5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, May 29, 2015.
What makes a mean girl mean? Kylie Steppe has always been the queen bee. But when Kylie’s mean girl ways get her expelled for bullying fellow students, Kylie is forced to attend mandatory counseling and volunteer at an arts summer camp for underprivileged kids. Determined to get back in school and, more importantly, back on the cheerleading squad, Kylie plans to fake her way through counseling. But when Kylie’s posse turns on her and she finds herself the victim of a bullying campaign on Instagram, Kylie is forced to face why she’s known as the queen of mean.
Exclusive interview with the author:
1) If Oprah invited you onto her show to talk about your book, what would the theme of the show be?
The easy answer to that would be “Bullying” but the book(s) really go deeper than that. “Taking back the power to be yourself” would be more to the point, because whether a girl/woman is watching meanness occur, is the brunt of it, or finds herself doling it out to anyone with a weakness (i.e. everybody), she first needs to go within, get at least a glimpse of who she really is and have the courage to be that authentic self. So, in fact, even if bullying is not a challenge for a viewer, ten to one authenticity is.
2) Sorry I’m Not Sorry is a great title! Who came up with it? Was it the original title or did it change along the way?
I learned long ago not to cling to my working title for a book. In fact, now I don’t even remember what my original was! The Tommy Nelson team – specifically the publicist, I think – came up with it, and it SO fits, doesn’t it? It gets right to the crux of the challenge with girls who bully: they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. It’s that “if she can’t handle it, that’s her problem” mentality. She, of course, is wounded in some way, but that’s for another question.
3) No matter how many books you write, I’m sure each one has its own challenges. How was this book more challenging to write than your others? How was it easier?
You’re right: Sorry I’m Not Sorry called for every fiction writing tool in the bag. The difficulty was in making Kylie a sympathetic character. In the first two books in the trilogy we see her in all her bullying glory, trying to take down characters we love from page one. I knew where Kylie was going to end up – a true version of herself – but she had to start out with an attitude that makes the reader want to punch her. So I immediately introduced that tiny voice in her head, an echo of her former nanny who brought out the good in Kylie.The voice hints at that good and, I hope, makes us want to see how she’s going to change.
The easy part? I kind of hate to admit it, but coming up with snarky retorts was fun for me – not mean ones, just edgy little comebacks that show how smart Kylie is. Her wit doesn’t disappear with the other changes she makes, so I loved softening it as I went along. By the end of the book, she was one of my favorite characters ever.
4) If you had to go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?
That’s a dangerous question to ask an author, because most of us would keep editing a book until it had had more facelifts than the late Joan Rivers. Thank goodness for deadlines! The trilogy isn’t perfect, but I don’t think I would change anything major.
5) Why are you passionate about the anti-bullying movement and, by extension, this series? What makes this series different than other anti-bullying books?
My passion comes from several sources. One was my own experience as a tween; I wasn’t bullied, but I should have been. I was a prime target – gawky, awkward, straight-A student, not up on what was cool (as in, I wasn’t in love with one of the Beatles), could NOT talk to a boy unless it was about a school project. At age 12, I should have been the brunt of every joke the “popular” kids could come up with.
What kept that from happening? A family that always supported me and let me know I was loved. Deep involvement in the church, a place where I was a leader, was respected and accepted. And God. I learned to really pray when I was 12 and I think in a way I wasn’t aware of at the time, I was shielded from what could have been. I want that experience for the girls I minister to through my books and talks and workshops.
The second source was my daughter. She WAS bullied in the sixth grade, at age 11, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Marijean and I were close, but being the object of ridicule was so shameful to her, she couldn’t even talk to me about it. She was able to work through it, but not without scars. The pain I felt for her when she finally did tell me – in her 20’s! – turned into a goal to stop this ugliness among kids.
Finally, my full-out passion simply came from God, just as all my life-themes have. I didn’t have a vision, didn’t hear the call in one contemplative prayer session. It just niggled at me until I knew, and a big part of that knowing was that I didn’t want to write yet another book about a girl who was bullied. I wanted to tell the whole story – about the girls who stand by and watch bullying go on because they don’t know what to do, about the reasons awesome girls can’t stand up for themselves, about the issues that make a girl mean.
I don’t know of any other treatment of bullying in fiction that follows a group of girls from beginning to end, and from three different points of view. Yeah, that was a God-thing. I never could have thought that up myself.
6) Your passion for anti-bullying doesn’t stop with the books, does it?
No. Thanks to AnnJanette Toth, the marketing director for Tommy Nelson, the So Not Okay trilogy is only part of what she named a “movement,” back when the first book was being released. We have so many different avenues to use in spreading the principles that are played out in the books so that real life kids can experience the success of the characters.
So far we’re traveling down four of those avenues:
(1) The So Not Okay website, designed just for the girls as a place where they can learn about the books, get information on starting their own tribelets, see how girls are using the methods in the books to solve real bullying problems, and ask the tribelet ‘elders’ specific questions about what they’re going through. The site just went up at the beginning of May, and there were 1,000 views the first week.
(2) Presentations to schools, both Christian and public, which can be set up through me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(3) Skype sessions with me which school librarians can avail themselves of, also by contacting me at email@example.com.
(4) The After School Wednesdays blog, where girls can be part of our on-line Tribelet and take on challenges that not only win them prizes but get them out there using the principles of So Not Okay.
About the author:
2015 marks Nancy Rue’s 33rd year as a published author. In that time, she has become a best-selling author of books for ‘tweens, teens and adults. Over her career she’s written more than 120 books and has won two Christy Awards as well as the Women of Faith Novel of the Year distinction. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, Jim. Their daughter, Marijean, son-in-law, Brian, and four-year-old granddaughter Maeryn, live in nearby Nashville.
5 autographed copies will be given away on Friday, May 29, 2015
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