An Interview with Paige Dearth: Author of Believe Like a Child

believelikeachildHi everyone!  As you may remember, a little while ago I reviewed a book entitled Believe Like a Child by Paige Dearth (review link is here).  Paige has graciously agreed to an interview about the book and being an author in general.  At the end of the interview she’s provided information about her upcoming work, When Smiles Fade, which comes out in February.  Be sure to look out for it!

Again, many thanks to Paige for participating in the interview.  Here it is:

What made you decide to write this work in the first place?  Did you originally set out to write a character like Alessa?

The reason behind writing Believe Like A Child was my desire for people to understand the darkness children are forced to live when they are being sexually abused.  It’s difficult for anyone to imagine that an adult can do such horrible things to children.  But they do and it happens more than we care to believe.  I wrote this book as fiction so that I could weave a story of real-life and make-believe in an effort to convey an important message while entertaining readers.

Before I put a single word on paper I knew how I wanted to portray Alessa.  She was after all, the most important character to me.  Alessa, like so many abused children possessed an inner strength that just needed some encouragement to help her reach her potential.  I worked hard on Alessa to strike the right balance in making her a victim and a survivor.  Years before I actually wrote this novel, I envisioned Alessa exactly how I depicted her.  The response from readers about Alessa has been heartwarming for me.

Throughout the book there are many moments of despair that Alessa faces, yet there are also occasional moments of hope.  Were Alessa’s experiences (good and bad) modeled after your own?

The first part of the novel, at the point where Alessa runs away from her home, were based on my own experiences.  For the remainder of the story, I took the feelings that I had experienced throughout my life and created situations for the protagonist that would evoke those same emotions in my readers.  So, you could say that I backed into the scenes of despair and hope based on the emotional response that I wanted to get across.  I should also mention that Ebby, Lucy and Remo are exaggerated versions of real people who saved me from what could have been a horrible fate.  Today, the three of them remain as pillars of strength in my life.

Besides Alessa, who did you think was the most interesting character to write?

The cameo appearance by Denise, the Rope Bully, was especially interesting for me.  As children and adults, there are people who come into our lives that prejudge us.  Denise believed that Alessa’s life was perfect because she didn’t show her miserable existence outwardly.  There is a character like Denise in just about everyone’s life.  Some of us knew him/her as a kid and some of us knew him/her from the workplace when we became adults.  Denise was so busy trying to establish her status and importance, making herself feel powerful, that she alienated everyone and had no one who really cared about her.  People associated with her out of fear rather than respect, which says little for the character of that person.  Denise represented the intolerance and lack of self-awareness that is needed to embrace humanity and is a character that most of us knew at one time or another.

How did you decide to end the book in the way you did?  Was it because you wanted to convey a sense of realism as to how the stories of many people like Alessa end?

The ending of the book was purely cathartic for me.  Alessa’s actions were based on her emotions that she no longer had control over.  She finally reached her limit and did the only thing she could do to fight the demons that had been such a significant part of her life.

What’s your favorite part about writing?

When I’m writing my stories and they begin to play like a movie in my head, but one where I can make happen what I desire.  When I write, all time stands still and I get to live moments of heartache and joy as the scenes unfold.  There were times when I was writing Believe Like A Child and I was laughing out loud or typing the words through gut wrenching sobs.  There is no greater joy than being submerged in a sea of words and stringing them together to create a story that gives rise to a deep emotional connection in readers.

What made you decide to become a writer?  Are you inspired by any other authors?

Even at a young age I kept a journal.  Honestly, I love to write…it doesn’t matter if it’s a grocery list, addressing cards or developing a novel.  Writing feels natural to me.  I really believe that I have stories in me that people will want to read.  I love to keep readers on the edge of their seat and wanting to know what will happen next.  When a reader tells me how much they loved my book I feel as though I’ve shared a piece of myself with them.

