Browsing "Warwick Children’s Book Festival"

Meet Kim Purcell, author of Trafficked

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. TraffickedRead 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?Kim3-brighter-eyessmall

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.

KP: Okay…perfect.


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 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!!


Meet Jennifer Castle!

you look different in real lifeMeet Jennifer Castle, author of You Look Different in Real Life and The Beginning of After at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival! Read her interview below by Bria Metzger, 15, of Warwick Valley High School.

BRIA: How did you come up with the characters? Are they inspired by anyone you know?

JENNIFER: The characters came to me in different ways. Of course, I thought about Justine first. I wanted her to be really talented and witty, but insecure and also a little bit angry. She’s not based on me, but I did give her my snark, my body-image struggles, and my love of sneakers! Rory was inspired by the many kids I know, of various ages, who have an autism spectrum disorder. The other characters were all “stereotypes” I wanted to put a twist on with an unexpected side. I see the five of them like puzzle pieces who fit together in different, fascinating ways.
BRIA: Did the characters change from your original thoughts? Did they evolve past your expectations?

JENNIFER: That’s a great question! Characters always change as you write a novel. You can only develop them so much before they start actually doing stuff in your story, and that’s why I don’t get too detailed in the beginning. You get the basics down, like their general interests and personality, their family situation and ethnicity, maybe their general physical appearance. Then they tend to start behaving in certain ways and saying certain things on their own as you write, and often surprise you. With YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, that happened a lot, and I had to change some of my plans to allow for it. I feel like it makes for authentic, living-and-breathing characters in the end.
BRIA: Justine listens to the song “Heroes” in the car. It’s the only song that was named and not described. Why did you feel it was important to name that song, and what was its significance to you?

JENNIFER: I usually shy away from naming songs in my work, because I feel like it can alienate a reader if they’re not familiar with the music. But I took a chance by mentioning “Heroes,” because it was a very important song to me as I was writing this book. I always create a “writing playlist” of music I listen to when working on something — not when I’m actually writing, because that’s too distracting — but when I take breaks to brainstorm, usually going for walks with my headphones on. I’ve always loved David Bowie and this song in particular. I heard it randomly when I was first developing YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, and it just stjennifer castleruck something in me — this was the tone and feeling I imagined for the book. It’s an anthem, and I wanted the characters to have one by the end. Putting it in the narrative was my way of reminding Justine and her friends that yes, they can still be the heroes of their own stories. So can we all…
BRIA: Did you already have an idea of the ending when you started the book and work your way there? Or did it come later?

JENNIFER: I knew certain big things about the ending, but I left the particulars open so I could fill them in as I wrote my way to that point. It’s kind of like doing a connect-the-dots drawing. Your big story points are the dots. You connect them as you go, with lots of tiny but rich details along the way. Although the last chapter was something I added at my editor’s request, because she felt we needed to see more of what happens in the near future for these characters. It’s very hard to know when to end a book, especially this one, because I love Justine, Rory, Nate, Felix, and Keira so much I wanted to keep telling their stories!
BRIA: What gave you the idea to write this book? 

JENNIFER: I’ve always been fascinated by what happens to reality TV and documentary film subjects after the cameras go away. Do they live their lives differently, like someone’s always watching? Does the way they’re portrayed on screen change the way they see themselves in real life? The possibilities of character and story seemed so juicy, I couldn’t resist. Then I started thinking about how the rise of blogging and social media has allowed pretty much everyone to make themselves the “stars” of their own documentaries. Every time we post a status, a photo, check in at a location…we’re building a narrative of our own lives. I think it’s scary-easy to share so much of ourselves, to think so obsessively about what we’re putting out there for the world to see, that we lose track of who we really are. I am also a big fan of the “Up” series of British documentaries that has followed the same group of people every seven years since they were kids, so that was a big inspiration as well.

Hedgehogs Assemble!


So I came across the adorable hedgehogs made of recycled books on Tumblr last year. Cute, no? (Check out The Hulk in the background!) Let’s make a few! When you’re at the Warwick Children’s Book Festival next weekend, look for the Friends of the Library tent where we’ll have a free hedgehog-crafting station. Learn to make your own from recycled books, or just have fun accessorizing some ready made ones. Thank you to all of you summer volunteers for the pre-made hedgehogs!

You can view more Avengers Hedgehogs here!

Interview with K.L. Going

fat kid rules the world


Who’s coming to the Warwick Children’s Book Festival on Sept. 28th? K.L. Going will be there! She’s written several Young Adult books, including Saint Iggy, King of the Screw-Ups, and of course, Fat Kid Rules the World, which some of you may remember as a Battle of the Books choice from 2012. She’ll be signing books AND giving a talk about being an author and getting published at 2:30pm in the Park Avenue Elementary School library. Recently, Warwick sophomore Lauranne Wolfe interviewed her via email. Learn more about K.L. Going and her work below.

Lauranne:  What made you decide to become a writer?
K.L. Going:  I always loved to write as a hobby, but it took a long time for me to consider turning that hobby into a career. In the end, it was a combination of perseverance and opportunity. I kept honing my craft, so when the right story came along, I was able to write it.

Lauranne: Are any elements in your novels based on your own life experiences?

K.L. Going:  A writer always draws from their own life. I don’t directly copy people or events though. Instead, I use the feelings I remember from my own history to infuse my stories with emotion.

Lauranne: What inspired you to write your first book, Fat Kid Rules the World?

K.L. Going: I was listening to Nirvana and researching the history of punk rock, and the idea came to me to write about a kid who gets roped into being the drummer for a punk rock band even though he doesn’t actually know how to play the drums. The idea felt new, and I was able to come up with a compelling voice for Troy, so I decided to go with it.

Lauranne: What sort of research do you do for your writing?

K.L. Going: Actually, I do a lot of research and it’s a fun part of my job. I end up researching the craziest things – what makes parrots talk, when did Star Wars come out, who was president in 1954, men’s fashion, apple orchards, horse back riding, drumming, the history of young adult literature… you name it!

Lauranne: What is the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

K.L. Going: Live a great life. The more you experience, the more you’ll have to draw from to create inspiring stories.