I'm pleased to welcome Daisy Whitney to the blog today for an interview! She's the author of The Mockingbirds and its upcoming sequel The Rivals.
Here's the synopsis of the first book (from Goodreads):
"Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it."
And a bit about the author (taken from her website):
By day, Daisy Whitney is a new media producer, reporter and internationally-known Web show creator. At night, she writes novels for teens. The Mockingbirds is her debut, available now from Little, Brown in stores everywhere.
And now for the questions!
1.) What kinds of misconceptions do you think are most common surrounding date rape, and how do you feel your novel The Mockingbirds addresses these? Did you write Alex’s situation as it is in an attempt to refute some of these erroneous beliefs?
I think the most popular misconception surrounding date rape is that the victim SHOULD go to the police. I have heard from numerous law enforcement officials and prosecutors of rape cases that rape is, sadly, one of the toughest crimes to earn a conviction for. That's why I created an alternative justice system in my novel where the victim could seek a different kind of justice.
2.) Alex experiences some mental and emotional distress during the novel, understandably. There are several ways in which she tries to cope with her reaction — which method would you say is the most effective for helping Alex to heal?
I believe the process of both speaking up and speaking about her rape to her friends is what helped Alex the most. This is not germane to rape, but I find this the case for any tough issues -- TALKING ABOUT them is the thing that helps us process them and in turn helps us heal.
3.) The student-run organization of the Mockingbirds provides a support network for Alex, one she feels she can depend on. Yet at one point she turns to a teacher for help, whom she had earlier considered (and then rejected) confiding in. If she had shared her experience with that teacher when she first wanted to, how do you think Alex’s story would have played out?
Great question! It would have been a very different book had she done that.
4.) The Mockingbirds are portrayed in a relatively positive light in the novel, supporting Alex in her need to see justice done for Carter’s crime. However, I’d imagine some cases would be very difficult for them to handle as a student-run organization, and there is always the possibility they — like any court — could unknowingly “convict” an innocent person. What kinds of cases (that could crop up in a place like Themis Academy) do you think would be over the heads of the Mockingbirds? In real life, how far would you really be willing to trust a group of high school students to see justice served?
Indeed, the Mockingbirds is ripe for challenges. You will learn all about new challenges the group faces in THE RIVALS! That's the sequel and it comes out in February 2012. It will answer many of the unanswered questions about the nature of a group like The Mockingbirds.
5.) To my mind, Alex exhibits some symptoms similar to those of acute stress disorder, such as re-experiencing of the traumatic event (flashbacks), avoidance of stimuli connected with the trauma (e.g. Carter), impaired concentration, and even at one point depersonalization (watching oneself as a detached outside observer). Luckily, Alex has several friends she can lean on, and they help her to regain her sense of self-worth and empowerment. If she had not had such a good support network, do you think she might have ended up developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Other than friends, what other “buffers” would you say Alex possesses against a maladaptive reaction to the trauma she experiences?
Those are definitely some of her coping strategies! I also think music plays a big part in her path through the trauma. Music is her rock, and her steady, unbreakable connection to who she has always been. Turning to the piano and to playing helps her cope, even as memories of the rape also resurface while playing. When they do "infect" her music, that is a big impetus to her official pressing charges through the Mockingbirds. She very much wants to reclaim her music and through that, herself.
6.) In the Author’s Note, you share your own story of seeking justice after being date-raped. What advice would you give girls in similar situations today?
I encourage girls to find a trusted adult they can talk to -- a parent, counselor, teacher, minister, etc. I also think the support of friends is vital. I am a huge advocate of therapy and counseling as well. You will learn early on in The Rivals that Alex goes to counseling over the summer after her junior year and before her senior year.
The following two questions are from a participating blogger, Bonnie at A Backwards Story:
7.) What sort of case will be brought to The Mockingbirds in your upcoming companion novel, THE RIVALS? Will there be any psychological elements at play?
THE RIVALS brings a complicated case with no obvious victim -- the Mockingbirds are faced with a prescription drug cheating ring that challenges every single aspect of The Mockingbirds structure and
8.) You recently announced that you sold WHEN YOU WERE HERE, a stand-alone novel revolving around a guy who travels to Tokyo to find out more about his mother's death. How will he traverse the stages of grief and moving on? Can you tell us a little bit about this novel yet? It sounds stunning and I'm already anticipating it!
I can't tell you much, though I'm glad you're excited! I will say this -- the main character has lost a lot in his life and will need to find a way through to happiness.
Thanks, Daisy, for dropping by and answering these questions! And thanks to Bonnie as well for facilitating the interview and adding a couple of her own questions :)