Author Interview: Heather Dawn

Interview Orange

Welcome once again to Book Squirrel’s latest ‘Nuts about Authors’ interview.  Today I sat down with Heather Dawn to discuss life as a writer and her novel, Imbroglio: The Ties of Love and Lies.

Heather Dawn Imbroglio

Hi Heather, thanks for being here and chatting with me. 
Hi, Book Squirrel. Thanks for having me!

What inspired you to write?

Pain inspired me to write, plain and simple. I needed to get out of my circumstances into someone else’s, and thank God it worked!

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

I penned an essay in college entitled, Dear Little Girl, which was an assignment to write a letter of advice to myself as a child. Despite the intense joy of publishing a novel that’s getting five-star reviews, the timeless words in this essay resonate with me the most, allowing me to walk down memory lane and relish the nostalgia of my youth, grow from the mistakes, and ultimately, appreciate who I’ve become as an adult. I never would’ve thought such a simple assignment would be so invaluable to me.

What are you working on writing now?

Between my tasks as an elementary school mom and an independent entertainment production events contractor, I’m sneaking in the sequel to my debut novel.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

My best vacation was a nine day trip to Italy, exploring more than eight beautiful cities and stretches of breathtaking countryside from Rome to Lake Como with a wonderful group of ladies, our own tour “mother,”  a private tour bus, delightful hotels, and food that made me hurt myself trying to devour it all!

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

My pet hate is deception––lying and hiding in relationships. Yes, I absolutely built that despicable behavior and its consequences into my writing. That is what Imbroglio, the Ties of Love and Lies is all about! An intense storyline of drama, action and suspense where a woman’s omission (intended to maintain the interest of one surprisingly debonair, irresistible and likewise mysterious man) collides with his secrets, and the two are led on a volatile, even dangerous, journey for truth, forgiveness, and love which neither of them could have fathomed. I think it would just be lovely for every reader of Imbroglio to recognize the fears that entice us to lie and consider the lamentations of Carlos and Shannon when facing such temptation! Perhaps my genre would evolve to “romantic suspense fiction with a lesson.” Hmmm…

What movie can you watch over and over again?

I can watch The Incredibles over and over and over. And over. There is something about the dynamics of their relationships. No perfection among super heroes there!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a veterinarian. With all my heart. And then I saw what happens when animals get worms and diseases. I said, “No thank you.”

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Beverly Cleary began my passion for reading with her character, Ramona (as in the pest.)
Ernest Gaines wrung the tears from my eyes with his masterful and deservedly highly-praised novel, A Lesson Before Dying. I admired his ability to write about a subject so heartbreaking and yet keep readers engaged to the end.
Stephen King paints a story so dexterously. I remember the idiosyncrasies of his characters being so vivid in my mind, loving the way he drew me into a tale, and feeling terrified to read on.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It will challenge your fortitude. Unlike when there is a publisher behind you, there is no one to convince the world that you (the self-published artist) have talent except you. Keep pressing onward!

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

1) I wish erasing the painful emotional scars imparted by others and restoring hope to the lost was easier. 2) I wish it was easier to say what needs to be said.

Those can be tough challenges indeed!   
Where can we get your book?

Imbroglio: The Ties of Love and Lies is on Amazon.

Heather Dawn Imbroglio Author Pic

Fantastic! And where can we follow you on social media? 

Oh! That’s easy!

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Book Squirrel Review: Christmas Miracle at Easter by R.M. Gauthier

Renee Gauthier Christmas Miracle Easter

The third instalment in R.M. Gauthier’s Christmas Miracle series, this story is a little shorter than the others but still full of the same tension, humour and characters.

Gauthier is a great writer and a master of finishing a story with a sledgehammer that leaves you wanting to read on and keen for the next story.

I really enjoyed this book, and I really hope there will be another. Christmas Miracle on Canada Day, perhaps? Now there’s a holiday this squirrel can get behind!

Golden Acorns

‘Christmas Miracle at Easter’ gets a shiny Golden Acorn!

Get your copy at Amazon!

And if you haven’t read the others – they’re great, too!

SIBA First Miracle

Author Interview: Samantha Bryant

Interview Red

Hello and welcome to another Author Interview by Book Squirrel. Today we’re chatting with Samantha Bryant, author of the Menopausal Superheroes series. 

meandbook

Hi, Samantha. It’s lovely to have you here.

