Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Please Welcome Back Author Debra R. Borys

Omnimystery News: Guest Author Post
by Debra R. Borys

We are delighted to welcome back novelist Debra R. Borys as our guest.

Debra's new "Street Stories" suspense novel is Bend Me, Shape Me (New Libri Press, March 2013 ebook formats).

Today Debra tells us why she writes about homeless kids.

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Someone standing on a street corner with a paper cup and ragged clothes provokes differing responses from passersby. Most avoid the person, if they even see him or her. If someone dares to approach asking for spare change, reactions include guilt, contempt, fear or anger. Rarely, it seems, do we respond with compassion, which might include a few coins, but should at least mean a smile and polite "Sorry, I can't today."

Debra R. Borys
Photo provided courtesy of
Debra R. Borys

For most people, the fact that there are individuals who live on the streets not in homes makes them feel uncomfortable in some small or large way. We don't want to deal with it, be reminded of it, or even look at it. So why choose street people as main characters in a series of suspense novels?

One obvious reason is the fact that the issue of homelessness does usually produce some emotional response. We write to stir our readers intellectually and emotionally, so picking topics that do that is always a smart decision. Whether my readers view the issue with a positive or negative vibe, that is still an advantage over writing about a topic few people care anything about.

Chances are readers of my Street Stories series picked up one of my books with a preconceived idea of how a homeless character should be portrayed. Some might expect to find the character presented as a villain or obstacle to the plot resolution. Others might take the completely opposite view and assume I am going to stand on a soapbox and preach about what needs to be changed in a society that includes an estimated 750,000 men, women and children in the U.S. alone.

While I think it's impossible to write a book which includes homeless characters without touching on at least some of those issues, the primary focus of a suspense novel should be the mystery itself. Who is the bad guy? What is the threat to the main character? How are they ever going to survive the dangers thrown at them? If my goal was only to promote an awareness of homelessness, I would have written a nonfiction book. Nonfiction books are boring to me. I don't think I've ever finished one completely unless it was about the craft of writing.

I chose to create the Street Stories suspense series primarily because the people I've met on the street during my many years of volunteering have proven themselves to be interesting, complicated, surprising and touching. They all have real life stories that few people are willing to listen to. Fascinating stories that spark my writer's imagination. Real struggles that deserve to be heard so that other people can learn and be inspired by them.

Street kids in particular are filled with a life and potential that bursts from them on the street and on the printed page. The kids I create are examples of what you call "throw away youth" who were either kicked out, aged out of foster programs, or ran away because life at home was so terrible anything seems better than what they left behind. If there is no one who cares where you are or what happens to you, you end up being treated like garbage someone just tossed out on the curb.

When you are treated like trash, it's difficult to keep from feeling like trash. The majority of homeless people have very little choice and without help get trapped in a downward spiral that just gets worse and worse. How each individual deals with this is what makes the Street Stories plots unique and twisted.

In my first novel, Painted Black, a young man turns to drugs and prostitution in an attempt to withdraw from a reality too painful to deal with. In the latest novel, Bend Me, Shape Me, Snow Ramirez does the opposite. She chooses to fight back when she determines the psychiatrist treating her brother is harming him, not helping. Had the plot been about any other kid, there wouldn't have been much tension to deal with. A 17-year-old with a support system of school, family and friends would be able to go to someone to express her concerns and would be heard. Someone would research the situation, find out the truth and save the boy. End of story.

If you're homeless and have a mental illness like Snow, there is no support system available to help the person work their way out of that maze. She has to take things into her own hands, break laws to find evidence, rage against the injustice any way she can until someone finally listens to her story. How she catches the attention of my protagonist Jo Sullivan is more difficult, more meaningful, and more suspenseful because of her limitations as a homeless kid.

I chose to write suspense novels about events that happen to street kids because their homelessness adds an unexpected, little used, and huge obstacle for my protagonist to overcome. That's just good storytelling. And if, while riding the twists and turns of the plot my reader begins to develop an awareness that street kids are people, are human beings not that different from themselves, am I going to complain?

Not a bit. Because influencing the minds and opinions of readers is something all good fiction should do, as long as it's not at the expense of entertainment. Tell me you've never been enlightened by a book you picked up just because the plot sounded like fun? I bet you can't.

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A freelance writer and editor, she spent four years volunteering with Emmaus Ministries and the Night Ministry in Chicago, and eight years doing similar work at Teen Feed, New Horizons and Street Links in Seattle. The Street Stories series reflects the reality of throw away youth striving to survive.

To learn more about Debra and her books, visit her websites at Debra-R-Borys.com and StreetStoriesSuspenseNovels.com.

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Bend Me, Shape Me by Debra R. Borys

Bend Me, Shape Me
Debra R. Borys
A Street Stories Suspense Novel

Snow Ramirez hasn't trusted anyone in a very long time, not even herself. Memories of her childhood on Washington's Yakama Reservation haunt her even on the streets of Chicago. When her squat mate Blitz slits his own throat in front of her, she knows it's time to convince someone to trust her instincts. Blitz may have been diagnosed bi-polar, like Snow herself, but no way would he have offed himself like that if the shrink he'd been seeing hadn't bent his mind completely out of shape.

Normally she wouldn't care. Who wasn't crazy in one way or another in this messed up world? After all, she'd gotten out from under the doctor's thumb weeks ago and it was too late for Blitz now, wasn't it? Snow's little brother Alley, though, there might still be time to save him. If only she can get reporter Jo Sullivan to believe her story before Snow loses her own mind.

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