Shari Mauer

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  • Writer Wednesday: Cheryl Rainfield

    Posted on March 2nd, 2011 Shari 2 comments

    Currently reading: DIAMOND RUBY by Joseph Wallace (adult book club selection)

    I’m excited to bring back my Writer Wednesdays with an interview with my imprint-mate, Cheryl Rainfield, author of the powerful Scars. Not only has Cheryl’s book racked up accolades and awards, but it has reached so many teens who struggle with self-harm. It was truly one of my favorite books of the year and has been a breakout novel for WestSide Books, which is very exciting for our young imprint.

    About Cheryl:


    Cheryl Rainfield writes realistic edgy fiction for teens, fantasy for children, and some non-fiction articles for adults. She edits and critiques children’s and teen fiction, and on her website she reviews a wide variety of children’s and YA books. In addition to writing, Cheryl is also a talented artist. She lives in Toronto.

    About Scars:


    Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse—especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail—her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl’s frightening path to the truth.

    On to the interview:

    1. I understand that Scars came out of your personal experience. At what point did you decide to write this book and how did you go about doing it?

    I wrote the initial draft of Scars more than ten years ago. It’s hard to feel alone and in pain, and it’s even harder when people judge you for it. I wanted people to understand, to have more compassion–and I wanted people who had been through it to know they weren’t alone, just as I needed to know that. The first drafts had a lot more getting out the pain, the emotion, the trauma onto the pages, along with story. I poured a lot of my heart and experiences into it. Over time, I edited and rewrote it so that Scars was less raw, and held more hope.

    2. Many people are surprised to learn that you used a photograph of your own arms on the cover. How did the idea for this come about? Did it come from WestSide or from you?

    I mentioned to my publisher that I had a professional photo of my scarred arm and wondered if they’d be willing to look at it. They were–and I’m so grateful! I think it works really well; it tells readers right away what the book is about, without being sensationalist.

    3. When I was in college, one of our friends was cutting. What advice would you to give to someone if they thought their friend needed help?

    Talk to them about it–gently, with compassion. Don’t pressure or back them into a corner. You could ask if they’re seeing a therapist, that that can help a lot, having someone who listens with compassion and cares. If you’re willing to listen without judgment, you can offer that. Educate yourself about self-harm before you talk to your friend. (The Secret Shame website is a *fantastic* resource.) You could bring a book, an article, something you found helpful on the subject, and leave it with them. Most important of any of that is having compassion, caring, and sensitivity. Helping your friend know that they’re not alone, that someone cares, that you see their pain, and are not judging them.

    4. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    Hm. There’s been a lot of things! Many readers have told me that before they read Scars, they’d felt so alone, like no one understood, and that after reading Scars, they felt like someone finally understood. Many readers who’ve used self-harm have told me that they’ve been able to tell a good friend, or seek out therapy after reading Scars, and/or that they have been able to stop or reduce their self-harm after reading Scars. That’s such an incredible response; more than I’d hoped for! A few readers told me that before reading Scars, they could never understand how anyone could hurt themselves, but that after reading Scars, they really got it. All of those responses make me feel so good!

    5. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    My personal experience with self-harm is that it comes out of abuse and trauma, and of course deep emotional pain. I’ve seen that in others who I’ve known who used self-harm, too. So I was at first surprised when a queer reader told me that he hadn’t been abused but used self harm to cope. But of course, emotional pain often comes up in being queer in our homophobic society, with people not accepting who we are, who we love, and it can be a real torment, especially when you’re a teen and your parents don’t accept or understand you–or even hate you for who you love.

    6. I know that you write both fantasy and realistic fiction. Do you approach each of these genres differently or is your writing process for each similar?

    For me, the writing process is similar. I start with an idea, an issue that I want to delve into that is close to my heart, one that is a part of my experience or relates to my experience or is something I care about. I write a rough first draft, then edit a lot, look at the shape of the story and try to make sure it’s working. I try to write about what I care about, what I love, what I need. I write about what moves me, and I try to make it real on an emotional level.

    7. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Milk chocolate. (smiling) I love it! Though I now have to have sugar-free chocolate, and sometimes it’s hard to find brands that taste good. I’m always grateful when I do.

    Thanks so much for joining me today, Cheryl. To read more about Cheryl, visit her website.

    Have a great day!


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