Hi, Book Squirrel. I’ve never chatted with a squirrel before, so I’m excited.

I’m a very exciting squirrel. 

I bet you are.

So tell us, what inspired you to write?

I’ve written nearly as long as I can remember. It probably started with a love of reading, but it was my first grade teacher who put me on the path to becoming an author. As a handwriting exercise, Mrs. Alsdorf had us first graders copy out classic poems in our nicest hand, illustrating them in the margins, and collecting them in a special folder made out of wallpaper scraps.

That was my first encounter with many classic poets: Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, etc. I fell in love with the sounds of the words and when I told Mrs. Alsdorf how much I enjoyed the poems, she knelt down next to my desk (not a far reach for her: she was very short) and said quietly and seriously, “You know, you could write poems of your own, if you wanted to.”

And I did. I don’t really write poetry anymore, except occasionally for myself, but I still love to read it, and I credit that early love of poetry with helping me craft beautiful prose and teaching me that I could write my own pieces.

That’s beautiful. Great teachers are so underrated!

Thanks! I agree!

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

That’s usually the thing I have just finished writing. There’s a glow over something when it’s fresh, and you can’t yet see any flaws it might have. Though it is also a lovely lovely feeling when you re-read something you wrote some time ago and think, “Hey, that’s pretty good!” I’m proud of all my work, even the work I now see flaws in. Choosing a favorite is rather like choosing a favorite child, so I refuse to choose!

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What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

Oh my. That’s a hard choice. According to my Goodreads list, I’ve read 44 books this year. I have a yearly goal of 52 (one per week) and I usually exceed that.

I’ve read a fair number of classics because I co-host a classics book club at my library. Of those, Moby Dick is the best one I’ve read this year. I think I’m finally old enough to truly get the book. I saw the dark humor and wit this time, and the poetry.

My neighborhood book club reads mostly literary or historical fiction. Of these, my favorite this year has been Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, which explores Doc Holliday and the Earp boys from the inside. I’m not generally much of a western fan, but Russell won me over with her beautiful language and strong emotional connection to what these men might have felt.

I’ve made a point of reading books by people I know this year, other writers I know online or from the southern convention scene. Many of them are indie writers, which can often mean a read that steps outside the box and takes a daring or creative turn in the narrative. My two favorites (I know, I’m totally cheating on how many books I say are my favorite) are Reenu You by Michele Berger and Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley. Interestingly, both of those books have quite a lot to say about racial politics, so while a scifi story about a hair relaxer gone rogue and a murder mystery set in an alternate history South Africa may not seem to have much in common, they are exploring some of the same issues.

I do love reading more than quite possibly anything else . . .except maybe writing, so I could go on for quite a while about what I’ve loved reading.

What are you working on writing now?

I was invited to be a part of a book bundle by a writer friend. It’s a collection of young adult, post-apocalyptic, romance. I couldn’t resist that challenge: three things I’ve never written, so I’ve been working on a story, though it’s come out more dystopian than post-apocalyptic. It’s working title is Thursday’s Children, and it follows a sixteen year-old track star named Kye’luh Wade, her cousins, and some other young people she collects along the way as they run away from government persecution to save themselves and rescue their parents. I don’t know if I’ll finish it in time to be a part of the bundle, but I’m grateful to my friend for prompting me to try something new. I’m really enjoying writing it.

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?

I am especially annoyed by narcissism. It comes across in many ways: condescension, man-splaining, pontificating, failure to listen, aggressive driving, line-jumping, etc. But they all strike me as part of the same basic problem.

Patricia O’Neill, aka The Lizard Woman of Springfield, from my Menopausal Superhero series has proven a fun character to grind these particular axes with. She is a no-nonsense woman, with a secret soft spot for underdogs and a bit of a hero complex. Transforming into a giant bulletproof dinosaur did not soften her caustic demeanor. Of course, like many of us, the behaviors that annoy her in others are also found within her, so Patricia is continually coming face to face with the problems her own narcissism causes even while she takes down the bad guys, either with her claws or her wit.

What movie can you watch over and over again?

I have a few perennial favorites. I watch The Quiet Man once a year and am suckered by the chemistry between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara every time. I love the entire story line of the man wounded by tragedy returning home to make a fresh start and in the process making his peace with his past.

