In the two months since my novel Willow
has been released, I have had the incredible good fortune to be interviewed a number of times. In each and every interview, whether I am speaking with a teen-book blogger or a radio host, I am always asked the same two questions: "What inspired you to write a book about cutting?" and, "Are you, or have you ever been, a cutter?" And my answers are always the same.
"But I didn't write a book about cutting!" I protest. And indeed, to my mind Willow is far from an "issue" book. It is a book about pain and loss. Most certainly it is a book that deals with self injury — Willow is indeed a "cutter" — but in the end it is about something other than these themes, something more than a book about cutting.
If I had any inspiration, it was this: we are all self destructive in one way or another. I wanted to take my character from a place of self harm to a place of healing, and, in doing so, possibly make readers question their own damaging behaviors. There are many hurtful behaviors I could have chosen, but I felt that cutting was the most expedient, most dramatic way of getting to the heart of the matter. Which leads right into the next question... Am I, or have I ever been a cutter?
The simple answer is no. I have never taken to slicing my skin with a razor the way my poor Willow does. But I have certainly felt the same kind of pain that she has, the same loneliness, the same despair. We all have felt those things to one degree or another, and, in response to that pain, we have all inflicted damage on ourselves. Although the damage may be far less visible than the scars a razor leaves behind, it is no less injurious.
So if Willow isn't a book about cutting, what is it really about? And if we have all been cutters in one form or another, what can we learn from Willow's story?
Willow is a book about recovery. It is about healing and hope. It is most especially about the power of love and how it can help in that healing process. We will all face loss and pain in our lives; we must all learn to rise above these disasters, even perhaps to use them as a way to learn and grow. Not all of us will experience the same devastating loss that Willow does, and not all of us will follow the same path towards recovery, but perhaps Willow's story will provide some comfort for someone in pain. Because, as one reader noted, "The essential and uplifting message (of Willow) is that not every problem can be solved, but there is no bad situation that cannot be improved."
And that is really what Willow is about.