A Q&A with Scars author Cheryl Rainfield

A Q&A with <em>Scars</em> author Cheryl Rainfield

The 519 Church Community Centre is hosting a very special book launch this evening to raise funds for the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and Multicultural Women Against Rape. The event, which also features live music, door prizes, refreshments, and even a wen-do demonstration, will honour the publication of Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars, a novel for teens that explores the disturbing issues of sexual abuse, self-harm, and cutting.

Books@Torontoist editor James Grainger spoke with Scars author Cheryl Rainfield about her new novel.

Torontoist: When did you decide to write a novel on a subject that most people don’t even want to hear or talk about?

Cheryl Rainfield: I decided to write Scars years ago; it was a part of my own speaking out and breaking silence about something that holds a lot of societal shame and judgment. I wanted so badly to know that I wasn’t alone when I was a teen being abused and using self-harm, and in the years afterward. So that’s a big part of what drove me to write Scars.

Torontoist: How long did it take you to write it?

CB: The initial draft probably took a few months. But then I revised it, and revised it, and revised it. I edited Scars more than 40 times over a 10-year period.

Torontoist: Is the protagonist of your story, Kendra Marshall, based on a real-life person?

CB: There’s a lot of me in Kendra. There’s a lot of me in the book. But Kendra is far more spunky than I ever was. She is both fiction and bits of truth, infused.

Torontoist: How has reader response been so far?

CB: I’ve had some fantastic responses. I had one reviewer say that before he read Scars, he couldn’t understand how anyone could self-harm, and after he read Scars, he GOT it. That is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for. I’ve also had a LOT of people write or talk to me about their own experiences of self-harm or sexual abuse (or both), telling me that they see some of themselves in the book, or that they found it moving or powerful. Again, that’s something I was really hoping for. And most readers tell me that they couldn’t put Scars down once they started reading; I love hearing that!

Torontoist: Ideally, what would you like readers, especially young readers, to take away from their reading of Scars?

CB: I would like readers to know that there is hope and there are good people in the world, and that healing can happen. I also really want people who use self-harm or are sexual abuse survivors or queer to know that they’re not alone. And I really want people who do not have those experiences to come away with more compassion for those that do.

Torontoist: How did you come to partner with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre for the launch?

CB: I turned to the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre help line myself once when I was a teen being abused, and it was a helpful experience for me, some support in a crisis. And I turned to them once or twice over the years and I always knew that they were there if I absolutely needed them. That felt important to me; sometimes it can feel incredibly hard just getting through some memories of abuse or times of crisis. I wanted to give them something back. And I wanted to help create awareness of the rape crisis center, to let women know it’s out there, and also try to raise money for them. They do an amazing job.

(Tonight’s book launch is at the 519 Church Community Centre, Auditorium Room 206, 519 Church Street, 6:30 p.m. reception, event from 7-9 p.m. For more information about Cheryl Rainfield’s work go here.)