What’s your favourite season? Why?

I’m a fan of fall. Since I’m a schoolteacher, fall is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts for me in at least that aspect of my life. It’s also when the weather cools down enough for me to wear my cozy sweatjacket, but hasn’t yet become so cold that I have to zip it up or find a coat. I’m a tree-person, in that I feel most at peace among trees, and fall is definitely a showcase season for trees, with all their colorful finery on show. Then there’s all the fall pleasures, like hot cocoa, pumpkin flavored everything at the bakery, Halloween, hay-rides and corn mazes, and jumping into piles of raked leaves. Fall is definitely the best. I missed it horribly when I lived in Alaska where the seasons were pretty much “green”, “white”, and “brown.”

Are there many nuts in Alaska? 

You’d be surprised!

Who are your three greatest literary inspirations?

Emily Dickinson speaks my soul more often than anyone else I’ve ever read. I’ve been reading her all my life and even though there’s a finite amount to read, I still find something new in her words every time.

Neil Gaiman combines darkness and whimsy to write seemingly dark stories with a hopeful core. He also loves fairy tales, ghosts, and magic as much as I do.

Stan Lee created so many of my favorite heroes. He could also balance preachy-ness with exploration of moral issues and placed his characters in difficult situations to let them shine. He shared my soft spot for the underdog, too.

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

As a child, I had a mild obsession with Helen Keller. I researched her life for a speech contest, and read everything our library had about her. Her story is a fantastic inspiration, a reminder that every person has value and needs only the right opportunity to learn to shine so the rest of us can see it. As a teacher, I see how easily her life might have come out differently if not for the support and love she received and I try to offer that love and support to those around me. Her writings are deep and thoughtful and full of kindness and generosity of spirit. The world is lucky to have them.

Josephine Baker according to Wikipedia was “an entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent.” Shouldn’t we all live to have a biography like that? She was important on so many fronts, fighting for freedom and equality both as a performer and as a human being. She used her art to make a difference and took risks throughout her varied career. She’s a reminder that “safe” isn’t always best.

My great-grandmother Lena Wilhelmina Wurth Taylor. Grandma Lena had it rough in a lot of ways. She was a child of recent German immigrants in rural Kentucky during a time when that could get a person beaten, imprisoned, or killed. She lived nearly all her life just on the respectable side of poverty and pulled herself and her family along through sheer iron will and indefatigable hard work. She married late and lost her husband early, spending more of her life widowed than she had as a bride. But she was determined to maintain her independence and did so until the last day of her life. Strong minded and stubborn, sure of herself, and fierce in her loyalties, she was not an “easy” woman by any means. She could be intimidating, but she would fight tooth and nail for those she loved. I aspire to be as self-sufficient in my own way as she was.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Time-management. I want more out of my day than is possible to squeeze most days. I want to write all the words, enjoy all the light, appreciate all the people, enjoy all the love, and still get enough sleep, exercise, and eat delicious things. Most of the time, I feel in a constant push-pull of life’s currents trying to keep my footing on slippery stones. I’d love to feel that I *really* have my balance.

Money. I am fortunate in my life in many ways and our family does not struggle for food or pleasant shelter or even for some frivolous pleasures, but like many middle class folk, I still often feel hampered by financial considerations, unable to pursue opportunities I want or take on work I would find fulfilling because I can’t “afford” to. I would love to have more freedom of cash flow. Unfortunately, I’ve chosen two less-than-lucrative fields in teaching and writing, so I will have to find my riches emotionally rather than in my bank account.

Thanks for being here with us today, Samantha. 

You’re most welcome! It’s been fun!

Before you leave, can you tell us where we can follow you on social media? 

Sure thing!  You can find me at:

newsletter:http://eepurl.com/bwgsxD

Amazon author: viewAuthor.at/SamanthaBryant

Blog: http://samanthabryant.com

Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/samanthadunawaybryant

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mirymom1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/mirymom

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SamanthaDunawayBryant/posts

Tumblr: http://mirymom.tumblr.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9j-KqaCAp8UYrVAWejQZ-g

 

New Release: The Passing Of The Night by Joanne Van Leerdam

People experience all kinds of night: loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, fear, pain, and countless other darknesses. 