I’m inspired by several authors…the first book I ever read, A Woman Of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford, is my favorite book of all time.  Maybe it’s because it was the first novel I had read but, I think it’s more likely because the protagonist of the story was able to rise above her dismal circumstances and humble beginnings.

Another author that deserves a huge shout out is James Patterson.  Having read many of his novels I think he is clever and engaging.  In an interview with the New York Times, on January 20, 2010, Patterson said something that resonated with me: “If you want to write for yourself, get a diary. If you want to write for a few friends, get a blog. But if you want to write for a lot of people, think about them a little bit. What do they like? What are their needs? A lot of people in this country go through their days numb. They need to be entertained. They need to feel something.”

I agree with James Patterson and am inspired to make people “feel” something when they read my novels.

Do you have any new works planned for the future?

Definitely!  My second novel, When Smiles Fade, will be released in early February 2013.  This novel is about a young girl named Emma who was unloved from the moment she was born.  Her earliest memory is being severely beaten by her father, Pepper Murphy, when she was eight-years-old.

Emma’s father’s cold-blooded beatings and the ultimate abuse to which he subjects her, lays the foundation of the person she becomes. As she matures into a resourceful teenager, she is unwilling and unable to stifle her desire for revenge.

In addition to my second book, I have just finished the outline of my third novel.  I have a book title in mind, but it’s still too early to know for sure.  My third book is about a young child who is kidnapped from a mall and forced into human trafficking…that’s all I can share…for now…

Please check out my website at www.paigedearth.com to read the beginnings of Believe Like A Child and When Smiles Fade.

Todd’s Review of Believe Like a Child by Paige Dearth

When I agreed to review Believe Like a Chile by Paige Dearth, I knew I was in for a bit of a tough story.  Just the synopsis of the book, which is in some ways like Ms. Dearth’s own background, as she explained in her email, was bracing and eye-opening.  The subject of child abuse and pedophilia are very tough subjects, but it was Dearth’s candor in talking about these subjects in her email that definitely caught my attention.  I decided then and there that this story needed a wider audience, as its message is very important.  So, albeit in a small way, I decided to review this book and promote it as best I could here on the blog.  So, here it is.

Dearth begins her book with a young girl named Alessa.  Alessa’s home life leaves a lot to be desired, with a mother that constantly berates her over her appearance (she is paler and lankier than her siblings) and her demeanor.  Although she does nothing to deserve it, Alessa is beaten by her mother with a wooden spoon.  This changes, however, when her Uncle Danny moves in with the family.  Although her earlier memories of the man are pleasant and fun, Uncle Danny becomes a very different person when he begins to live with Alessa.  At night he begins to psychologically manipulate and rape her, which continues for years unchecked.  Once, Alessa gathered the courage to tell her mother, but she was met with a barrage of insults and comments that she was a liar.  Eventually, Alessa befriends a schoolmate and is able to escape Uncle Danny more often, only to end up in a situation where she must leave her home due to something that occurs with this schoolmate (I won’t give too much away).  She flees to North Philadelphia with a train ticket and $2,000 in cash, and is able to secure a dingy apartment and a job at a discount store.  She soon befriends a woman named Tasha, who eventually introduces her to her brother, Harlin.  Harlin is a drug dealer and is known for his violence and protection he provides to those he deems worthy in North Philadelphia.  Although she is initially scared of Harlin, Alessa eventually begins to befriend him, and even thinks she may like him.  This all changes, however, when things again spiral out of control for Alessa and she is forced to flee again to save her own life.  What will become of her?  Will she ever be able to escape her demons?

