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Riven: My Myth Trilogy, Book 1 [BOOK SPOTLIGHT and INTERVIEW!]

Riven Cover

Imaginative Heroine Uses Fantasy as
Salvation from Abuse in Issue-Driven
YA Psychological Thriller, Riven

Coppell, TX – In Jane Alvey Harris’s award-winning debut psychological thriller, Riven (ISBN 978-1944244163), readers are swept inside the fantasy world created by a teenager who finds the trauma and abuse she has endured to be vastly more than she can handle. The novel is the recipient of the 2016 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medal for Best E Book, Young Adult Fiction and the 2016 BookLife Prize in Fiction in the Young Adult category.

Told in the first person, Riven opens with seventeen-year-old Emily in the unenviable position of parenting herself and her younger brothers and sister. Her father is in prison for securities fraud, and her mother is strung out on pain meds. Emily thinks she has her life under control until a few weeks before her dad’s release, when she begins hearing voices. Then Gabe, the attractive lifeguard at the pool, notices strange markings engraved on her arm. Emily doesn’t know what these symbols mean or how they got there. All she knows is that they appeared overnight and are becoming infected.

Filled with anxiety, unable to sleep and driven to self-medicate, Emily’s childhood nightmares begin resurfacing. They are commandeering her consciousness even when she’s awake. The fairytale creatures she created as a little girl insist they need her help.

Triggered by the return of her childhood abuser, unable to cope with reality and desperately in need of refuge, Emily slips completely inside her elaborate fantasy world. She wants to stay here, to lose herself in enchantment and romance, but something sinister lurks in the forest shadows. Before long, Emily discovers her demons have followed her inside her beloved fairytale. They are hunting her.

“I wrote this story to document how victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse often use fantasy as a coping mechanism for their trauma,” said Harris. “I also wanted to show that the essential first step taken by those who wish to thrive in spite of their abuse is self-acceptance.”

Jane Alvey Harris has a humanities degree from Brigham Young University with emphases in art history, Italian, and studio art. She is fascinated with the visual and performing arts and enjoys playing classical piano, painting, sketching, singing, acting, and writing poetry and prose. Nonetheless, her real passion is people; she loves to watch and study human beings. An unabashed dreamer, her favorite activity is to weave together sublime settings and stories for characters to live and learn in, herself included. Jane currently lives in an enchanted fairy-princess castle in Dallas, Texas, with her three often-adorable children and their three seldom-adorable cats.

For more information on the author or Riven, please visit www.JaneAlveyHarris.com.


Q&A with Jane Alvey Harris

Jane Headshot

  1. What inspired you to create Riven and the My Myth Trilogy series?

Honestly, when I began writing Riven, I was just looking for relief. I was struggling through a really dark time in my life and was doing therapy with an amazing counselor who encouraged me to write. I didn’t have a synopsis or even an outline; I was just writing scenes from my head and connecting them together. It took me a couple years to get the first draft out and even longer to realize what the story was really about.

Somewhere in the middle of undoing myself in therapy, the narrative in my writing transformed. It matured from a pretty fairytale to a hard-hitting, issue-driven documentation of a survivor’s journey to make peace with her wounded egos and achieve self-acceptance. It was dark, but it felt important. More than that, in the act of weaving my tale I realized I was laying my hands directly on the tattered pieces of a buried map leading to rich interior landscapes I’d never acknowledged or explored before, because I considered them ugly, worthless, and humiliating.

It was about this time that other people in my life began sharing their long-guarded accounts of abuse with me. I was overwhelmed by sorrow at their suffering, but also inspired by their confidence in me, which helped me understand I wasn’t alone. With the help of my therapist and my editor, who both prompted me to dig deep and tell the real story, I gained new purpose, new confidence. I learned that I was brave, that I was strong. I realized that my writing might actually help others who struggled.

  1. Your main character, Emily, is a seventeen-year-old who finds herself in difficult circumstances. What is her situation in the story and how did she get there?

