WRITING ABOUT THE TOUGH STUFF IN LIES LIKE LOVE
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT
Having written about almost every horrendous thing that can happen to a child because of parental abuse or neglect in BLACK HEART BLUE, I was a bit worried about how I'd move on from the evil of Rebecca and Hephzi's parents and look at new ground in LIES LIKE LOVE. So in discussions with my publishers at Penguin, we eventually agreed on some of the things I'd explore in LIES LIKE LOVE: adolescent mental health and the factitious disorder, Munchausen's By Proxy. Obviously both of these subjects needed serious thought and research, and before I wrote Audrey's story, that's what I undertook to do.
Lorraine, Audrey's mother, harms her daughter because of the attention she desperately craves and is consequently given by the well-intentioned medical profession. People with Munchausen's by Proxy fabricate and induce illnesses in their children, as horrific as that may seem, because they want the attention given by doctors, nurses and anyone else they can drag into their hideous make-believe world. As a mother myself, the idea of deliberately hurting your child is one which is completely alien to me: when your child is ill, the only thing you want is for them to get better. Also, I was fully aware before I wrote the book that this disorder was one which is highly controversial - the doctor who originally wrote about it was totally discredited. This aside, there is a great deal of medical evidence that caregivers with MBP are a real and present danger to children. So, on balance, I decided to go ahead and write Audrey's story. In order to do it justice, though, I needed to feel sure I knew what I was dealing with. This meant reading a huge amount of medical research and I'll admit, there were some medical papers that made me feel deeply distressed and disturbed, the details of which will be etched on my mind forever. I knew there was some territory into which I could not, and did not want to stray. But equally I knew that there were young people in the real world suffering at the hands of their parents and perhaps looking to see their experiences represented and understood. Some of the reader feedback I've had has made me feel that I did the right thing in writing LIES LIKE LOVE and I still believe that no subject is off limits in YA fiction.
The horrifying thing about Munchausen's by Proxy is that most children who are victims of this sort of abuse die within the first few years of their lives. So writing about a teenager whose mother harmed her because o MBP meant thinking about how on earth she could have survived into teenage-hood. A horrible thing to have to consider. The answer I came up with was that Audrey would be made to believe she had a mental illness: Lorraine is desperate to convince the world that her daughter is depressed, psychotic, self-harming and suicidal. Now I'd given myself a whole new range of things to research and again, it was vitally important to explore young people's experiences of mental illness and how often they are failed by the system so that I could do this part of the story justice. Discovering that 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 - 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder and that between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm (statistics from http://www.youngminds.org.uk) made me realise how vital it is that YA fiction deals with these subjects.
Lorraine's abuse of Audrey, the gas-lighting, the continual self-doubt and feelings of alienation and isolation that Audrey suffers meant that she did indeed have depression and need help and intervention. I can't imagine anyone in her situation coming out of it without serious emotional and psychological trauma. However, I hoped to show what lay at the very root of Audrey's character: her strength, capacity for love and absolute loyalty. Just because someone is depressed does not mean that they cannot be an admirable and wonderful human being. And I hoped that Leo would prove a worthy friend and support to Audrey, providing her with the safety she needed and an escape from the hell in The Grange. Beyond all the horror, I think, this is a book which is full of hope. Despite all the lies, all the fabricated stories and brutal abuse, Audrey remains a truly good character. Her enduring love for her little brother Peter and her willingness to sacrifice her own safety for his are testament to this.
I really love my characters so putting them through hell can get pretty tough at times. But they are survivors and there is good in the world, far more good that bad, and that’s what I hope LIES LIKE LOVE shows; that ultimately, ‘love gives you legs of steel,” as Leo tells Audrey, and a little bit of love goes a long, long way to counteract the pain.
Author: Louisa Reid
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: July 3rd 2014
'There were a few problems . . . bullying . . . a fire . . .'
I think she's verging on psychosis . . . now she's lashing out.
She's got no one else to fight for her.'
Sixteen year-old Audrey just wants to be normal. She's trying to fit in. But what happens when the person closest to you suffocates you with their love? What happens then?
Author InformationLouisa Reid is a writer and teacher living on the Fen Edge. Her debut novel, BLACK HEART BLUE was published in 2012 by Penguin and was shortlisted for the North East Teen Book Award and longlisted for the Carnegie and Branford Boase awards. Her second novel, LIES LIKE LOVE was published in July 2014 by Penguin.
The prizes include;
One Signed Lies Like Love
One Signed Black Heart Blue
One Bundle of Swag