My cyber-bullying journey started over a year ago when one of my student's wrote a paper on texting. Then, the Phoebe Prince caught my attention as well as the nations attention. I looked for YA novels on cyber-bullying and found nothing. It was then that I felt a need to write my own.
I wrote about Jennifer Cast and researched suicide cases of young adults. I included a boy named Kevin. At first, Jen was powerful, and taunted Kevin. Kevin was the loser dude that was going to die. I listened to my daughter talk about her school and everything that went on it it. It is a public school and well known through out the state for it's excellence. I was shocked as she told me what occurred on a daily basis. From the drifters to the students who hung out in the practice rooms to get high to the bullying.
After listening to her and her friends, I realized that Jen had to have low self esteem. What girl in h.s. doesn't struggle with that? Yet, she had to have a friend who was strong on the outside but have a secret flaw on the inside. Hence, Mel was born. I wrote Mel as just a friend, not a main character. At the end of last summer, I had 34,999 words and thought I was finished.
I was then told that I needed more, much more if it were to be printed as a novel. I added more to Kevin and started to like him. I added Jen's death and told the grief that her family went through as well as the need for justice for her father. I ended up really liking Jen. So, after I completed the novel w/ 50,000 I went back and made Mel commit suicide. Then of course, I needed a reason for her death. Hence, Mel's character was born.
The concept of hurting oneself (self-abuse) is a taboo subject. It has been around since the cave man and has affected millions of people including this author. I have read only one novella - Cut - that represented the subject. It is thought that if someone reads about cutting, they will most likely end up doing it more. In my opinion, I would rather expose it so people can understand the mind set and obsession. Then, they can get help. Cutting/self-abuse does not usually lead to suicide unless the person can't release their tension and/or is "pushed" to their limits. I made Mel start to cut in third grade, 9 years prior to her suicide.I wanted to show that self-abuse didn't lead to her death, but not being in-control - being cyber-bullied lead to her death.
From the Phoebe Prince case, I knew that a rape occurred as well as destruction to her memorial page. When a person feels so much trama, they begin to dissociate, that is to picture things as if the person were in a movie. Again, I was familiar with this feeling from my own background of sexual abuse. It is truly maddening to wake up viewing the world not knowing if you are asleep , awake, or watching a movie. Sometimes, pain is the only way to tell that you are alive.
Going back to Jen, I wanted teens to know what would happen if they over dosed and woke up in the hospital. The feeling of having your stomach pump, of having tubes in the mouth. Of having your family see you. I wanted teens/ adults to realize what it's like for both sides after a suicide and attempted suicide.
Since my daughter has a romantic side to her, she wanted me to have Kevin and Jen get together. I knew in reality this wouldn't happen, but they needed a closure. The same is true with the ending. I know that life for Kevin wouldn't be rosy, he would still have problems, so would Jen. But, they would see that life is full of problems as well as rewords and if your dead, how can you see the rewards?
Lastly, justice had to be served. Several cyber-bulling cases are going to trial. Laws are being brought up to protect people and teens against cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, it will never be enough. The first cyber-bullying suicide occurred in the late 1990's -- Over twenty years ago, since that times, hundreds have died.
My novel was a calling for me, something I had to write, something I need to see published. I have had an agent request the entire novel and I hope she is willing to go to bat and take it to publishers. If not, I am still going to try and won't give up. Writing the novel was only a little start, getting an agent is my huddle now.......