Ginny Yttrup’s debut novel is a must read story. Be sure to find a place for it on your bookshelves. For now, enjoy this insight into Kaylee & Sierra.
Over to you, Ginny:~
Brief physical description
Kaylee Wren is a ten-year old waif. She has “stick straight hair that is dark as soot.” She is under-nourished, thin, and pale. Her ribs are visible beneath her ill-fitting tee-shirt, and her luminous eyes are sunken in her face. But there is still a sparkle of life in her intelligent eyes.
Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, tall, fit, and healthy. Her skin glows from the time she spends outdoors and her long, wavy blond hair is streaked with strands of silver. She is natural, little make-up, and dresses simply and comfortably.
Many authors will find a picture for each of their characters–either a famous person or a picture of someone they find online. This helps them to begin creating the character. However, when I thought about doing something like that for my first novel, the idea didn’t fit. I had such distinct pictures of my characters in my mind that pictures of other people felt like just that…pictures of someone other than who I was writing about. It almost felt disloyal to my character to post a picture of someone other than them. I guess that’s just how my crazy mind works!
Strengths and weaknesses
Kaylee is resilient, like the redwoods in the forest she loves. There is an emotional strength to her that belies her age and experience-a strength, in my mind as the author, that comes from the God who loves her. She is wise and intelligent. I struggle to assign a weakness to her. Any weakness comes from her unfathomable circumstances. She is a resourceful child who employs coping mechanisms to deal with the abuse she suffers. Her primary coping mechanism is silence. Her silence, her inability and unwillingness to speak, become something she hides behind in order to protect herself.
Sierra’s strength, primarily her faith, unfold with the story. Her weaknesses are highlighted in the beginning of the book. She is angry with herself and refuses to accept God’s grace. She is clinging to the shame of her sins and punishing herself for her failures. She works to control her circumstances and is reluctant to delve into her emotional pain for fear of what she’ll find. Sierra’s transformation in the story is as significant and perhaps more profound even than Kaylee’s.
Quirk (if any)
Kaylee is quirky! But in endearing ways. Because of her solitude, she’s found ways to occupy herself and to escape emotionally from the trauma she endures. She reads a dictionary left by her mother and memorizes the words and definitions. She defines her world by the dictionary. She also reads a 1950′s edition of Etiquette by Emily Post and applies what she learns in the book which, when she encounters Sierra, makes for some fun and quirky moments.
Sierra is less quirky. She’s an insomniac who often does her best art work at night and because of her need to control her circumstances, she keeps people at a safe distance emotionally. But at the beginning of Words, you see the first crack in Sierra’s shield of control when she gets a dog. It’s the relationship with her dog that begins to soften her. Sierra’s relationship with her dog, Van, is one of my favorite relationships in the book.
Your inspiration for the character
Kaylee was a character who just came to me. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. For a long time, I felt like I had a child living in my head. She followed me around as a silent observer of my life. I finally had to put her on paper and Kaylee was born. I hope, with Kaylee, that I’ve painted a picture of the face of child abuse. I hope she, in her sweet and quirky way, becomes the child every reader wants to wrap their arms around and protect. That is what victims of childhood abuse need–our compassion and our action.
Sierra is a composite of many people. I met an artist, years ago, at a ferry station on Vancouver Island. Her name is Sekoya Dawn and her work is incredible. I found her intriguing and when I began to create Sierra, I remembered Sekoya. Sierra is also a composite, physically, of the many women I’ve observed during a lifetime spent vacationing in the Santa Cruz, California region. She is a throwback to the age of the hippies and her looks, her style, and her art all represent Santa Cruz. Emotionally, Sierra is a composite of the women I had the honor of working with through Barbara Wilson’s Invisible Bonds Bible Study. Women bound by shame, but longing for the freedom found through Jesus Christ.
Background to the story
The story is loosely based on my own history of childhood sexual abuse. The circumstances, the characters, and the setting all differ. But the emotions, Kaylee’s pain, are based on my own struggles and pain. Writing Words was an act of redemption for me–a way to assign purpose to the pain I suffered. The story felt like and still feels like a gift from God to me…and to others who suffer.
Thanks so much for sharing, Ginny ~ your story and Words are inspiring!