What is your book, True Mercy, about?
An 18 year-old young man with autism who just lost his mother finds a young woman passed out on his property. He helps her and quickly embraces her as a new maternal figure and friend. His widower father, who is already overwhelmed with caring for his son and holding down a demanding job, is at first outraged that his son has allowed a stranger into their home but soon is helping the woman flee her captors.
What’s your writing background?
I always loved writing. My 10th grade English teacher even encouraged me to go into it after graduation. College teachers commented that I wrote well. Unfortunately, I never thought seriously about pursuing it as a career until I was an adult.
Why should someone want to read your book?
Readers who are interested in autism, families coping with a loved one with autism, and those concerned about the human trafficking crisis would appreciate this book. Also, people who read thrillers may find it engaging. My goal was to make this story a page-turner that also touched upon social issues.
What writers influenced you?
I loved Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. They were not only page-turners, but I particularly admired Larsson’s ability to weave an engaging story while at the same time drawing attention to social issues. I also find Camilla Lackberg mysteries very powerful because she writes about ordinary people in Sweden and makes their lives fascinating, making the reader feel empathy and caring about the characters. In True Mercy, I also wrote about ordinary people. I wanted readers to be touched by the widowed father dealing with his son with autism and to understand the tremendous challenges and stresses these families experience. I also wanted to put a face on the brutal world of human trafficking and show how these young women are kidnapped and forced to work as prostitutes to stay alive.
Why did you choose to self-publish?
I did not want to go through all the hurdles and wait months, even years, before a traditional publisher would take my book. It may never have happened since 97% of all submissions are rejected unless you have a famous name. I wanted creative control over my book. If a traditional publishing house would want to make the book violent and/or risque, it would not coincide with my vision of the story and it would make me uncomfortable, detracting from the story’s goals of raising awareness of these two important issues. I am so glad we live at a time when writers can easily self-publish and control their own work.
In the wake of media-attention of human trafficking and all these sexual harassment scandals, how did you come up with the idea of an escapee of a human trafficking ring?
About five years ago, I saw the movie Taken. It left me shocked and traumatized and I don’t even have a daughter. The idea that young girls could be kidnapped and forced to endure the horrific sex trade left me reeling. I wondered how people could be so evil, but of course, humanity has a history of committing atrocities. I researched this topic and learned that it is happening all over the world, including in every state in this country. A couple was actually arrested for sex trafficking two teenaged girls in my town—how much closer to home can it get? The more I learned, the more I realized it could happen to anyone and it was happening all around us. More measures have to be taken to prevent it and apprehend the perpetrators. I strove to write an engaging novel as my contribution to help spread awareness.
As for the sexual harassment scandals occurring with prominent media figures and politicians, I realize women still have a long way to go for equal rights and equal respect. In many people’s eyes, women are mere sexual figures and are not treated with the dignity that all human beings deserve. It only highlights the degradation women experience in human trafficking.
How can one can get involved in preventing human trafficking?
There are many avenues to get involved. Fortunately, many organizations have sprouted up to prevent human trafficking. In my state there is the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which I am a part of. There are also Polaris, Stop the Traffick, Hope for Justice, Zonta International and Durga Tree International, to name just a few.
If you suspect human trafficking is taking place, you can call the free hotline 888-3737-888 or text BE FREE (233733). Popular places for human trafficking to take place are in hotels, strip clubs and truck stops. It can also take place at major sporting events like the Super Bowl. Human trafficking rings have been caught in residential neighborhoods as well. Men have been known to try to recruit teenage girls where they hang out. It has even happened in the schools.
The websites for these organizations are listed below:
NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking http://www.njhumantrafficking.org
Stop the Traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org
Hope for Justice http://www.hopeforjustice.org
Durga Tree International http://www.durgatreeinternational.org
Zonta International http://www.zonta.org
What inspired you to write about autism?
I have a loved one with autism. I know how difficult and stressful it is for families to take care of these individuals. I wanted to give readers a peek inside what it is like living with someone with autism and have empathy because it changes the dynamics of everyone affected by it. Autism Bedfordshire, a charity organization that provides information, advice and support for people with autism and their families, summed up the challenges perfectly in one of their articles: “Loneliness, lack of friends, few social activities and little support are among the most common problems that people with autism and their families face.”
The following are just a few of the prominent autism organization websites:
Autism Bedforshire http://www.autismbedfordshire.net
Autism Speaks http://www.autismspeaks.org
Autism Society http://www.autism-society.org
Autism Web http://www.autismweb.com
Autism Hwy http://www.autismhwy.com
Autism New Jersey http://www.autismnj.org
You can True Mercy at Amazon, IngramSpark and Smashwords.