Lissa Brown has been on a southward journey from her Newark, New Jersey birthplace. Now retired from careers in teaching, marketing and public relations, she has written about adjusting to life in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains and published the award-winning novel, Family Secrets: Three Generations, in 2011. Her newest novel, Another F-Word, tells the story of Rory Calhoun Wilson, a gentle boy growing up in rural Tennessee. It is a story about bullying, courage and love. When she is not writing, Lissa tinkers with her bluegrass banjo on the porch of her log cabin. (www.amazon.com)
LB: This is an unusual answer, I’m sure. I was driving home from town and stopped at a light behind a pickup truck bearing the bumper sticker, “Santa Hates Jewish Kids.” I nearly choked on my own shock and anger. How could any adult be so thoughtless, I wondered. Imagine if I’d been a seven or eight-year-old Jewish kid and read that! It gnawed at me for a few days and I started thinking about the countless mean things adults do to hurt kids, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes deliberately. I felt I needed to write about it. I saw that as an act of bullying and began to shape a story about a young boy who was a victim of bullying, a gay boy growing up in a rural southern town. Bullying is a growing tragedy in our society and I want to help put an end to it. Too many kids are taking their own lives when they feel they cannot tolerate further bullying.
BBB: What do you hope readers learn from Another F-Word?
LB: Adults need to realize the damage they can do to children and think before they act or say things. One lesson I hope readers take from the book is that children can be made so miserable by bullies that they sometimes decide their lives are not worth living and commit suicide. Equally important is the notion that the right mentors can make a major difference in the lives of bullied kids. Further, parents of gay kids sometimes struggle to accept them, and there are places they can go for support from other parents. The mother in this story sought out PFLAG, a very successful support network. Schools and religious institutions can make a huge difference to kids who are different. If they welcome them with love, they can become safe havens. If they don’t, they can do tremendous damage. Many people don’t realize that bullying is also damaging to those who bully. The primary bully in this story pays a high price for his behavior. Lastly, we all need to remain open to people who can make a positive difference in our lives. We never know when they will appear. I wrote this book so that it is appropriate for adults and high school teens.
LB: Readers will no doubt recognize that the author fell in love with this charming, sensitive boy. The more I wrote about his gentleness and appreciation for flowers and other living things, the more I wanted to protect him from his father’s harsh treatment and the bullying of classmates, his pastor and others. Rory bears the burden of having been named for his grandmother’s lifelong crush, the ruggedly handsome macho cowboy TV and movie star. He is as far from that model as one can imagine. He dislikes sports because he isn’t good at them and shies away from the kinds of activities his father and other boys in his town enjoy—hunting, NASCAR, etc. Instead, he prefers to work in his garden with the plants he regards as pets. In one scene, his mother wonders how he manages to raise such beautiful flowers. “I just love them, and they’re happy to see me,” he answers. Rory is conflicted about his feelings for another boy and with the negative messages he gets from several sources, he begins to feel he is not a good person. Fortunately, at the most critical moments in his life, he is able to rely on his one good friend, his adoring grandparents and his mother. A series of important mentors rescue him from what could have been a very unhappy life.
BBB: Are you currently working on another book?
LB: I’m giving serious thought to starting on a sequel to Another F-Word but I’ve committed to do several talks and book signings about this book. One of the reasons I wrote the book is that I want to speak with as many groups as will have me about the issue of bullying and find solutions that adults can provide to stop it. If any of your readers want to contact me about a program on bullying, they can do so through my website, www.lissabrownwrites.com.
LB: Another F-Word is the third book I have self-published. Obviously, I’m a big fan of that method. It allows the author far greater control over the final product. The flip side to that is the author is completely responsible for every aspect of the process. Authors need to be sure that the book is well written, carefully edited, attractively packaged and marketed. Not all authors feel comfortable with each of those things. I have a marketing background, so I prefer to do my own marketing plan and execute it. I hire illustrators, book designers and editors. Trying to edit your own work is worse than what results when a lawyer defends herself in court. Timing of when your book gets published is entirely in your hands when you self-publish. You don’t have to spend a year or more sending query letters to agents or publishers and if your book is accepted by them, you don’t have to wait a few more years before they are ready to release it. Finally, you do not have to share the income from the sale of the book with an agent and a publisher. There are definite disadvantages to self-publishing, not the least of which is the stigma that some attach to it. Happily, that is fading as more and more self-published books are meeting or exceeding the quality standards observed by traditional publishers.
BBB: Thank you, Lissa Brown for giving us insight into her newest book Another F-Word and for sharing her experience as a self-publisher. Happy Writing!
You can find out more about Lissa Brown and her books by visiting www.lissabrownwrites.com.