If you were at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival on Saturday, chances are you saw Kim Purcell signing copies of her newest book, Trafficked. Silvana Molinas, a junior at Warwick Valley High School, got a chance to interview her and find out more about the inspiration behind the novel. Read Silvana’s interview below!
ME (Silvana Molinas): Tell me a little about yourself and about your novel, Trafficked.
Kim Purcell (KP): Okay. First, I’m from Canada. I was born in a small town in Northern British Columbia called Prince George. Then, I moved to LA 15 years ago and I started teaching English as a second language & working on a different novel. I leaned about the terrible issue of human trafficking from some of my students who had seen trafficking first hand.
ME: So, are some aspects of the book inspired by these accounts from your students?
KP: Yes, definitely, many parts of Hannah’s story are taken directly from interviews with my students. I also traveled to Moldova when I learned what a serious issue it was in this country and I decided my girl would come from there. In Moldova, I interviewed at least 40 people, mostly teens, about their lives so I could make Hannah as realistic as possible. I also spoke to many anti-trafficking non-profits in Moldova and America.
ME: So Hannah’s story is definitely inspired by others. How hard was it to hear these stories from these girls who have lived through that? Did these girls only make you more determined to write this book?
KP: It was incredibly hard. Just as with any trauma, the girls I talked to had responded differently to the experience. One girl was very guarded and even angry, barely wanted to talk, claimed it wasn’t a big deal, she was over it. Another girl – an American girl from DC – was kept in a hotel room for a year by a guy who she thought was her boyfriend. She spoke with evident pain about the ordeal, pulling at her clothes as she talked, trying to cover her hands, her neck, any bare skin. Another girl, now in her 20′s, told me about being kept in a suburb of NYC, in an unheated garage, forced to work 16 hour days, the mother yelling at her, the father making moves on her. Now she speaks perfect English and is confident and funny. Back then, she was naive and couldn’t speak any English. A lot of Hannah’s story is based on her account. These stories pulled me through the many drafts of this book – about 20 – I had to get it right, for them.
ME: Gosh what strong women. Do a lot of them eventually return to their former selves or gain a bit of normalcy in their lives?
KP: They do recover. Many of these girls (and boys) are survivors, determined to make something of their lives. They do carry the scars of their abuse, but like any person who has ever been abused or hurt emotionally, physically, sexually, they can and do move beyond it.
ME: What you’re doing, spreading the word about this issue is so important because before I read this book I didn’t know about human trafficking or that it was even an issue and I think that’s the mindset of a lot of people my age. Why do you think that this isn’t treated like the problem that it is by the general public? (I know that’s a very big question but, I hear almost nothing about it in the news and whatnot and I’d like to know why you think so).
KP: I think immigrant issues don’t sell newspapers. Ultimately, many people care more about issues that touch them directly. This is why I wrote about a regular girl who is trapped in a nice neighborhood. It can and does happen everywhere, especially domestic slavery, which is every bit as bad as sex slavery because it often includes sexual abuse in the home. The lines between the different forms of slavery are blurred. It’s very hard to get news organizations to move past sensational or celebrity news because that’s what sells. CNN has had some very good programming about this issue.
ME: Speaking of, I think writing about Hannah in a neighborhood like that really hit close to home for me because then I thought, “Wow, this could be happening in MY town and I wouldn’t even know.” This book elicited a lot of different emotions from me, have you gotten any other feedback about the reactions to your novel?
KP: I think most people who read it from teens to adults have the same response. I wanted to draw people into Hannah’s world and feel sad and scared for her. It’s the highest compliment to me when someone says they cried. I ended up really loving Hannah and I hope that my readers fall for her too, that they see themselves in her.
ME: Oh, well let me pay you that compliment and tell you I definitely cried. Several times. I felt for Hannah right in the beginning; when she was nervous in the airport, so was I.
KP: Ha ha! I’m grinning – told you I love to hear that!
ME: I’m glad! Trafficked was genuinely terrifying for me at some points, and Lillian is one of the most horrible and scary characters I’ve ever read or seen.
KP: Thank you!!
ME: You’re welcome! Okay, just one more question and I think we can wrap this up.
ME: Where (like websites, charities, etc.) can other teenagers like me who want to help end human trafficking go to do so?
KP: I have some great suggestions for that on my website kimpurcell.com. I also love an organization called Love 146 and they have great ways for teens to help.
ME: Okay great! Thank you for letting me interview you!!