Monday, September 30, 2013

Author Interview and GIVEAWAY: (Part Two) Cheryl Rainfield on STAINED and Why She Writes

Follow Along Here and on Twitter with #STAINEDBook for your chance to win package giveaways of all of Cheryl’s Titles and even an eREADER!


I am honored to host PART TWO of a two part Author Interview with the very candid and down to earth Young Adult Author, Cheryl Rainfield. PART ONE can be found here. The last time I was so honored to speak with Cheryl about her first two books, SCARS and HUNTED, I focused on the writing process. If you didn't have a chance to read that interview yet, check it out here.

Today, I focused on Cheryl's most recent release, STAINED, and the topics Cheryl often writes about. I guess I did too good of a job with these questions, since we are dividing the interview in half, but so much of what Cheryl says is so very important, I believe it will be worthy of two posts.

Now to welcome our guest, Cheryl Rainfield!

Let's continue, shall we?

I work in the mental health field with school aged clients, many of whom have significant trauma histories. I'm also writing my own stories of a similar nature, which I hope to share someday. I've seen a model used for victims of abuse, one they can begin with and move toward the direction of surviving and overcoming. Victim --> Survivor --> Adaptor --> Thriver --> Overcomer. It's the one I use, and continue to work on daily. What tools and resources have you found and help you to cope with your traumatic past? Likewise, what helps you keep a healthy present and future?

It sounds like your clients are lucky to have you! It helps so much to have someone understand. And I’m glad you’re working on stories that will help make a positive, healing difference. They’re so important!

A lot of things have helped me as a survivor, and continue to help me. For me, it was key to remember a lot of abuse and exactly who my abusers were, so that I could get myself safe. I also needed (and still need) a good therapist—one who gives me compassion, empathy, knows about the issues I deal with, allows me to work at my own pace, and is willing to try different things with me. A good therapist can help SO much, and help the healing happen faster. Safe touch has also helped me immensely—it’s helped me know I’m lovable, helped me be kinder to my own body, helped me reclaim my own body, and helped me get some of the nurturance that I never received growing up.

In therapy, I’ve used EMDR (eye movement therapy that uses tapping or light bar to help work through traumatic memory or emotion, dissociation, etc.), and I’ve found that helpful, as well as art therapy, talk therapy, etc.

Getting positives from other people about me—in written form, through voicemail or video, in person—also really helps me, since low self-esteem is something a lot of survivors deal with. Since I was trained to not allow in positives, and was taught negatives and that I was hated, I have to hear them repeated many, many times to have them go in, but I think they’re important.

I also think knowing when to push forward, and knowing when you need a break from emotion or memories, or to shift your mood, is really important. Since I used self-harm to cope, and since I have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), heavy depression, and a lot of other effects, it’s really important for me to remember to use multiple tools to shift my mood or help get myself out of trauma: positive distraction (a movie or book that makes me feel good, playing with my little dog, etc); getting out the emotion or memories in safe ways (crying, pounding a pillow, drawing, writing, dance, etc); reaching out for help; making sure I don’t isolate and spending time with people; asking for a hug; using positive messages, etc.

I’ve found EFT/TFT (Emotional Freedom Technique/Thought Field Therapy) incredibly helpful for panic attacks, and I think I’ll be looking into it for other things as well. I also believe in natural and holistic medicine. I personally don’t want to take medications; my abusers used drugs in some of the abuse, but I do use natural supplements such as Gaba Plus and SAMe for depression.

It’s been key for me to find ways to save myself, over and over, until I was truly safe (including remembering the identities of my abusers so I could get away from them; running away; keeping hold of my truths and my soul); giving myself some of the things I never got (like loving attention and compassion; or even things like toys); and to create my own family by surrounding myself with loving people who I love back, who don’t mistreat me. My little dog Petal also is an incredible help—dogs give such unconditional love—and so was my last little dog Willow and my cat Amazon.

I’m still trying to find a balance between work and play—I work way too hard, and I need to learn to be more gentle with myself, but I am more than I’ve ever been. Recognizing the progress we’ve made also helps. (smiling)

How does writing the books you've written and published, plus the ones you're currently working on, help you on the path you find yourself on? How does it impact you negatively, if at all? (Has facing these issues triggered you somewhere in the writing process?) If you're comfortable, can you speak to this and how you cope?

Writing my books, and having them get published, gives me a voice. I had no voice growing up, and my abusers told me that they would kill me if I talked—and since I saw them murder others, I knew they could do it. So writing (and art) became my way of talking. But getting my books published gives me a voice in a big way.