This newly released collection of profound lyrical poems explores the poet’s own experiences and observations of both dark and light, revealing her determination to not only survive, but to conquer whatever tries to overcome her. 

At the end of it all, the poet demonstrates that the smallest sign of light is enough to help a wandering soul find hope in the passing of the night. 

The Passing Of The Night is available on Amazon and all other major digital stores.

Author Interview: Tobey Alexander

Interview Lime

 

Hey folks, I’m here today interviewing author Tobey Alexander!

Welcome, Tobey! 

Thanks Squirrel, I’m glad to be here!

Me too! I mean, uh… I’m glad you could make it!

Haha, okay!

Tell us, Tobey, what inspired you to write?

I have always written as an escape from what I have been doing in my everyday life. I wrote through college and university to, probably more honestly, avoid the work I should have been doing. But, I never did anything with those stories. Perhaps because I didn’t have the skill to write properly back then but now, since I have had children, I have decided to lead from the front and get my stories out there.

It all came to a head when I saw my youngest son’s growing imagination and how it makes him look a little odd to other children. The way he plays, the stories he comes up with, even when he was so young, often got some strange looks off other kids. As he’s got bigger I have polluted his imagination with my crazy stories, which is where my Magdon Series began. But when I’ve seen it thrive in him and how much all of my children have enjoyed my stories it was that, in all honesty, that made me dare to look into self-publishing.

From there it has spiralled and snowballed. I just wanted to show (T), my youngest son, what you can do if you let your imagination do what it does.

My first book Footprints On The Other Side was a flight of fancy that started at training school for my career. I read one particular author and got bored with their series, I then dared myself to write something and that is when Footprints was born. But, again, publishing it was all thanks to wanting to inspire my little monster.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?

It isn’t a particular book but instead a story arc, my Magdon creature. It all came about when (T) was two and asked about a noise in the woods. I made up a monster and my oldest son got wind of it.

Very soon I thought it would be fun to make up some maps, treasure hunts, more and more stories to build on this silly little lie. All of a sudden it became a whole falsified family history (I even made the main hero against the monster my great granddad – incidentally I have no idea who my great granddad really was so it allowed me to make one up!)

The Magdon stories have grown with me curled up on the end of one of my boys’ beds talking through ideas which we talked about and literally brainstormed between us. So, from one little idea, we created something we lived between us and for that reason I love The Magdon Myth more than anything else.

Every idea comes from somewhere deep in your imagination and you either nurture it or let it fall from memory. The Magdon, by making it up as I went along, I was Beta testing against my children who helped me create something I can say was fed by my intended audience. What I wanted was to make that world that parents and children, young and old, could enjoy. I pictured mums and dads enthusiastically reading my stories to their own children and dancing around the room acting out the scenes (pretty much like I did all the way through).

That sounds great! The Magdon doesn’t eat squirrels, does he?

No. He’s a myth. Myths don’t eat anything.

Phew! I was getting worried there…

Haha! Nothing for you to worry about!

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?

Greece, the first holiday with my now wife when we were teenagers. I remember it was a period when I was focusing on meditation (influenced by being obsessed with Star Wars Episode II which was out at the time). When I need a time to relax and reflect one of my anchor points is being stood on the open terraced roof of the apartment looking out across the sea listening to the waves crash against the pebble beach. If I ever get to retire I would love to see more of Greece. That said though I haven’t ever revisited it in a book or story I have written. That may change but for me it is a memory I would rather keep than give away to a character or story.

What are you working on writing now?

Into The Dark and Blue Light Christmas 2.

Two at once?

Two at once.

Wow! That’s impressive! Tell me more!

The first is something that was fed from the feedback I received about my Magdon Series. Where I have tried to write them as a series of novelettes so younger audiences can enjoy the adventure, the adults who have read them contacted me and told me I should write something for an older audience set in that world.

Into The Dark was an absolute whim and I tried to create a new story in my world of Magdons that would most certainly entertain and feed an older generation of readers. I have really enjoyed stepping it up a level in terms of substance and story and have really brought a sense of family into this story. My wife will be quite brutal when she says how deeply I have thrown myself into writing Into The Dark. It went from a fleeting idea into a story I really have enjoyed writing and getting myself into. 

