This post is devoted an author who has tackled a difficult subject and succeeded admirably. Nadia King, an author originally from Dublin but now living in Australia, has taken an intense and painful subject and shone light on it through her powerful novella Jenna’s Truth. Through its depiction of the struggles of teenager Jenna Wilson, Jenna’s Truth examines the issues of bullying, cyberbullying and teenage suicide in a raw, realistic and empathic way. Nadia has graciously answered some questions for me on the process of writing this story.
I read that you were inspired to write Jenna’s Truth by the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd. It must have been a profoundly difficult subject to tackle. Can you tell me a bit about the writing process – both the frustrations and successes?
Jenna’s Truth was the first piece of creative writing I wrote since I left school so I flailed quite a bit in the drafting. I was driven to finish because I strongly believe in the messages I wanted teens to hear. The second edition recently released by boutique publisher, Serenity Press, gave the story its finishing touches.
Amanda Todd’s tragic death in 2012 and many other similar deaths (such as Dolly Everett in Queensland earlier this year) demonstrate how much work there is to be done to combat cyberhate. As parents and educators we must engage with teens, provide them with skills to deal with cyberbullying, and teach them to be resilient. Youth suicide is quite literally an epidemic and it is imperative that as a community we address the issue of cyberhate. Hopefully, the content of Jenna’s Truth will be useful in this battle.
Jenna’s Truth has some very authentic and relatable characters. Who were your two favourite characters to write and why?
I guess many authors prefer their protagonist and antagonist to their minor characters. The hero of my story is Jenna Wilson, an ordinary girl. I almost had to fight to keep her ordinary to ensure that as many teens as possible could relate and identify with her.
Valentina Scaruffi (or Tina for short) was much more fun to create. She is the nightmare girl of everybody’s teen years. The girl who can make or break you; the girl who will go out of her way to decimate you in the most public way possible; the girl who lives in the big house with the rich parents; the girl who is so pretty you can’t stop yourself looking at her. Tina is the girl we all love to hate. I tried to stop myself from analysing why Tina is the way she is because I didn’t want to engage with her backstory. I was striving to keep the attention on Jenna and not be distracted by Tina.
The path to publication can be a tricky one. Did you encounter any difficulties along the way?
Publication is indeed a tricky and tempestuous journey. I was extremely fortunate to have Jenna’s Truth picked up by a small educational press. It was the kind of publishing deal that dreams are made of and came out of thin air. When the rights were on-sold to Serenity Press, I was even more fortunate. So although the road to publication for Jenna’s Truth reads like a fairytale, I’ve since found publication to be a much more arduous path with my subsequent manuscript which is currently out on submission. Please cross all your fingers and toes for me that I find my manuscript a home.
The illustrations in the new edition are simple but work so well with the text. How do you think they add to, or illuminate the story?
Graphics seem to be very well-received by YA readers and I find myself gravitating towards books that include illustrations so I think they definitely add to the story. The graphics at the beginning of each chapter in Jenna’s Truth are faceless; they’re almost a mask which is symbolic of the masks worn in the story. Tina wears a mask and so do most of the people who follow her and do her bidding. It’s only when Jenna chooses to take off her metaphorical mask and be herself that she can really start to live life on her own terms. The pull-out quotes included in the graphics were chosen because they illuminate the storyline. Hopefully, readers enjoy them as much as I do.
Jenna’s Truth addresses the issues of bullying, both physical and cyber bullying. So many Australian teenagers tragically take their lives due to these issues. I, for one, would love to see a copy of Jenna’s Truth in every secondary school in Australia. (Maybe something to crowd fund!) What other steps do you think it would be worth taking to tackle the bullying and cyber bullying problem?
Cyberbullying and cyberhate are huge issues that as a community we need to address. It isn’t only teens who suffer from such behaviour, there are plenty of examples of adults who have died because of cyberbullying and hate messages.
Here are a few practical steps to use in dealing with cyberbullying:
• Don’t like or share ‘hate’ messages
• Use the report, block, and mute buttons on social media
• Engage in activism. An example of such activism is Dolly’s Dream, a GoFundMe page aimed at helping children affected by bullying (au.gofundme/DollysDream)
The eSafety Office (https://www.esafety.gov.au) is a great place to start if people are looking for resources and guidance in this area.
I’m excited to read your next story! What can we expect next from you?
I really hope my next manuscript finds a home with a publishing house. It’s a coming-of-age story centred around seventeen-year-old Jake who loves manga and his talking dog. Jake has to dodge his Dad’s fists and find a way to escape home after high school. It’s a full-length YA novel that tackles the issue of domestic violence and I hope it will resonate with teens struggling with a similar home life to Jake.
Thanks so much, Nadia!
N. L. King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. Nadia is an author, blogger, and presenter. Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press based in Western Australia.
‘Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying…[and is] a deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.’ — Kirkus Reviews
Nadia is passionate about using stories to reflect a diversity of realities in order to positively impact teen lives. She is active on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Jenna’s Truth is available from Booktopia, Barnes & Noble, Boffins Books, Foyles, and Serenity Press.