommend here: http://astore.amazon.com/rainfield-writing-books-20
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting
I put a lot of my life experiences—my trauma, healing, and passions—into my work. For instance, like Sarah in STAINED, I know what it’s like to be held captive, withheld food and water, repeatedly raped, and having my life threatened. Like Sarah, I’ve been bullied, have struggled with body image and low self esteem, and love comics and superheroes. And like Sarah, I am strong emotionally, and had to be the one to save myself.
I always write strong girl characters and emotionally strong boy characters; I think we need to see more of them in books, TV, movies, etc. And I always have queer characters in my work, whether they’re the main character or secondary characters. I’m queer, and I think it’s important that the LGBT community is reflected in books in positive ways. I also try to incorporate other forms of diversity in my books.
I love writing, creating art, reading books and comics, spending time with my friends, and playing with my little dog Petal, a sweet hairy-hairless Chinese Crested dog. If you’re curious about her, you can see some photos up on my blog: http://cherylrainfield.com/blog/index.php/2013/09/12/my-little-dog-petal-companion-comfort-and-joy-to-this-writer/ I also frequently tweet photos of Petal and put them up on Facebook. (smiling) She is part of my family, and I love her dearly.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
You can connect with me on:
My website: http://www.CherylRainfield.com
My blog: http://www.CherylRainfield.com/blog
my FaceBook author fan page: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.rainfield.fan.page