Cover 8

As for Blue Light Christmas 2 this is something that has come about because of a charity project I did at the last minute last year. I wanted to write a story to give a little bit of a human element to policing, especially in the United Kingdom, and give the families of police officers some story to explain why they work some of the key dates in their family’s lives.

In doing so I gave all profits (what little there are sometimes) to Care Of Police Survivors charity. Even though I only did it as a last minute idea last year I have decided to do it again with a new story and this time put some more time to get my talented illustrator to help me out and also raise even more awareness and profile around the story to raise even more money this time around.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot but that didn’t happen for many reasons, including hay fever. Like all children growing up I probably wanted to be Robocop, Indiana Jones and almost every superhero. I’m now 33 and I think if you asked me my dream job it would still be some superhero. The career I ended up in though fills that gap I suppose, it was an interesting ride getting here but it’s been an interesting and worthwhile journey, just a shame I can’t write about it.

Oooh! Secret Squirrel, eh?

Yes indeed!

Name three people you admire, and give reasons.

Three? The first would be my oldest son. The last year has been testing and trying for him and although he’s only (currently) 8 he has shown me how big he can be. When he was 7 he wanted to climb a mountain so we had a summer “boy’s weekend” and climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales. I’ve never seen such tenacity in him. It was his first real adventure and he lapped it up. Then two months later he was rushed to hospital suffering from a mystery illness they thought was meningitis. He was extremely ill and scared the life out of me, his mother and his siblings. It turned out to be Henoch-Schonlein Purpura which, while not imminently life-threatening, brings its own risks and complications. Hospitalised, he was lying on a drip and the only thing he asked me was “Can I walk Snowdon again?” Considering the fact he could not even stand up, never mind walk, it was a lump-in-throat moment for me. Since recovering he has aged a little, understands how ill he was but he’s already done two mountains since then.

Number two is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, from a fitness aspect (although I never aim to be as big in stature or size) his ethos is inspiring. Having read Total Recall, his autobiography, I have so much respect for him. The determination and drive that man has is completely inspirational and if I could achieve even a tenth of what he has from my own motivation alone I would be a happy man. I know it sounds rather clichéd but for me, having read his life, he is the gold standard of personal drive and motivation to achieve against the odds. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he has done but that attitude he carries towards everything connects with me.

And lastly….a third, well, I am struggling. The first two came into my head straight away so the fact I am struggling for a third probably means there isn’t one. There are plenty of people who I admire in a fleeting way but nobody I would hold my hand up that pops into my head straight away so I won’t fill in what isn’t really there.

Fair enough! What movie can you watch over and over again?

I have quite a few, a film for different occasions! Normally, as I work shifts, I will watch something to put me in the mood for a night shift. These normally include End Of Watch and the Point Break remake (yes, I know a lot of people dislike it but for me it connects because it is what influenced my oldest son to want to climb mountains with me and explore the great outdoors). My other favourite I can watch over and again is the Bridget Jones series. It’s a film me and my wife will default too when we want a nice chilled evening together and they never get old.

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?

It isn’t easy but there is no better way to grow yourself, your skills and connect with some amazing people. It really is a journey of taking the leap from being the closet writer, enjoying your own work but perhaps lacking the confidence to release it upon the world. Being Indie forces you to do the very best with what you have.

Sure, some of us – myself included – may think we have what it takes, but that skill only really grows as you go along. I have immense pride in every book have written but I know I learn from each one and hopefully that helps me get better, neater, tidier and a better storyteller as I go along.

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Daring to put yourself out there when so many of the agents and publishers won’t touch you with a barge pole is rather liberating. It’s hard not to feel the “smackdown” of repeated rejections but there is nothing more inspiring and confidence building than that first review that says to you, in not so many words “you’re not as bad as you’ve let yourself think”.

Seeing someone take the time to read, and ultimately enjoy, your book is possibly one of the most rewarding things in this whole process. Especially when you consider doing it alone is almost like putting your reputation and personality out for public dissection (hence why I like a pseudonym as at least I can blame the “other guy” if it goes wrong!)

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?

It is a mainstream published book, Spartacus by Ben Kane. It was during my phase of being obsessed with the Spartacus TV Series. That’s what motivated me to get deeper into my fitness training – lots of muscular men motivated me a little bit, more out of jealousy I suppose. When I found his two-part books I didn’t know what to expect and remember reading it while deployed to the Olympics in 2012. The second book I can honestly say is the only book to have ever made me cry. Sat on my break surrounded by people at work and I was trying to hide the fact I was crying at a book. It was after reading that when I thought I should try and get one of my own stories out there and really started researching Self Publishing and Indie Authoring.

