As a writer, I often ask myself what is reading to me.
What do I hope to gain when I open a book and flip through its pages?
To me, reading is a lot of things, including a way to escape the real life and live in someone else’s head for a bit.
But mostly, it’s about expanding my mind, expanding my senses.
I want to read a book and feel.
I want to read a book and know the things I didn’t know before. I want to learn about a phenomenon. I want to learn about other people – the kind of people that are different than me. The kind of people I wouldn’t meet if not for the book I’m reading.
And that’s what I aim to do with my books.
I want to expand the mind of my readers. I want to make them feel.
I want to make them realize that the world is vast. That the world is full of people and places and emotions that might seem unreachable, but theycanbe reached and experienced and felt in the pages of a book.
With THE UNREQUITED, my aim was to explore the pain and the passion of one-sided love. It’s the most torturous and desperate kind of love there is.
With GODS & MONSTERS, I was trying to explore how society can shape us and our life. And how love can heal even the deepest of wounds. With MEDICINE MAN, I wanted to depict the struggles of living with depression and anxiety, and the strength it takes to overcome it on a daily basis and fall in love.
With my latest, BAD BOY BLUES, I talk about one of the most rampant societal problems: bullying.
This story is my most personal and most heartfelt yet. Because a lot of my characters’ experiences are my own.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been a victim of bullying. Not once but quite a few times in my life. And neither am I ashamed to admit that until recently, I’d spent my entire life being afraid of it.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I never stood up for myself. I never fought back. I always thought that if I kept my head down, did exactly what my bully told me to do, they’d leave me alone. I thought I’d find peace.
Moreover, I always thought that maybe I deserved it. That maybe what they say about me is right. I mean, they’re picking on me for a reason, right?
If they call me fat; I must be fat. If they call me a nerd; I must be spending a lot of time reading. If they call me awkward and a loser; I must be all of those things and more.
So, I should probably eat less or read less and not talk to anyone at parties.
It took me three decades of my life to realize that.
Three decades to realize that they are wrong. That they don’t know me. They can’t tell me what or who I am.
And it took me countless panic attacks, a million breathing exercises, therapy sessions to realize that my bully doesn’t define me. My bully doesn’t dictate my life or my decisions.
A thousand nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night, sweaty and panting, to realize that I don’t deserve to be bullied. I don’t deserve to be looked down upon. I don’t deserve their taunts, their sneers, their scare tactics.
I don’t deserve it. Period.
With that realization, came another epiphany.
Bullies are powerless. They have no power. Literally.
They can’t bully me, if I refuse to be bullied. If I refuse to back down, if I refuse to believe what they say I am, they lose their power.
After all, you can’t bully someone who refuses to be bullied, right?
Without me, my bully is nothing.
Of course, I’m not denying the fact that it’s not an easy thing: refusal to be bullied.
It’s downright terrifying.
It’s so terrifying that it comes with its own nightmares.
But you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay to be afraid.
Standing up for yourself when no one else will and doing the right thing while everyone else is busy saving their butts is never easy.
It’s not an easy thing to be your own hero.
But no one ever said that heroes are unafraid. Nope.
They areafraid but they do it anyway. And you know what that’s called? Being afraid but doing it anyway.
It’s called bravery.
So, it took me three decades to realize that I’m brave. That I don’t have to listen to my bully. I don’t have to back down.
I can stand on my own and I can stand alone.
I’m powerful. I’m strong. I’m my own hero.
BAD BOY BLUES is my homage to all those heroes out there. Who fight for themselves. Who do the right thing. Who are afraid but they don’t let the fear stop them.
In addition to that, I hope that Zach and Cleo’s story is an inspiration to those who are struggling. To those who think they are weak. To those who don’t believe in miracles and heroism, anymore.
To them, I say: you don’t have to believe in anything but yourself. You have what it takes to be your own person. You have what it takes to be your own hero.
Fine Print: I apologize for any grammatical errors and as always, a little too much use of the F-word. This is more a writing of passion than thought. Thanks for reading!