It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out,
it's the grain of sand in your shoe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Laura Wiess answers your homework questions.
Q. Is Such a Pretty Girl real?
A. Pretty Girl is fiction, so no, Meredith and her story aren't real. That said, based on research during writing the book (especially speaking with childhood sexual abuse survivors) and the avalanche of reader emails that have come in, I can say with certainty that yes, there are plenty of kids out there who told their moms or other adults about the sexual abuse and for whatever reason, the kids were hushed up and left to deal with it on their own.
So while the Shale family is fictional, the act of a father molesting his daughter and the mother turning away, determined not to see it is not anywhere near as uncommon as we would all desperately like to believe. And this adds insult to injury in my opinion, as everytime we decide Oh, that's not real, that doesn't happen we end up turning away and denying the truth of it, too.
And the child remains alone in the nightmare.
Q. Where did you get the idea for this story?
A. Several years ago a news show was doing a story about child molesters being released from prison. If I remember correctly, one of the statistics quoted was that the average pedophile molests roughly nine to twelve children before he's caught. This number was considered more of a guesstimate than solid fact though, because this type of crime isn't always reported, and so some molesters have their way with dozens of kids before they're caught.
Some molesters go on for years, some forever.
Beyond the miserable nature of the crime itself, other things about this report angered me. The first was that the language describing these predators and their crimes had been so overused -- words like molest, rape, sexual assault -- they had lost almost all their power to incite, and that was appalling. It seemed the more we were battered with the words, the blander the words got, and that didn't seem to bode well for the survivors of these heinous crimes.
That initial surge of fury birthed Meredith, the main character in Such a Pretty Girl.
Before I knew who she was or what had happened, her voice ran through my head and said something to the effect of: Well, if 'child molester' doesn't freak you out anymore, then maybe the details of what happened will. I won't mince words, if you don't turn away. Don't you dare, because I can't.
Then I started wondering how many pedophiles never had to molest other peoples' children because they were busy having and molesting children of their own. That thought, with all of its ugly ramifications, pretty much sealed the deal and launched the research.
I watched a very disturbing documentary along the way, one I highly recommend to anyone who still refuses to believe that any mother would ever leave her child in harm's way. It's called Just Melvin: Just Evil directed by James Ronald Whitney and a more astounding film I've never seen. It's agonizing, brutal and unflinching, it's all the jagged details that mainstream words like incest, rape and molestation smooth over, and if you can take it, it is well worth the time spent. Warning: Discretion is advised.
So that's how Such a Pretty Girl was born, in a nuclear flash of fury, frustration and an overwhelming need for Meredith, a girl stuck in hell but refusing to give up, to tell us her story.
Q. Do you get a lot of mail from readers?
A. Yes, and I sincerely appreciate the kind and enthusiastic feedback sent my way. So far I've read every single email, and tried to respond in a timely manner. Fingers crossed I can continue.
Some of Pretty Girl's readers have also been generous enough to share their personal stories of past sexual abuse, likening their feelings and parental circumstances to Meredith's. I'm awed by their strength, and deeply grateful and humbled by these emails, which will always remain private.
Q. Why did you choose your career?
A. I love books, and being swept away by a good story, whether I’m the reader or the author of that story. I wanted to spend my life doing something I loved, and was willing to work very hard to learn how to do it.
Q. What are the special skills your job requires?
A. Here's what works for me:
c. the ability to not only endure rejection, but to learn from the advice of professionals
d. an active love of words, books, stories, detail
e. the willingness to work hard for years, if that’s what it takes, without ever knowing if you will ever have any of your work accepted for publication
f. a very active imagination
h. being able to type helps
Q. What do you like best about being an author?
A. Being in The Zone: When the characters become real people, and I’m right there with them laughing, crying, being terrified, struggling, making it through triumphant. Getting a call from my agent with a publishing offer. That’s an incredible high. Letters from readers. When MTV Books sent me my first copy of Such a Pretty Girl, and I got to see it for the first time as a real book.
Q. Would you choose this career again?
A. Absolutely. Reading and writing are what I’ve always loved best, and being able to spend my life doing what I love and getting paid for it, is my own personal definition of success. I would go through it all again without hesitation because in the end, it’s all about telling a good story. And what could be better than that?
More questions? Contact me and I'll do my best to answer in a timely fashion.
Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is. -- Will Rogers
Content copyright . laura wiess. All rights reserved.