In a nutshell, I write YA fiction about widespread but rarely talked about social issues like drug use and abuse, human trafficking, and teen runaways. These are important social problems many young people face in American society, but that are seldom addressed in YA novels or the media. I write about these difficult topics, but instead of writing bleak books, I include action, humor, and some romance in my novels to intrigue and entertain. I don’t belittle these serious issues, but I try to incorporate comic relief alongside them to show how, even in the worst situations, you can always find something to make you smile.
These issues may seem like strange subjects for me to write about, but they stem from my experiences growing up in a drug-ravaged town. I never realized how widespread drug use and abuse was in my community until I became a teenager and started working at my local library. There, I saw how many of our town’s residents struggled with drug addiction, and each year I saw more and more of my peers fall into the pit of drug use. Upon further investigation, I discovered how drug use often leads to domestic abuse, prostitution and human trafficking, and homelessness, both among teens and adults. I saw how drugs turned smart students into dropouts, kind people into abusers, and lawful citizens into criminals.
Among these was my stepfather. For decades he cycled through the pattern of drug use, jail time, clean periods, and backslides, while struggling with various mental illnesses, ending in his current six-year stent in prison for robbery. My grandparents, to whom I will be forever grateful, shielded me from much of his behavior, but I always wondered what might have happened if I’d been forced to grow up in that environment, as many teens in my town did. Would I have followed suit? Been hooked on drugs before I got my driver’s license? Would I have been forced to run away from the drug-induced abuse? Such ponderous questions have fueled my writing since I was 15, inspiring me to write novels that encourage people to enact change in their lives and society by rising above the social issues that plague us.