On her blog last year, Laurie Jenkins interviewed the main character in my Street Stories series, Jo Sullivan. Yesterday, she did a followup interview and talked a bit about the new novel, Bend Me, Shape Me, and about how life has changed for the characters since Painted Black was released.
Here’s one of Jo’s answers. Click through to read the whole interview.
Mental health issues are a huge problem on the streets. In my opinion, it’s an even more common denominator than addiction and alcoholism. Sometimes the reason people start drinking and doing drugs is because they are trying to cope with a mental illness. That doesn’t mean they deserve less respect or should be feared or shunned. I find the rule you should apply to everyone, homeless or not homeless, mentally healthy or no, is treat people with respect. Nine times out of ten they will do the same with you.
In Snow’s story, her disability became a road block to anyone believing her when she tried to tell us about the psychiatrist treating her brother Alley. Her history of histrionics and her manic way of responding to the stressors in her life made her very real fears sound like mad ravings. Once she felt heard and trusted, we were able to sort through the melodrama to get at the truth of what was really happening.
via Laurie’s Non-paranormal Thoughts and Reviews: Bend Me, Shape Me by Debra R. Borys: Character Interview and Excerpt.
Another entry from Jo Sullivan's journal
The 36 point headlines are the ones that stand out, the stories that sell the daily papers and capture the attention of Chicago newspapers. But it’s the throwaway paragraphs found hidden in the back pages that draw my attention again and again.
“Teen Picked Up For Prostitution.” “56 Bed Shelter Closed Down.” “Homeless Kid Keeps Pet Rat.”
Throwaway stories. Throwaway people.
Newspapers do print good news sometimes. “Aid Worker Helps Get Dancer Back on His Feet.” “Homeless Youth Given a Sign of Hope.” “Northside Center Gets A Facelift.” My desk is littered with research like that. There are over thirty shelters listed in a resource book put out by Emmaus Ministries in Uptown, ten of them for youth. Maybe I should write a story about each of them.
A homeless shelter reviewing system if you will, like they do for hotels and motels. Why shouldn’t homeless people know ahead of time what they’re getting into when they seek lodging?
Another entry from Jo Sullivan's journal.
In the cubicle next to me, I can hear Ed Logan clicking away at his terminal in a frantic race to meet the 2:30 deadline. I turned in my stories over an hour ago. My vision is fogged from fatigue. The springs in my desk chair creak like an old woman’s bones groaning for mercy. And yet I still can’t let go of this project spread out in front of me.
It’s a series for my Street Stories column that focuses only on homeless teens from the past. Did they evolve into homeless adults or did they make it out somehow? How many of them are even still alive?
I’ve been scanning microfilm in my sleep every night. When I look in the mirror every morning the circles under my eyes remind me of kids shooting dope and smoking crack. When I see teens hanging out on street corners I wonder if they have a place to sleep at night. When I glimpse kids riding school buses I wonder if they know how lucky they are.
Obsessed much? Damn right I am, but I don’t have time to worry about that. And besides, I’m writing some damn good stories.
Ever wonder what stories occur behind the scenes of your favorite novel? Check back often to read read journal entries by your favorite characters from BEND ME, SHAPE ME. Here's an entry from Jo's Journal now.
What is it about the city that draws me to it? I came from Iowa, for God’s sake: corn-bred and cornbread, rolling green hills, potlucks, farm fields stretching across acres and acres. And cows–God, I miss cows with their soft brown eyes and wide noses.
Yet I am drawn to, no–energized by, the dirt and grime of Chicago, the press of buildings and people, the road rage.
Don’t get me wrong. I also love the country, the wide open spaces. Oh God, I long to just to sit on the shore somewhere and watch the waves beat against the rocks, or to be isolated in the wilds of Canada, in a peaceful shaft of sunlight streaming through a canopy of pine boughs. The birds and the squirrels and the wind like sustenance for my soul.
But here I’m–intense, alive, wrapped up in life. You can’t exist in isolation, not anymore. Life isn’t peace and contentment and pretty flowers sniffed by the noses of perfect, happy go lucky human beings. Life sucks. It’s hard and dirty and tries to grab you by the throat sometimes and choke the life out of you.
But you can’t let it. That’s what make life so interesting, that’s what makes life worth living. The fight to not let the darkness win.