The story opens at the end of July, the summer before Emily has to repeat junior year of high school. Her dad’s been in prison for ten years, and her mom, a school teacher, becomes increasingly dependent on prescription pain meds. She loses her job and basically stays in bed all day, relying on Emily to parent her two younger brothers and younger sister. Still, Emily thinks she’s got things mostly under control. But as the date for her dad’s release from prison gets closer, Emily’s stress levels increase exponentially. She finds herself unable to cope with her reality and slips into a fantasy world she created as a little girl.

  1. What are the main themes in Riven and how are they developed in the story?

Riven is all about hard hitting social issues, including mental illness, feminism, and rape culture, to name a few. But the main theme is one of self-acceptance. My goals were to illustrate the damage that buried guilt and shame have on the psyche and demonstrate how acknowledging personal truth is the first step in healing from trauma.

  1. There are a number of fantastical elements to Riven, including the imaginary world of the First Realm. What role does fantasy play in the story, and how is important to the development of the book’s characters?

Okay, this is juicy stuff. First, like Emily, many victims of childhood abuse use fantasy to escape a reality they can’t cope with. Not only is it key in the backstory, as a plot device, and in Emily’s growth throughout the book, it also adds layers of depth which engage readers on different levels.

Fantasy keeps the readers on their toes, too. Emily is an unreliable narrator, to say the least. She questions her own sanity, and as her stress increases throughout the first half of the book, she starts to self-medicate. At times, she’s unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. The reader experiences this fracturing along with her, catching glimpses of the past, and is sometimes plunged into the fantasy First Realm without warning. Ultimately, it’s up to each reader to decide what is really real.

Mixing fantasy elements with gritty contemporary realism also adds action, adventure, and gave me the perfect opportunity to play with some really gorgeous settings. I’m a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. On one hand, fantasy is whimsical and innocent. It lightens some of the darker themes of Riven. On the other hand, juxtaposing the ethereal with horror heightens poignancy of tragedy and psychological distress.

Most importantly, it is through the world of imagination that Emily is able to envision herself as a powerful individual. She creates a Realm where she’s able to accept and forgive herself.

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

Well, Emily basically has my personality. The book began as a love story to my three children, (Jacob, Aidan, and Claire, who you’ll meet in the book) at a time I was very vulnerable in my life. So, if the strength of the sibling relationships seems super-real, it’s because that’s really them, and Emily is really me. Lots of the dialogue I’ve taken directly from real life. While I don’t claim all of Emily’s experiences, I will say they are true, a combination of stories and experiences which have been shared with me, along with a healthy dose of my dreams and imagination.

  1. Riven deals with serious issues for teens, including abandonment, drug use, cutting, and sexual abuse. How do novels like yours help survivors and supporters with awareness and solutions for these issues?

Issues like these continue to be such a huge problem, because they make people uncomfortable and because they’re difficult to talk about. It’s easy to sweep the topic of childhood sexual abuse, and the many destructive behaviors which result from it, under the rug, because it just isn’t comfortable. The vast majority of survivors never reveal their experiences because of guilt and shame. How can we heal if we hide? My hope is that telling this story will help to normalize people. Not just victims of abuse, but anyone who struggles with negative self-image.

While I wrote Riven to be as entertaining and immersive as possible, my main purpose was to shed light on darkness and ugliness that don’t have to be life sentences of suffering. There is hope. There are resources. There are networks of supporters waiting to help. My dream is that Riven and the My Myth Trilogy will spark discussion and help people heal, while calling the rest of us to action as supporters. If we educate ourselves and abolish buried guilt and shame, we can end the cycle of abuse.

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

Yes, and I’m SO EXCITED! The second book in the trilogy is called Secret Keeper. While Riven deals with the nature of legitimate victimhood, Secret Keeper is all about what comes next. Self-acceptance is just the very first step in recovery; Emily still has to do all the work of telling her truth in the real world if she wants to protect her siblings. And what happens when you speak that kind of truth? How do people react? How do you stop being a victim? How do you protect yourself from repeating the cycle of abuse? The pendulum swings in the completely opposite direction from victim in Secret Keeper, though not necessarily in a healthy way. There’s a lot of bad-assery afoot. I’m having a blast writing and meeting new characters, and I know readers will love them!