And it’s so important to me to help others—to encourage greater healing and compassion—and  the way that I do that is through my books. That is a part of my healing as well, especially when I hear from readers things like because of my books they’ve stopped cutting, gotten help, haven’t killed themselves, feel understood. So writing my books and having them get published, having readers read them and respond to me and write me, is a huge piece of my healing, and wonderful for me. I believed in myself and my writing, my truths and the things I had to say, for years, but I also fought depression, all the effects of the abuse and trauma, plus despair when eight, nine, ten years had passed before I was published. Getting published was a celebration and a dream come true! Reaching so many readers has been another dream, amazing to be able to get.

But since I write from my own abuse and trauma experience, it brings up a lot of emotion and memories for me when I both write and edit my work. I relive the trauma I went through every time. I’m used to doing memory work, and writing both helps me get out the memories/emotion and have a voice, but it can still be painful, and sometimes depressing when I realize how much its affected me, how little “normal” I ever had, etc. I can also find it really painful when someone doesn’t like my work or something in it, because I put SO much of myself into my books, and also because I faced so much criticism and hate from my abusers that I am extra sensitive to criticism. I try to keep some distance and refocus myself on all the many positive reviews. I have two wonderful friends and my therapist who consistently help remind me of my successes and the positive reviews, and help me try to pull away from the negatives.

When my working on a manuscript becomes too painful, I try to make sure I take a break, whether it’s within that day, or whether it’s a much longer break of a week or even weeks. I also have times of the year when the torture and cult abuse was at peak levels, such as certain holidays or other times, and often I don’t work on my writing very much in those times. So instead I’ll focus more on book promotion (which I always do, even when I’m editing and writing a lot). I try, too, to make sure that I eat well—healthy food can help improve mood (and unhealthy food can make depression, anxiety, etc. worse), that I get enough sleep, that I make sure to take multiple breaks in the day, and that I talk out things with my therapist if too much is coming up. My little dog Petal is amazing at nudging me with toys or her head to make sure that I take multiple breaks in the day, and I have some friends who make sure to keep in touch with me even when I am working way too hard.

I also use all the coping techniques I normally use when things are hard, things I’ve mentioned above, especially talking out the triggers and memories. I try to make sure I build in some fun time—with friends or alone—and I try to celebrate the successes, even small things (which I don’t do enough). And I make sure I read a lot for pleasure; reading feeds my soul.

What writing projects are you working on now (that you can talk about)? When might we expect to see these projects come our way?

I’m working on two realistic YA suspense novels, still have the sequel to Hunted on the burner (I would have had that out sooner if my first publisher hadn’t closed down), and another YA fantasy.

"Sometimes you have to be your own hero," is the logline emblazoned on the revised (and less graphic) cover for STAINED. Why was this true for Sarah, and I suspect, for you as well?

No one knew who had taken Sarah or where she was, aside from her abductor, and since she was kept in an isolated area, no one could hear her, either. If Sarah hadn’t found a way to save herself, she would have died there. And if Sarah hadn’t psychologically fought her abductor, she also could have died or been unable to cope. It took Sarah a while—the natural need for someone to save us is so strong—but when she finally realized she had to be the one to save herself, she became very focused and found her own way.

I also had to save myself, multiple times, to fully escape all the abuse and torture and get myself truly safe. I did it in many stages and various ways, including running away from home as a teen, telling about the abuse in different ways, remembering who my abusers were, working on my own healing, fighting my abusers psychologically, breaking off contact with my abusers, and working to lessen my dissociation and know everything I needed to know.

And for both Sarah and myself, we had to not completely give up, we had to find the inner strength even when at times it would have been easier to just die.

I gathered you did a significant amount of research evident in the pages of STAINED. Everything from the condition Sarah is born with, the diet of an abduction victim, torture, brainwashing, grooming victims, and the psychology of a rapist, and even the SANE medical examination, among others. Did you research things that never made it into the story? How did your research impact Sarah and Nick's story?

For most of the things in the story I used my own trauma and life experiences as research. I did really research port-wine stains and how they’ve affected some people (including the bullying), some of the nutritional affects on Sarah with her diet, how she’d be received at the hospital (I never went in to the hospital for any of the things my abusers did to me; they dealt with me at home), and some facts around guns. (Anything I got wrong is my fault.)

In talking to a nurse, I added in the SANE information and how a kind nurse might respond to Sarah, though I drew on my own experiences as a teen for how it felt to be examined after rape and abuse. I put in more kind people to respond to Sarah than I had in my own experiences as a teen.

For your readers who have not experienced the horrific things Sarah faces in STAINED, why is it still a good thing to read your book(s)?

