Embarrassment, failure, shame, and other strong emotions stemming from a specific event can fuel powerful writing. There is a reason why people suggest that new writers start with what they know. With the recent stories in the news about the shooting in Santa Barbara and the ensuing Twitter trend of sharing to #YesAllWomen, I decided to open up about the inspiration behind All the Pretty Bones. My story prominently features a stalker and looks into the mind of both the aggressor and the victim. How could I possibly attempt to understand how either party would feel? Unfortunately, it wasn't difficult.
For an entire school year I lived in fear. Despite the terror that kept me from maintaining a healthy weight or participating in activities outside of my own home, I fought. I did not want him to win. I filed restraining orders. I got a lawyer who insisted I stay at the school (despite the fact that she had pictures of him issued to the security guards at her firm - just in case he came after her). I documented everything he said to me along with dates, times, and signatures of anyone who would admit to witnessing it. Cell phone cameras didn't exist back then, but I did what I could to illustrate violations. I tried to collect statements from teachers and classmates.
The most heart breaking aspect of the experience was how I was treated. My friends avoiding me I could understand. The lawyer's stance was ridiculous. His girlfriend confronting me because he insisted on calling her by my name was insane. But the worst of it was how I was treated by the people in charge. As a child, you are taught to trust that people of authority will do the right thing. The principal refused to move him to a different school. The police rolled their eyes and made fun of me when they issued the restraining order or responded to a violation. People assumed I was a scrawny kid with a need for attention - that I was doing something wrong or making it up.
I was lucky. After stubbornly attending class and reporting violations, the principal was forced to move my stalker to another high school. Not because I was convincing. He split his dad's head open during an argument and the police were sure to alert the principal that he had been arrested. It took an act of violence for everyone to finally grasp how simple it would have been to target me instead. Unfortunately, the move to a new school didn't stop him. Death threats made frequent appearances in my two remaining friends' lockers until even they gave up. I fled the school and was eventually forgotten. Like I said, I was lucky.
Two years later, I was volunteering through my new high school at a community housing unit, planting flowers to make the place a little more cheery. One of the officers who had issued my restraining order recognized me and walked up to me. I didn't remember him until he explained how he knew me and then he shocked the hell out of me. He apologized. He wanted me to know how sorry he was for his behavior. He assumed I was just a bratty teenager blowing things out of proportion, but because I was visibly shaking, he decided to read the detailed report I submitted with the request. He said I had every right to do what I did and that he was wrong. He hoped things turned out well for me and was happy to hear that my stalker had left me alone for two years. He said he had learned to take things more seriously.
I wasn't able to say much in return. I think I thanked him. I remember crying that night, but it wasn't because I was upset or angry. I was relieved.
My stalker provided me with inspiration for a book and fuel for character development, but the policeman gave me hope that there are some people in charge who will do the right thing.
The National Center for Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.