Hey friends! We are here today with Laurie B. Levine, author of Now I Know It's Not My Fault, a story that will grab you from the beginning and keep your attention to the end. We were curious about her writing process and Alex, the main character of the story.
You originally started writing Now I Know It's Not My Fault and then took a break from it. What was it like to come back to a story you had started writing but never finished?
This is a story I wanted to tell for a long time. I was inspired to pick it back up after a female teacher in our town was accused of sexually abusing several male students. There were two objectives for me in writing this book. The first was to shed some light on the fact that women can be abusers too. There’s a lot written in abuse and trauma literature addressing men as abusers, but very little about women. I wanted to write a story that depicts an attractive, charming woman in that role. The second objective was to draw attention to a more subtle form of abuse. Now I Know It’s Not My Fault highlights a kind of abuse that occurs under the radar, but can be just as damaging.
I’ve been a marriage and family therapist and I’ve been helping people deal with issues around abuse for twenty-five years. That experience is the basis of the story. I did some research on biology because Paula is a science teacher. The camp stuff was easy. I loved camp. My older daughter was fourteen while I was writing the book and that helped me capture the voices of the teenage girls.
Talk to us a little about Alex. What do you hope for her at the end of the story?
Alex is a good kid growing up in challenging circumstances. The loss of her mother and her father being emotional absent leaves her vulnerable to Paula. She’s also resilient. She’s good at finding people who can help her. We see that in her relationships with her friends, especially Sandra. And even when the relationship with Paula starts to make her feel badly about herself, she’s still able to keep Erica in her life.
My hope for Alex is that she uses her resilience as she goes forward in her life and finds good people to help her. I also hope she comes to see how bright she is, and to define herself separate from her doctor father and from what Paula has done to her.
Alexandra Geller is a bright, underachieving fourteen-year-old coming of age in the big hair 1980's. Alex is from an accomplished, well-educated family. The sudden death of her mother five years ago, and her relationship with her well-meaning but emotionally unavailable father, leaves her unmoored and vulnerable as she tries to figure out who she is. Early in her freshman year, she's befriended by Paula Hanover, a young, attractive science teacher at her high school. Paula's irreverence and charm attracts the attention of the girls, who look up to her, and the boys, who have crushes on her. Alex is thrilled to be chosen by this woman and relishes the feeling of finally "belonging" to a mother figure. Paula's intentions aren't so benevolent, as she slowly and carefully draws Alex into a relationship designed to meet her own needs, not Alex's. Desperate for maternal attention, Alex finds ways to ignore the vague sense that something is wrong. Her compelling story sheds light on a common, but rarely talked about kind of trauma which is subtle, and occurs under the radar.
What are you hoping readers take away from Now I Know It's Not My Fault?
My hope is that people come away from the story with a better understanding of what can make a kid vulnerable. It’s important for teenagers and parents to know that a relationship can be abusive even if no one is physically hurt. Parents should know how to talk to their children about this kind of abuse and how to ask about it if they suspect something. Finally, I hope to draw attention to the fact that women can be abusers too.
What's next in your writing journey?
I’m not writing anything now but I am percolating on a story that picks up with Alex, the main character in Now I Know It’s Not My Fault, ten years down the line. I really like the character. It would be interesting to see where she is after college and how her experiences with Paula affect her life into adulthood.
Grab your copy of Now I Know It's Not My Fault here.
Laurie B. Levine has a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University, and is Clinical Fellow in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She has been in private practice, helping people understand their trauma stories, for more than twenty years. Now I Know It's Not My Fault is her first novel.