Elizabeth Scott ‘s latest novel, Living Dead Girl, has been piling up accolades and controversy alike. It is the utterly compelling and heartbreaking story of Alice, who had been abducted at nine years-old, and has been living with the man who abducted for the past five years. Her life is one of daily physical, emotional and sexual abuse – each day another drop of hopelessness. She is a girl that no one sees, that no one will save – who is soon faced with an option no one would ever want, much less a fourteen year-old girl.
Elizabeth talks to us about Living Dead Girl and why people rarely see what is in front of their face.
1. Living Dead Girl is a dark departure from your other YA novels. What sparked the idea in your head?
A dream. I know, it sounds a little (all right, a lot) strange, but that’s what happened. I kept having the same dream — about Alice – and after a few nights of waking up and writing the same thing down (yep, I also write down all my dreams!) I knew I had to tell her story.
2. There has been a bit of controversy about Living Dead Girl — were you expecting it? What surprised you about people’s reactions?
I really wasn’t expecting it! And it’s been very surprising, because people have reacted very strongly to the fact that Alice is kidnapped and has a horrible life — but I haven’t gotten a lot of reaction to the fact that Alice has spent *five years* living with her kidnapper, and that’s it’s obvious something is wrong with her, with her life — and yet no one does anything to help her. To even see her. That’s the part that made me the most upset as I wrote the book — how easy it is for people to look away–and I really thought people would react to that.
3, Alice says there are three life lessons: “1. No one will see you. 2. No one will say anything. 3. No one will save you.” Why do you think many turn a blind eye to the Alices among us?
Human nature — fear of upsetting someone, fear of upsetting our own lives. Just think of all the news stories that start out with people saying, “Well, X seemed like such a nice person! I had no idea what was going on, and to think there was a serial killer/rapist/wife beater/child molester right down the street! This sort of thing never happens here.”
4. Along with that, the book addresses victim-blame — why do you think that happens?
Thinking that an abuse victim felt they had nowhere to go and/or that no one would believe them makes us feel bad, and that leads to what I think Alice says best:
They will ask why they didn’t say anything.
Why didn’t you tell someone?
Why didn’t you ask for help?
Why didn’t you leave him?
Why didn’t you respect yourself enough to get away?
All our fault, always.
5. Do you think there’s a Dateline aspect to stories like this — that people aren’t personally willing to do something to help someone out, but are utterly enrapt by the retelling of a harsh and heartbreaking tales from the other side of the TV screen?
Absolutely. We’re all caught by stories of the murderer next door, the child who was suffering while neighbors never noticed, but it’s a lot harder to think about where you live. What might be going on around you. What you might see — those moments that give you pause, that make you think “something is wrong” and how you react to that. It’s one thing when it’s on television — it’s removed then, it’s not *us* then.
But of course it is.
6. On to lighter subjects — what books are you reading now? What are you looking forward to?
I actually just finished Laura Dietz’s In The Tenth House, which I enjoyed. And I’m very much looking forward to Stewart O’Nan’s next novel — I thought his last book, Last Night At The Lobster, was brilliant.
7. I know you are as big of a Gossip Girl fan as I am — what are you hoping to happen in this season?
Chuck and Blair! Chuck and Blair! I mean, I’m hoping for episodes that focus on timely and thoughtful topics — oh, who am I kidding. Chuck and Blair! Chuck and Blair!
8. Who is your favorite TV couple?
Jim and Pam, from The Office. Proof that you can make a romance on TV work. Hurrah!
9. What other books do you have coming out? And, again, I’ll ask if you can describe them in 5 words or less!
Next year, I’ve got two books coming out:
Something, Maybe: soul mates and fast food (yes, really!)
Love You Hate You Miss You: life after your world shatters
We’re giving away 5 copies of Living Dead Girl! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 1st and we’ll select 5 names at random.
Can’t wait? (We don’t blame you!) Pick up a copy at Amazon now!
Visit Elizabeth at her site: elizabethwrites.com