People have asked me: What motivated you to write this book? When I started writing this young adult novel, school violence was very prominent in the news. Often, the perpetrators were known bullies or were the victims of intense bullying. In some cases, these criminals were diagnosed as sociopaths and/or psychopaths. The research led me to wonder about the power that sociopaths can have over other people. What would happen, I mused, if a sociopath with an agenda ran into kids who had a strong need to belong...or trust someone...or find love...or escape their own reality?
I came across an amazing book, THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR by Martha Stout. According to this book, 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. The most common characteristic of a sociopath is a lack of conscience. To hide this defect, they are often charismatic and charming. They know how to get what they want, and they have an arsenal of manipulative tools to help them succeed. Unfortunately, when people encounter sociopaths, they often don’t know what hit them until it’s too late.
I’ve always been intrigued by the very real mistakes we all make on our path to maturity. These learning experiences help us define our own ethics. Unfortunately, a sociopath never learns from his or her mistakes. While many mental illnesses can be treated through medications or intensive therapies, sociopathy has had much less success with traditional psychological avenues. In LEAGUE OF STRAYS, the members become victims of Kade’s seduction, and unfortunately, none of them emerge unscathed. They all get their punishments in uniquely personal ways.
I see my book as a journey from immature wants and desires to self-reliance and confidence. Charlotte is not a character who starts out brave and strong and gets braver and stronger. I consider her to be a realistic character--flawed and struggling to sort through her own values. I know that some of us have been in a relationship at one time or another that was not positive and that we stayed in for too long. Why? Because human beings are not born evolved. We make mistakes on the path to maturity. Sometimes we ignore life’s red flags, to the detriment of our own happiness or security. Charlotte also ignores the warning signs. She attaches herself to a dangerous person, allowing her strong need for friendship to overrule her sense of morality. At least at first...
On a different note, there's been some conversations about a scene in my book where the League seeks revenge against a boy who targeted one of them for being gay. They intend to teach the original bully what it feels like to be a target of a gay crime by delivering the same medicine. Charlotte has doubts about the League’s action, but at this point, she is conflicted because she very much wants to belong. A major theme in LEAGUE OF STRAYS is that revenge is wrong and that it has the potential to turn people into the very bullies they hope to fight. In a follow-up scene, the groups’ actions lead to an unexpected consequence. Hate leads to more hate, creating a path of destruction that takes on a life of its own.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write me here. I hope you enjoy LEAGUE OF STRAYS as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Resources for bullying
In LEAGUE OF STRAYS, Charlotte comes to realize that revenge is a dangerous game and those who seek it can turn into bullies themselves. Being bullied, no matter what the motivation, is never OK.
When I was growing up, bullying mostly happened at school, but with anytime access to the Internet, cyber-bullying can become a serious, twenty-four-hour-a-day issue. According to many excellent resources, some which are listed below, the best solution is to disengage. No matter how unfair the attack may be, to continue a dialogue with cyber-bullies only perpetuates the problem. There is no reasoning with bullies; they will twist your words and create more unjust accusations. There are, however, many people out there who understand and can help, from parents, to counselors, to friends. Here’s an excellent list of online resources that provide information, help, and support with bullying issues. Often, just talking about it makes a huge difference.
* The Trevor Lifeline is a 24-hour, national crisis and suicide prevention lifeline for gay and questioning teens. 1-866-4-U-Trevor.