readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

rgz Seattle HOST: TRAFFICKED releases at Secret Garden Books!

Our Seattle HOST, Stephanie Guerra, is back! Take it away, Stephanie!

Hi Girlz!

Kim Purcell launched her debut novel, Trafficked, at Secret Garden Books in Seattle last Wednesday. The book, which I can't wait to read, is about a Moldavian teen who is trafficked into the U.S. to work as a domestic slave. I’m fascinated by the premise of the story, because many of us here in the States think of trafficking in a purely sexual context, whereas it actually takes many forms. I couldn’t attend the launch, but I was so excited about the book’s release, I asked Kim if she’d like to do an interview and send me a photo from the evening. Here are both, and I’d like to draw special attention to the level of research Kim conducted for the novel. I’ve heard people say that fiction doesn’t require research, but the truth is that the best fiction often requires research as meticulous and time consuming as that required for non-fiction. Thanks, Kim, for caring enough about this issue to dedicate time to learning about it and sharing it with us!

Do you have any advice for young writers?
My advice for young writers is exactly the same as it is for older writers. You have to become a great observer. You have to observe people and situations without getting so wrapped up in it all, and if you do get wrapped up in it all, observe every detail about yourself and your body and the way others are responding to you. And then write. If you are a great observer, you won’t write cliches or bland descriptions and your dialogue will be right on the mark. As an offshoot, it’ll bring you more joy because there’s nothing more beautiful than really noticing every little detail of this world we live in, both the miserable stuff and the good parts.

Where did you find your inspiration for TRAFFICKED?
I’m interested in fear as a general concept. I believe fear and love are the two great motivators of all time. When I learned that many modern-day slaves have many chances to escape but don’t because they’re too afraid, I knew I had to write about it. Suddenly, they weren’t so different from anyone else who’s too afraid to do something they want to do. It could be me. It could be you.

How did you research this book?
While I was working on my craft, taking writing classes and writing a couple practice novels, I taught English as Second Language to immigrants in Los Angeles. This experience informed a lot of the book because they’d share their funny observations about America and I’d see it from their eyes. They also told me their sad stories of being mistreated in America. When I decided I wanted to write a book about modern-day slavery and trafficking, I traveled to Moldova to interview girls and women in the villages and the capital city because Moldova has one of the most serious trafficking problems. I also talked to anti-trafficking nonprofits in Moldova and America.

Can you describe the writing process?
After my trip, I wrote about twenty drafts, over the course of seven years, and throughout the process, I continued to interview people to make sure I was getting all the details right. The funny thing is that one Moldovan would say, yes, that’s exactly right, and another one would say, oh no, that’s not true. For example, I had a drama about the kitchen in Hannah’s apartment in Moldova. One Moldovan woman who read the novel was insulted because she said kitchens are nice in Moldova and the Hannah’s kitchen is far from nice. And yet, I saw a kitchen exactly like the one described in TRAFFICKED. I also saw immaculate kitchens, which at that point weren’t mentioned in the book. So, getting that feedback really helped because I then described Hannah’s friend’s kitchen as a contrast.

Are there any back-stories on characters?
So many of the characters in the book and Hannah’s experiences are based on real events and people. Like, one of my rich Russian students told me he thought there was nothing wrong with bringing someone from your country to work in your house and not paying them. He said life was better for them in America, wasn’t it? He was both one of the most generous people I’ve ever met and also one of the most fiercely ambitious. He told me his whole life he wanted a 90210 zip code. He made it into the book.

Any funny experiences which informed this book?
The entire bizarre experience Hannah has at the border is copied from what I experienced. I traveled through Romania into and out of Moldova in order to get a sense of the journey Hannah might have experienced. I really did see a peasant woman spit three times on a well-dressed woman’s pregnant belly to give her good luck. It was fascinating.

Any plans in the works for another book?
People who’ve read the book have asked me if there’s going to be a sequel. So far, I don’t have any plans for one, but I would consider it. I did write at least forty more pages at the end of the book, which we cut, and I do have any idea for what a sequel would look like. For now, though, I have two books nearly ready to head to my editor. Both are thrillers: one is a paranormal thriller and the other is contemporary.

Thanks, Kim, and thanks, Stephanie!


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