I’ve been friends with Belynda for some years now on social media, she’s a fellow author and you only have to talk to her for a short while to see what a warm, friendly and open person she is. So it can come as something of a shock to realise that many of the awful things she writes about in her novel happened to her as a child. She describes herself as a survivor, not a victim and I think there’s a lesson in that for the rest of us. Welcome Belynda.
I always find this to be a difficult question to answer. I’m sure you hear this a lot from other writers, but I love to read. But I also love going to the movies just as much. A writer can learn so much from watching a movie. When I get stuck on something I’m researching for part of a story I’m creating, sometimes I will watch a few good movies just for the visual stimulation. It really works for me.
But reading…there is nothing like it in the world, just me and the book. Like an adventure just for me. And I’ve always liked to write. I had kept a journal of some sort or another ever since I was a child, and my BA is in English. However, the funny thing about college is that I hated writing 1000’s of papers. Well maybe not that many, but you get the picture. I do keep journal now, but not a common one.
I just became an Aspiring 46er. This means I will be hiking the 46 highest peaks in NY State over the course of however many years it takes me. A journal and pictures will be part of this adventure and when it is complete I will turn it into a book. But my book project now is a trilogy, which means I will have to write a 3rd. I’m currently editing the 2nd, but will take a break from the trilogy to write a non-fiction book for the female audience. Trust me there is a method to my madness, as they say.
Tell me about your current book – what is it about?
“When Choices Are Taken: A Young Girls’ Journey Into Hell” is the 1st of a trilogy. It is written through the eyes of Victoria, who is only eight when the story begins and 12 by the end of the book. She lives in a home where psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, are part of her life. She tries to cope through her strong faith in God, sports and adventures with her friends.
Her interest in the supernatural, however, brings about a young ghostly girl who tries to help her. In the end, Victoria finds herself backed into a corner when her mother keeps her home from school indefinitely and in turn causes Victoria to kill her mother before running away.
I know your book is based in part on your own early life and traumatic abuse that you suffered, can you tell us what happened and how you came through it?
Yes, but to be clear, it is inspired by true events. Most of the sexual abuse events are true, as I did suffer abuse from babysitters and my father. My mother, who was always controlling, also was physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive, making it very clear to me that I would never amount to anything.
I was very active in sports, but any time I showed any promise, I wasn’t allowed to go on. But, of course, I did not kill her and she is still very much alive. However our relationship is strained. My father and I have a good relationship due in part because of his heart-felt apology to me for what he had done to me.
I believe God takes all bad things and can make all things beautiful again. I believe my strong faith in God enabled me to forgive those who have wronged me just as He has forgiven me. And I am living proof that a horrible childhood doesn’t have to make for a horrible adult life. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had my issues. But I know now without a doubt I am NOT the one responsible for their actions against me.
You strike me as a happy, resilient person – but the things you had to deal with as a child must have left scars – how have those events affected you as a person and as a writer?
I am a happy person-thank you. Of course I do have my scars, but they haven’t defined me. As a writer, at first when I wanted to write about my childhood, I was going to make it non-fiction, but deep inside me I knew I would be restricted.
I love the freedom writing affords when it is fiction. Yes, it is inspired by true events, but the key word here, is “inspired.” I wanted to add drama, free of ‘real-life’ stuff, if you will. For example, all the nightmares Victoria endure are totally fiction. I would get on a roll with a nightmare, then sit back and think, “wow, that was pretty intense.” Having the freedom to write it without any sugar-coating or taking away from the severity of abuse was pure therapy all in itself.
As a person, it was like the chains were broken and I was silenced no more. Sounds almost corny to put it that way, but it’s true. The emotional scars left behind had taken a huge toll on my self-esteem the most. And that had taken the longest to heal-for me to realize that I am okay despite it all.
Most writers, when their first book is released, are nervous about what people might think of them and their work, for you, given the autobiographical nature of the book and it’s sensitive subject that must have been ten times worse – did you worry about its reception?
I did worry. That’s why it took me so long to decide to write it (14 years). I mean, I knew I would write it eventually, but I also knew it meant exposure. I wanted “it” to be hidden for so long, but when I resolved myself to actually putting it on paper, there was no turning back. And because of the delicate nature of the subject, I had to think long and hard about family and friends and what they would think.
Abuse in any form is horrible and therefore I wrote it as such. It is NOT for anyone under 17 at all. I hid nothing and wanted readers to be disgusted, to know the atrocities of abuse are just that – disgusting. I’ve had so many readers like the book for the mere fact they couldn’t put it down. And, of course, I’ve had some tell me they couldn’t read all of it due to the subject matter. I expected that and understand that. Not everyone can nor want to read stories like mine. I am totally okay with it.
I want to reach those who have been victims of abuse and know that there is hope. Hence, the title of the 2nd book, When Choices Are Taken: Redemption, which is in the editing phase now. I hope to have it published by the end of 2015.
Initially I wanted to seek a publishing house. But, knowing me, I wanted to know what it was like to take something I’ve written and publish it myself.
I loved the process of doing my book cover, for example. I took the idea of Victoria running away on the train tracks, something that I had always dreamt of doing as teenager, but never actually did (thankfully), and researched train tracks in neighboring towns and took pictures, etc. But then I also wanted to incorporate, subtly, the fact that Victoria’s life of hell but strong belief in God was just as important, hence the red cloudy sky and the lilies. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun and how many countless hours it took before my dear friend, Dana and I came up with something perfect for my cover. But I also had to meet specifications for the company, Lulu.com. It took countless hours but I learned so much, and in the end it was worth it.
Where can I buy a copy of your book?
Where can we find out more about you?