Secret Keeper by Jane Alvey Harris: Exclusive Author Q & A

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What if the worst thing isn’t that they don’t believe you?
What if the worst thing is that they just don’t care?

Seventeen year-old Emily has accepted the truth of her past trauma and made peace with her battered egos. She’s won the first battle…barely…but the war in her psyche still rages. The same day Mom is released from rehab and Emily finishes detox, Dad announces he’s ready to be a family again, throwing Emily into panic. Determined to protect her younger brothers and sister from Dad, she gathers the strength to do the hardest thing she’s ever done: speak her Secret.

But it isn’t enough. Nobody will intervene. Emily is more alone and helpless than ever. Her therapist suggests that the key to resolving her crises lies within the mysterious First Realm, where Emily has access to her Fae abilities and where she can find her Champion…the one person with enough power to end the destructive cycle of abuse and help Emily transform from victim to survivor.

Desperate for guidance, Emily returns to the First Realm only to discover the Seven Kingdoms in total chaos. She has just a few days to find her Champion before Dad comes for her. Can she complete her task and return to the Second Realm in time to save her family, or will her dreaded premonition turn out to be true: that she is her own worst enemy?

Goodreads

Published: 20 March 2018

Hello folks! I’m back with a guest today.

Jane Alvey Harris, the author of the award-winning YA fantasy novels, Riven, is here to answer some questions on her latest book in the series, Secret Keeper.

Secret Keeper is the second book in Jane’s ‘My Myth’ fantasy series.

Q & A

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1. Secret Keeper features seventeen-year-old Emily, who we met in Riven, the first novel in the My Myth Trilogy series. Where is Emily when Secret Keeper begins, and what is the catalyst for this part of her journey?

Secret Keeper picks up right where Riven left off. Emily regains consciousness in the grove, surrounded by her siblings and extended family, only she isn’t sure which Realm she is in, the Second or the First?

At the end of Riven, Emily was able to accept her past trauma. But now that her dad is out of prison and ready to be a family again, Emily must once again gather her strength to share her secret in order to keep her siblings safe.

2. In Secret Keeper, Emily finds the strength to tell her family about her experience as an abused child. What is the reaction by the various family members and how are they typical to those in real-life abuse stories? 

Emily has an expectation that sharing her secret with her family will be the most difficult thing she has ever done or will ever do. She is tormented by what she anticipates their responses might be: What if they don’t believe me? What if they think I’m broken? What if they think I’m a threat? What if they think I’m crazy? It’s going to be his word against mine. These kinds of questions are what prevent victims from sharing their stories. Statistics show that you either know someone or are someone who is a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA):

·      The primary reason that the public is not sufficiently aware of child sexual abuse as a problem is that 73% of victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Many never disclose. (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007)

·      Less than 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the police (Browne, A., & Finkelhor, D., 1986),

Emily does share her revelation, 10 years after it occurs. The reaction of her extended family is typical, according to my experience and research, ranging from denial to suspicion, pity to support. But Emily learns it isn’t the reaction of her family she has to fear most, it is their powerlessness to intervene.

3. Like Riven, there are a number of fantastical elements to Secret Keeper, including the imaginary world of the First Realm and its Seven Kingdoms. What role does fantasy play in the storyline of this second novel?

When Emily discovers that her family can’t (or won’t) protect her and her younger siblings from their father, Emily’s therapist, Nancy, encourages her to return to the First Realm in search of a Champion who can. The First Realm acts as a buffered proving ground for Emily, where she can take all of the things she’s learning in therapy, all the input she’s receiving from the outside world, all her hopes, humiliations, wishes, fears, and actively work through them. When there is an external conflict in the Second Realm, Emily enters the First Realm, hoping to find answers and courage. Likewise, when Nancy provides her with theoretical insight into concepts such as consent and empowerment in the Second Realm, Emily is able to turn them into practical knowledge in the First.

4. Emily explores her feelings about body image during an initiation into the Shield Maiden Club with Teagan, Chloe, Twist, and Minali. What role does feminism play in Emily’s journey, and how does it affect her character development in the series?

Feminism plays a huge role in Emily’s journey to empowerment, and as her internal pendulum begins to swings from victim to survivor (and eventually thriver). To me, feminism has more to do with women embracing their individual personal power, and I definitely had an agenda in creating Emily’s feminist awakening. I am all about smashing patriarchal constructs which subjugate women and rob them of their voice or choice. From Emily’s early childhood, she has been indoctrinated both by religion and by her father into believing that the purpose of women is to be an object of pleasure for men – an idea that features heavily in Emily’s own retelling of the history of the Seven Kingdoms. She has also been isolated as a result of her dysfunctional family situation, and is basically afraid of her own shadow at the beginning of Secret Keeper. As Emily interacts with her self-assured female peers and embraces her feminine power, she begins to grow in confidence and in her abilities to take care of herself.

5. What are the main themes in Secret Keeper and how are they different from those explored in Riven?

Riven promotes themes of self-acceptance, self-mercy, and self-love, while exploring the damaging consequences of buried guilt and shame. The plot centers on Emily’s purpose: protecting her brothers and sister.

While Emily’s purpose drives the plot of Secret Keeper as well, Emily’s journey leads to an exploration into the behavioral impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on survivors, including re-victimization and the perpetuation of the abuse cycle. While there are many empowering scenes and messages throughout, the second book in the My Myth Trilogy is admittedly dark and sobering. It does not end in a healthy place for Emily, which is very realistic. In real life, learning to overcome trauma and to thrive while living with PTSD is far from simple. It takes effort, practice, determination, plenty of falling on your face, and ultimately getting back up again.

6. Much of Secret Keeper is based on your own real-life experiences. How does your personal story inform the novel and, more-specifically, Emily’s character? 

Without getting into specifics about my own experiences, I will simply say that Emily has my personality and shares my purpose. Emily’s siblings in the My Myth Trilogy are my children in real life, immortalized at the ages they were when I began writing Riven: 10, 14, and 15. My wonderful real-life therapist, Nancy, is the angel who suggested I write down the scenes in my head as a way of working through them. With her help, I have used EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) and hypnosis to process trauma, rewire internal pathways, and write personal scripts. Many of the scenes in the My Myth Trilogy come from these sessions. While I don’t claim all of Emily’s specific trauma, I will happily claim 100% of her reactions: her anxiety, her growth, her triumphs, and her mistakes. I say happily, because if sharing these books normalizes even one reader by shedding light on these too-often hidden issues, or informs a loved one of someone who struggles with something similar, I will be ecstatic.

7. Are you working on the third novel in the series and, if so, what can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am currently working on Primed, the final book in the My Myth Trilogy. I can tell you that Emily still has a lot to learn and a long way to go on her path to healing. “Prime” is a word that is used (along with “groom”) to describe the process in which a predator gradually gains the trust of an abuse victim. Primed deals with boundaries and triangulation, and will ultimately explore what the process of re-priming might look like. Think “Prime Positive.”

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