A novel is first about entertaining us, taking us into another world, another person’s mind and soul. And I think I do that with Sarah, so that even if you haven’t experienced the traumatic things Sarah’s been through, you come away with a greater appreciation for the good things you have, and more compassion for others. STAINED may also help readers appreciate and love their own bodies more, or become more aware of body image issues, since Sarah goes through that journey, and as readers we usually identify with the character and so learn, safely, along with them. And STAINED may also help readers recognize their own strength, and know that they can protect themselves and others when they have to.

The tension and stakes present in STAINED are huge, all the way up to the ending. I've seen it described as a thriller. Do you agree with this? Why or why not? What made you write at such a break-neck, ripped from the headlines kind of pace?

I’m glad you felt the tension in STAINED! (smiling) I write with great tension to grip readers, to keep them hooked in the story AND because that’s what these traumatic events demand; there IS great tension and emotion in being abducted, being raped, fearing for your life, needing to escape. I also write with great tension because that’s what I know inside out; I lived most of my life in fear and constant tension because of the abuse and trauma. I think it’s a state that many trauma and abuse survivors know. I used to be so tense that I trembled constantly on the inside, and my breathing was always shallow. While I still don’t breathe deeply, I don’t tremble any more—but I do remember that constant anxiety and fear, and I can infuse my characters with it because that’s what they’re living. That’s what abuse and trauma does to us.

Of your published books, SCARS is in the category of "banned books." How does this impact your writing, and how to you speak out regarding "banned books." Have any of your other books come under similar attack, and how do you respond?

I find it painful when my books are challenged and removed from shelves. I know what it was like to so desperately need reflections of my own experience in the safety of books and not be able to find it. When my books are challenged or banned, some readers who need my books just as desperately won’t find them.

But having my books challenged doesn’t affect my writing; it doesn’t stop me from writing about the things I need to write about, the silences I need to break, the trauma I need to talk about. I’ve spoken out about banned and challenged books many times over the years, including the #YASaves campaign on Twitter that YA author Maureen Johnson started, as well as some videos, poetry, and blog posts.
My most recent include my poem and video: The Sadness of Banned Books


and my two guest posts “Books Save Lives. Don’t Try To Take That Away.” and “Books Are Powerful—Which Is Probably Why Some People Try to Ban Them.”

I think teens need to read about the issues that they or their friends are facing; they need to know that they’re not alone, that someone understands and cares, and that things get better. And often those are the books that are banned and challenged—books about abuse, about LGBT sexuality, books that deal with painful issues such as self-harm. Yet those are some of the books that can make such a positive difference in teens’ lives.

Where can we get all of your books, and in what formats are they available?

All of my books are available on (and .ca and, etc), Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indigo in Canada, your local indie bookstore, and IndieBound in paper form; Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Kobo, etc. in ebook form, and STAINED and SCARS are both available now in audiobook as well. The same narrator, Emily Bauer, narrated both STAINED and SCARS and she did so beautifully; I’m excited about it! I link to some of the stores here:

Thank you so much for joining me for another interview, Cheryl. I appreciate the chance to chat with you again about your books, and I look forward to the next ones yet to come. You've been so kind as to extend a giveaway opportunity for my blog readers, to win an ebook of HUNTED, a fantastic dystopian paranormal read, and PARALLEL VISIONS, a paranormal where the power is also the danger/risk. Both are excellent reads. Thank you very much, Cheryl! Best of luck on the launch of STAINED. Where can readers find out more or join in with the blog tour?

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me, Don, and for your thoughtful, in depth questions; I appreciate them!

I’m running three contests to help promote STAINED. You can enter to win ebooks, giftcards, and an ebook reader through my month-long STAINED book blog tour:


Readers can also enter to win 1 of 5 signed hardcover copies of STAINED through my GoodReads contest:

There you have it! So many opportunities to both support Cheryl and all of her amazing books, and chances for you, as her readers, to win prizes, too!

As if this wasn't enough, check out the rafflecopter below for a chance to win an eBook Copy of SCARS, a must read and celebrated banned book. The three giveaways on my blog are all from Cheryl's generosity, so please post, blog, facebook and tweet about her books, show her love and support and if you haven't read all of her books, what are you waiting for???



As part of the official STAINED month long Blog Tour Cheryl has offered readers an eBook Copy of SCARS, as well as another opportunity to post a blog comment here for one entry into the GRAND PRIZE giveaway of an eReader of your choice. More information is on Cheryl's Blog.

Also, be sure to check out PART ONE of the Author Interview and my Book Review of STAINED, both of which have giveaways to celebrate the launch of STAINED.

Now that you've gotten to know Cheryl Rainfield a bit better, I hope you'll support her and her books and share them with your friends. I love them all, and I believe our world is a better place because of writers and people like Cheryl. I'm truly honored to know her, and to support her books. What a treasure she is!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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