Name two things in life that you wish were easier.

Parenting! I get it wrong so many times. I try to be that dad that all the kids want to have but manage to mess it up with my own things. I have my gym (obsession), my writing (distraction), my outdoor (adventuring) and try to balance that with three very different little personalities. I’ve always been a bugger for self-criticising and tend to put myself in a guilt-complex when I feel I don’t get the balance perfectly right. Sometimes I absorb myself in my books too much, sometimes one child over the other, too much time at the gym, always being at work and the list goes on. I wish I could just get it right all the time!

Another thing I wish was easier is probably marketing. This being very author specific as I never seem to get that right. I know what I want to do and sometimes my imagination runs away with me. I have a very visual imagination so tend to act things out to make them work or else film/photograph things along the way to have a physical snapshot. I know I don’t have the proper connections to get seen so I feel I fumble along, as best I can, in the department of marketing and advertising. Aside from the fact I am biased, I honestly feel if I could get that right then something could happen with my stories. I, perhaps, simply lack the skill, knowledge and expertise to make that happen at the moment. But, as I said before, I’m growing with every project so who knows, maybe one day I’ll know what to do.

I think you probably get a lot of things right without realising, Tobey. Thanks for chatting with me today. 

Thanks, Squirrel! I can honestly say, you’re the most bookish squirrel I’ve ever met!

I think we’re friends now.

*high fives*

You can find Tobey’s books on Amazon

You can follow Tobey on social media at:

Book Review: Four American Tales by Jack Messenger

Jack Messenger Four American Tales.jpg

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On starting this collection with the first story, Wichega, I was immediately drawn in by the wistful, melancholic voice of Sweet Pea, telling her story so powerfully. This story is so evocative of memories, of sights and smells and sensations, that I almost felt that I was right there in the scene. This story is such an engaging way to open the quartet of stories.

Messenger’s writing is equally powerful and emotive in the other stories. The characters are developed richly, each having their own distinct voice and mannerisms that portray far more than what is told of them in the stories themselves.

These stories, and the characters in them, are varied enough to keep the reader engaged and curious throughout the book. There is neither cliche nor repetition in the plots, characters and imagery delivered by Messenger.

These stories are, without doubt, American in both style and setting, at different times reminding me of the imagery and eloquence of John Steinbeck.

This is the first of his books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.

Four American Tales is available on Amazon.

Book Review: First Floor On Fire by Michael Russell

Michael Russell First Floor On Fire

This book is full of discord, anger and tension, experienced through immediate immersion in the life of the main character, Nevaya. The reader experiences her anger, her disadvantage, and the acid burn of prejudice and discrimination on her soul.

Russell’s portrayal of Nevaya is confronting, yet the reader cannot help but feel empathy with her, despite her cynicism and anger at the circumstances of her life. Her character is developed through her thoughts and responses far more than her words or behaviours, although those are as bold and defiant as her thoughts and attitudes. Her language is powerfully written in the gangland style of North Philadelphia – the writing is so sharp and cutting, one cannot avoid reading this book in Nevaya’s voice. The reader is strongly positioned to see her point of view and develop a strong sense of identification with her, despite her rough edges, and (in my own case) having no experience whatsoever of the kind of life she has lived.

The reader also gains insight into some of the reasons for the failure of schools and social authority structures to understand the motivations and actions of young African-American people, or to meet their needs in any real way: the cumulative effect of decades’ worth of disadvantage and segregation, even within their own communities, is too great to be overcome. Russell delivers this message powerfully through this fringe-of-gangland narrative.

The most uncomfortable part of this story for me, however, was not in the brutal violence or raw language. I found it incredibly difficult to stomach the actions and self-justification of those authority figures who should have been looking to protect and nurture the kids, but instead were only seeking to serve themselves. Had it not been for the perspectives of the two teachers who really did nurture their students and seek to improve their chances in life, the picture would be very bleak indeed.

This is a gritty, angry story, brilliantly told.

You can purchase this ebook at Amazon.

I’ve given it five glowing stars.

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