So, with that short synopsis, you can see why this book is definitely an intense read.  What struck me most about Dearth’s writing style is that she pulled no punches, nor elaborated on any detail too profusely.  It read like a detached third person narrative, explaining the facts and nothing more in the worst sections of Alessa’s life, then providing a short section on how Alessa felt and how hopeless she felt after the repeated abuses.  It was definitely interesting, as it was in no way influencing the reader to feel a particular way, or encouraging him/her to feel bad for Alessa.  Obviously, I felt extremely bad for her, and in a way I think the bracing format that described everything exactly as it happened is a good way to go about telling these kinds of stories.  We’re often confronted with tales of sexual assault (e.g. Sandusky trial), yet often we talk about it in abstract ways, never actually describing the horrors the abused must endure.  By specifically stating what happens, Dearth is plainly laying out the facts and forcing us to deal with the gravity of the situation.  I applaud her for doing this, as it will start a dialogue that hopefully will end with better protection of young people from pedophiles and ensure that these crimes never happen again.  Until we really face this problem head on, instead of pretending it isn’t happening (e.g. Catholic Church scandals, Boy Scouts), we can’t adequately treat it.  I’m glad that Dearth was able to write this, as I believe it probably helped her heal as much as it helped me realize that these crimes aren’t something we can ignore.  So, if you aren’t moved enough to already do so, pick up a copy of this book and read it.  The help that Alessa eventually receives is enough to restore your faith in humanity.

5 out of 5 Stars

Believe Like a Child by Paige Dearth
CreateSpace (2011)
Paperback: 424 pages
ISBN: 9781461105671

Special thanks to Ms. Dearth for my review copy!

The October Round Up!

I can’t believe it’s time to write yet another round up post.  October wasn’t super packed with stuff, so I got a lot of good reading time in.  The highlight of the month though was definitely heading to my favorite bookstore, R.J. Julia, and seeing Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis discuss their newest book Invisible Murder.  The book is the second in their Nina Borg chronicles, the first being The Boy in the Suitcase (which I reviewed here).  Hearing them discuss the research that went into the book, their travels through Hungary, and the tragic stories of what life is like in Hungary for gypsies was harrowing.  I’m excited that I have some background on the real life instances that parts of the book are based on.  It’ll only add that much more to my reading of it.

Me and two of my best friends Kate & Ashley!

We also participated in our second read-a-thon of the year!  Todd and I made it through an hour longer than our first read-a-thon and completed more books as well. We considered it a success and are already looking forward to the next one in the spring.

Besides the read-a-thon our month was spent celebrating our birthdays and Halloween!  Our birthday celebration consisted of Todd, me, and 12 of our friends hitting up downtown New Haven for pizza and beers.  Following dinner we took the group saki bombing!  Those unfamiliar with the term – you take a glass and fill it about halfway with beer (preferably Japanese beer) and then balance a shot of hot saki on top.  You bang the table, let the shot drop in the beer, and then chug down the rest. (Sounds gross but is actually really delicious!)  It was a fabulous celebration and I can’t wait till next year!

Our Halloween party was as always a ton of fun.  Todd’s home-brewed pumpkin beer was a huge smash. (Such a smash all 5 gallons was drunk in one night!)  Everyone went all out on their costumes this year! (Todd and I were newsies) I’m already anticipating how we’re all going to top ourselves next year.

October was a fantastic reading month!  I met my second reading goal of the year of 160 books and have decided to up the goal to 200 books by year-end.  As of today I’m at 176, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it through 24 more before year-end.  I completed 19 books in October with my favorite being The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (my review is here).  Great great great book.  I really hope y’all will add it to your to-read piles.

The staff has been diligently working on getting through a whole slew of books this month. Adam’s been reading the historical fiction novel Deal With The Devil Part II and recently posted his review for it.  His next review is for a young adult mythology book, Pantheons.  Todd’s been reading a new thriller novel Targets of Deception and the fiction novel Believe Like A Child.  Christine’s been reading a short story/poetry anthology called Everblossom.  Jess is reading the memoir Taking Flak, while Charlie’s been working on a review of the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I do also want to inform all of you about the addition of another staff blogger for the Reflections team, Sam!  Sam’s been working on a young adult dystopian thriller, The Tube Riders.  You can find out more about Sam and her reading tastes on The Staff page!

Let us know what you read last month and what books we should be adding to our to-read piles! As always, happy reading!