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Kubo and the Two String (2016)

Starring

Charlize Theron – Monkey (voice)
Art Parkinson – Kubo (voice)
Ralph Finnes – Moon King (voice)
George Takei – Hosato (voice)
Matthew McConaughey – Beatle (voice)

kubo and the two strings
From wikimedia.org

Summary

“A young boy with the gift of telling fantastical stories is sent on a mystical quest to discover his family’s magical legacy. Starring Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey.”

-From Amazon.com

 

Review

Now, this was something new this year. I mean come on, watching this you think it is some form of animation right? Nope, it’s 3D stop-motion! That’s awesome! Last time I saw something like this was The Boxtrolls and that one really did look more like that. This one looked like animation and it was such a fantastic story. It was like a legend as it kind of was, and it kept coming back to that idea through the entire movie.

This one had me tearing up as well because of the entire premise. If you were a younger child watching this you would find it so cute and an awesome movie, and as an adult you find it all of that but you also understand there is so much more going on in the movie and it was really quite moving.

Besides it being moving, it was just incredibly well done. There was character development, epic travels and a really fantastic story. It was also based in ancient Japan which was really cool as well. It kept alluring to it as well with the sunsets which kind of resembled the Japanese flag which was quite creative as well.

I mean this is one of those movies that will bring you back to your childhood because it’s an animation but it was deep enough that someone from every age will find something enjoyable. It kind of reminded me of Kung-Fu Panda just because of what was happening but it was completely unique in it’s own way and there was a common theme running through the entire movie.

I really do recommend this movie as it was fantastically well done.

So enjoy and let me know what you think!

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Moana (2016)

Starring

Auli’i Cravalho – Moana (voice)
Dwayne Johnson – Maui (voice)
Rachel House – Gramma Tala (voice)
Temuera Morrison – Chief Tui (voice)

moana
From charlottesmartypants.com

 

Summary

“Moana sets sail on a daring mission to save her people. Along the way, she meets the once mighty demigod Maui–together they cross the ocean on a fun-filled, action-packed voyage.”

-From Amazon.com

Review

This was probably one of my favorite movies of 2016, and may be making it into one of my favorite animation movies. This was such an incredible story and just so different from everything else that has come out. I loved how it was based around Hawaiian Islands and had a lot of native kind of ideas going on from the tattoos that the tribal members were getting (which was the traditional tattooing process and a right of passage), to the names, songs and the general lore behind the entire movie as well.

It was just so unique.

The animations were fantastic as well. It was so colorful and tropical, I felt so warm watching it wrapped up with my fuzzy blanket, a cat in my lap and a cup of tea next to me. The bright blues and greens really made it what it was.

Also the dynamics between Moana and Maui was fantastic. It was like a child-to-child relationship but you knew that one was a demi-god and it was nice to see some serious character development between them both, which is of course typical for a children movie. And of course I love The Rock and seeing him in another movie geared towards children (like The Toothfairy) was fantastic. And oh man, who knew that he could sing! There were a few musical numbers in the movie but not too many that it made it one of those ‘gross’ kids movies. The songs were also fantastic! Also the songs were so meaningful, especially if you are older and just really listen to the soundtrack and also listen to what is happening in the story. It had me in tears more times than I would care to admit. Just listen to one of my favorites (thanks to one of my friends who sung this as well).

It was also really nice to see a very strong female character who was strong headed, didn’t fall in love like a few others, and just was bad-ass in general. It was so refreshing and I loved it!

I mean this movie was absolutely fantastic and I do recommend picking it up once it comes out and giving it a watch. I know that I’m going getting this one and forcing my family to watch it. Mwahaha, but I’m sure they’ll love it, just as I’m sure you will as well!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

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Empowering Graphic Novels for Teens

Looking for an empowering graphic novel for your teen for Christmas? Well I found a great article which may help you if you have a young girl in your life.

I really wish that I had this kind of guide when I was younger. Abby Glassenberg over at While She Naps created a list after she sat down with her daughter.

All of the books within this list “feature female protagonists and kids from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds” and deal with ” issues of gender, race, class, and identity”.

The post includes all of the books on their list and a small summary of the book.

These books are perfect for Christmas if you’re looking for a book for someone!

Definitely check out the list here.

Enjoy and happy reading!

empowering graphic novels for teens, graphic novel, whileshenaps, kids, teen, girl
From While She Naps (whileshenaps.com).