Peter Monn, author of YA novel The Before Now and After Then has stopped by Confessions of a Book Geek to share his personal experiences with bullying and the inspiration behind his debut novel. As someone who suffered from bullying in my childhood and early teens, it’s an issue I feel strongly about, so I’m looking forward to reviewing this debut, as well as interviewing Peter as part of an Author Spotlight feature.
Guest Post – Peter Monn:
Years ago, I read a quote by Oprah Winfrey that resonated with my own life experiences; “Turn your wounds into wisdom”. As an adolescent counselor, I had used my own struggles with drug addiction and recovery to help teenagers out of their own darkness, but had never really spoken about my having been bullied from early childhood. Throughout my years working with teenagers, bullying has been a constant theme, whether they were bullied about weight, looks, sexual orientation, financial status, or otherwise. In writing my book The Before Now and After Then, I thought it was finally time to open my wounds and allow the pain I had gone through to be a medium to help others.
My experience with bullying isn’t much different than others. It started at a young age and went on throughout my school career. I was called names, slammed into lockers, tripped, laughed at, had my belongings vandalized and tortured in ways I couldn’t imagine; yet suicide was never an option for me. I had support from family and friends, which might be part of the reason, but still, I felt completely alone and isolated in my pain. I just couldn’t imagine ending it all and giving in to my tormentor. For this reason, it was important for me to write about bullying in a way that was consistent to my own experience, to maybe connect with a reader whose experience was similar to mine.
Danny, the main character of my book The Before Now and After Then, is an out gay teenager. While he is bullied, it isn’t the residing issue or theme to his life; it is merely an afterthought of something he deals with on a regular basis. This is how it was for me. At some point, I was so used to being bullied that it was like a pain that would never reside or go away but just kept on nagging at me on a daily basis. But I didn’t know how to end it or get over it. I didn’t know how to stop the pain. I think today, the mass suicides we’re seeing as a result of bullying are because teenagers see suicide as an end to their pain. It’s not! It breaks my heart to hear the stories about the kids who just couldn’t take it anymore and that’s why I dedicated my book to them. It was important for me to not just say, “Hey, it’ll get better”, but to actually show an instance where it does get better.
The fact that the book To Kill a Mockingbird plays an important role in my book is not by accident. Yes, it is my favorite book, but one quote by Atticus Finch has always been my motto towards dealing with bullies; “If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” To some degree, I wanted this to be Danny’s attitude toward his bully in the book, although he struggled with it, just as I have in life.
Although I’m in my forties, I’m still bullied to some degree today. I hear whispers in gas station lines and have people call me names when they see me and my husband together, but I’ve grown tougher skin. I’ll probably never be OK with it, but I’m better now than I used to be. Writing this book has helped me release the pain still felt by the seven year old inside me. It has given me hope that as a result, maybe someone else will be able to do the same.
Peter is signed to Pen Name Publishing, a boutique publisher looking for bold stories by bold voices.