Writers tend to write about what they know; it may be whatever is closest to their hearts. Many novels of realistic fiction emerge from this trend allowing readers the opportunity to read works inspired by real world issues or current events. Kim Purcell, author of YA realistic contemporary novel Trafficked, talks about the influences of her novel and her experience writing emotional scenes.
Writing about modern slavery must have been very emotional especially when you are in the mind of a slave. Which scene in TRAFFICKED was the most emotional to write?
The hardest ones to write were definitely the ones involving some kind of sexual violence. If I had to pick one of those, probably the hardest scene to write was the one in which she’s trapped in the bathroom and the father’s friend Paavo attacks her. Probably the least happens in it, but it was hardest to write because it was more personal for me.
THE MYSTERY OF THE POISON IVY sounds like a great story. Can you tell us a little more about this childhood story, and how your young mind came about it?
That’s very funny. It’s actually not such a great story, or at least no better than any other ten year old’s story. Basically, it’s about a girl who comes into contact with poison ivy without ever going into the woods and she has to figure out how this happened. We had to make illustrations and bind the book. The reason it was so impactful was that my teacher put me in this special enrichment class to make the book. Until then, I had never been singled out as special in any way. For the first time, I felt that something I wrote had value and therefore I had value.
We know that you love to travel. How has your traveling experience influenced the writing of TRAFFICKED?
It influenced everything. I know what it’s like to feel confused and disoriented because you don’t speak the language and all the social rules are different. I’ve traveled though Asia, Europe and Central America and I’ve lived in Korea and Mexico. I also grew up in Canada, so America has been confusing for me as well. I’ve faced the disorientation, loneliness and fear that come with being an outsider and I put these feelings into Hannah’s experience.
For those who don’t know, and would love to be mentored by adult writers, can you tell us more about WriteGirl?
WriteGirl is an organization I worked with in LA which pairs mostly at-risk teen girls in South-Central LA and around the city with professional female writers in a mentoring relationship. I was a mentor until I had kids and then I was the curriculum director. The director and founder, Keren Taylor, and I organized monthly writing workshops and trained writers to present experiments in a multi-sensory way, which we found was most likely to inspire the girls to write. We wrote a book called Pens on Fire to help teachers with fun writing experiments they could use in their classes. People in LA can go to WriteGirl.org for more information, but many cities in America have similar programs.
We know you are passionate about helping people, especially those who are foreign. What message do you want your readers to take from TRAFFICKED? (Has anyone reached out to you after reading TRAFFICKED?)
I’m not necessarily more passionate about helping foreigners – I’m passionate about helping anybody who has nobody else to help them and who doesn’t have the power to help themselves. This is why I’m drawn to issues involving children, teens and immigrants. I think these segments of society have less power, and therefore, their basic human rights are more easily abused. Nothing makes me more furious that somebody who steps on someone who is weaker than they are. The issue of trafficking for labor or sex generally involves the abuse of teenage immigrants. In terms of a message, I guess everyone needs to have his or her own experience with the book. I expect it will touch people in different ways. However, I hope it helps people find the bravery and kindness inside themselves so they can step forward and help people in need.
I grew up in a small town. It wasn’t right for me, so I left. I went to university, got married and moved to LA. I wrote two novels before TRAFFICKED. I had two kids. We all moved to New York, which I love. In my spare time, I’m a swimmer and a runner and a yogi. I dance in elevators and change rooms. I laugh a lot and sometimes I yell.