When I started writing Burn Baby Burn Baby I knew it would be a difficult journey. Not the writing part. I knew the writing would flow like water. The story had percolated in my head for a couple weeks prior to the Muskoka Novel Marathon, where I wrote the novel over the course of a long weekend. The story had wheels. I would just have to drive it home.
The difficult journey was going to be the revisiting of the whole bully thing. I still flinch when I remember high school. Though it’s decades in my past, I just have to turn my thoughts to it for a second to conjure those sick-in-the-belly feelings. Waking up in the morning and thinking, ‘I can’t do this again.’ I had to be out of my mind to spend an entire weekend inside that bullied mindset in order to write Francis Fripp’s story!
But I did it. I had to. We are living in a world of TELL these days. With social media, we have the dangers of cyber bullying…but we also have the tools to shed light on the bullying, to stop it. SPEAK. In my day that really wasn’t an option. We suffered our bullies in silence. We ate our lunch in the bathroom stalls. We loitered near the office when we had free time, hoping the distance from the principal’s desk created a safe enough bully-free zone.
I know it still exists. I know there are still people suffering at the hands of bullies. Adults and teens alike…thanks to the phenomenon of workplace bullying. But I think it’s getting better. I hope it’s getting better.
When I set out to write Francis’s story, I purposely steered away from the clique situation. I’m too long out of high school for that. Nowadays I see teens of different cliques hanging out together. I no longer understand that social situation. I was a punkrocker in the early eighties. The lines were firmly drawn in the sand. The punks cliqued, the sportos cliqued, the rockers/skids cliqued, the preppies cliqued. If you belonged to one of these cliques, you did not talk to people from other cliques.
For this reason, poor Francis needed to have a visually noticeable reason to attract a bully’s attention. I gave him horrendous scars courtesy of an abusive father. He became a burn victim struggling to fit in in a world where beauty has become a social epidemic. Sadly, those living with scars and handicaps do become victims of bullies. As hard as it is to fathom. Bullies look for weaknesses. Physical ones make their jobs less difficult.
In short, I created a character who was perfectly set up to be bullied. Then I moved in for the kill. I recalled my bullies, I amalgamated them into one horrendous beast with no social graces, and I set him on Francis. Why? Because I wanted to talk about bullying. I wanted to take the reader into the mind of one who is suffering at the hands of his abuser. I certainly didn’t want to beat anyone over the head with a lesson on anti-bullying. I just wanted to tell a story…and I hoped the story would somehow get the point across that the days of bullying are due to end. If we who were bullied speak up against it, we might start a dialogue that will rumble through social media and strike a chord.
Francis Fripp is not alone. I loved writing his story. I also had a very difficult time revisiting those feelings. But it was worth it. I hope I managed to create a likeable character…one that invokes not only your sympathy, but one who conjures a symbol of strength. Because Francis is a victim, but he’s also just a boy…trying to love and be loved, trying to navigate the complicated terrain of high school. He just happens to live with visible scars…but we all carry scars. They don’t need to be visible to be there. We’re all vulnerable and we’re all capable of great acts of heroism. I hope you find something to relate to in Francis’s story. What would I like readers to take away from it besides the obvious BULLYING IS BAD message? That none of us are ONE thing. We are not defined by one aspect of our person. Everybody has a story. What you see when you look at a person is just a tiny glittering spark of sun-caught ice breaking the surface. Most of who we are is under the surface. We are, each of us, icebergs waiting to be discovered.
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ADVANCED PRAISE FOR BURN BABY BURN BABY:
“Kevin Craig’s books just keep getting better & better. A must read.”
“I read this book in one evening, while sitting in my rocking chair, wrapped in a fleecy blanket, chewing on my fingernails (especially during the last seven chapters or so). Actually, I believe this is the ONLY book I’ve read during 2014 (out of 83 books so far), that I have stayed up past my bedtime to finish reading it. It was that good.”
“As you can see, I highly recommend this book for those who love YA books – I’ve been a YA reader for years and, if I don’t like a book, I’m not afraid to say so. This book ranks five stars on my list.”
“Wow! I really loved this book.”
“The characters are perfect this author knows how to write characters that are realistic yet likable! You will quickly fall for Frances the main guy of the story. The entire cast was great! I used Cast cause it played out like a TV show in my head when I read it.”