If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should have noticed that I’ve just had a young adult novel published. I’ve had a lot of publicity for it on other sites, but I actually haven’t gone into a lot of detail here, so today I’ve intervewed myself to give you a good idea of what You Can’t Shatter Me is all about.
Okay, so what’s it about?
It’s about Carly, a sixteen year old girl who wants to write her own life and cast herself as a superhero, but when she stands up to a bully, the story gets out of her control. Dylan, a karate-trained nerd who supports her stand, turns out to be a secret admirer, and Justin, the bully, makes Carly his next victim. While romance blossoms, Dylan faces attacking words, an unreliable movie director, a concrete habit that requires smashing, and an unruly Neanderthal. Meanwhile, the bully’s increasing harassment forces Carly to deal with flying hooks, unflushable cowpats, and deadly dragons. An old hippie shows her an inner magic that’s supposed to make her invincible, but will Carly learn to use it before the bully strikes again and Dylan resorts to violence?
Why should people read it?
It’s a heart-warming story that will inspire and empower teens and adults alike with its solutions for the bullying issue. It’s also written in a unique magical realism style that provides an exciting and unusual fantasy element in the form of extended metaphors for the characters’ inner experiences.
Like attacking words and flying hooks?
Yes. The words are Dylan’s thoughts, and the fishing rod and bait is the bully trying to annoy Carly. She has to try not to end up a fish struggling on the end of his hook.
Where do the dragons fit in?
Carly asks her Auntie exactly this. This is her reply.
“The dragons are inside you, and you have to slay them before you can deal with anything outside.”
“So I’m living with an infestation of dragons,” Carly said.
Aunt Anne chuckled, “I see a doubt dragon, right now. You need to get rid of that one, quick smart, or it’ll sabotage everything.”
Even though Aunt Anne says the dragons are inside, Carly’s battle with the Doubt Dragon is written as if it appears outside.
A huge purple dragon raced out of the bush towards me, snorting fire. I dived out of the way, but the flames licked my arms, searing off layers of skin, leaving it red raw like a lump of meat.
What’s the inner magic?
Light conjured up from arousing love and compassion. It’s very powerful but Carly doesn’t trust it.
Is that bit magical or real?
It’s reality written as if it were magic.
A karate-trained nerd sounds like a contradiction. What’s Dylan like?
He’s gorgeous, of course, and full of contradictions, which is what makes him so interesting. He’s very intelligent and preferred math and computers to girls until very recently, but now his naturally protective feelings for Carly threaten to turn him into a Neanderthal. He never wanted to do karate but his mother insisted, hoping it would stop him being bullied as a child. It worked too. A lot of the book is written from his point of view, so we get to know him quite well.
What about Carly?
She’s a very ordinary girl in many ways except that she wants to make a difference in the world. She wants to right what’s wrong, but she struggles to find the courage she needs to do that. She loves dancing, art, movies, chips (fires to the Americans), her cat and by the end of the book (after a few kisses) is entertaining the idea that she just might fall in love with Dylan too.
What kind of solutions for bullying does the book offer?
I use analogies for helpful ways of thinking. For example, when you stir a cowpat it stinks, whereas if you leave it alone, it crusts over and stops stinking. I draw a parallel between this and anger. If you stir up your anger, it’s going to hang around like a bad smell until you stop repeatedly thinking about what caused it. As well as being entertaining, the analogies make the points easy to remember.
Also, the main character, Carly learns to meditate, which helps her to handle the situation more calmly and clearly, and she comes to see her harasser in a compassionate light. This increases her self-esteem and eventually disarms him. Of course, she has a lot of resistance to learning to meditate. My teenage daughter made sure that the characters actions were very realistic.
Do these solutions work?
Yes. I’ve used the analogies and the viewpoints they represent to help my daughter negotiate the trials of the school ground and also various teens at the high schools I’ve worked in as a teacher. I’m constantly amazed by the immediate positive effect they have.