Dear Bully: Stephanie Kuehnert *Interview*

With the release of Dear Bully on September 5th, we are celebrating it's release and message here at BNR. From Sept. 4th to Sept. 14th, we will be having authors that contributed to DB on the blog.

Today on the blog is Stephanie Kuehnert, author of "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and "Ballads of Suburbia":

STEPHANIE KUEHNERT got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she discovered punk rock and produced several D.I.Y. feminist 'zines. After short stints in Ohio and Wisconsin, Stephanie ultimately returned home and received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Forest Park, IL.

Interview with Stephanie

About Stephanie:

How do you combine your love of literature and music into your writing?

I write about characters who love music as much as I do. Sometimes they are the kind of characters I wish I could be, like Emily from I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, who is the frontwoman of a punk band. Sometimes they are more like me, like Kara from BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, who uses music as an outlet and escape like I always have. Music also feeds me while I'm writing. Sometimes a song or a certain band will inspire a scene or a character or the whole vibe of a book.

Have you put some of your personal experiences into your writing?

Yes, especially in BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, which deals with depression and self-injury, two things I struggled with quite a bit in high school, as well addiction, which I dealt with and a lot of my friends dealt with. On the lighter side, I also do give my characters my interests and hobbies. I just finished the manuscript for my first adult book and one of the characters is a bartender, which is my other job besides writing and the other character is vegan and politically active much like I was as a teen (and still am, I suppose though maybe to a slightly lesser degree. I'm still vegan.)

What book genres interest you the most?

Realistic Young Adult Fiction is probably my all-time fave, but I love everything: paranormal, urban fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian. I like memoirs and contemporary adult fiction, as well as classics like John Steinbeck. If it is well-written I'll read it.

What have you learned from becoming an author?

Oh man, loads, but the best thing is how much I love readers, especially teens. The readers of your books are what make your job as an author worthwhile.

Do you have any future ideas for books?

Always. Lots of ideas, just not entirely sure where I'll go next. Trying to find a home for this adult book right now and working on writing things for an online magazine for teen girls: so I'm writing about a lot of my personal experiences as non-fiction. Which is kinda scary!

About DB:

Why did you decide to get involved with Dear Bully?

Because the more articles I read about teens being bullied, especially teens like Phoebe Prince who took their own lives because bullying made them feel so hopeless, the more upset I got. I was bullied in grade school and junior high and the resulting emotional scars made me pretty self-destructive and have low self-esteem for quite a long time. It's important to me to talk about ways to survive bullying and it is equally important to give bullying survivors a voice. In all case of abuse, silence is big part of what empowers the abuser. When survivors start to talk, their wounds begin to heal and abusers/bullies lose power. Increasing awareness is a huge part of stopping bullying from happening.

Other than bullying victims, who should read this book?

Everyone should read this book in my opinion. The pieces are so varied and there are some really interesting ones where people talk about not even knowing they were a bully or being a bully because they couldn't stand up to their group of friends. That happens a lot. So the more teens who read Dear Bully, the more will be aware of what bullying behavior really is and really feels like, and hopefully bullying will lessen. To me that is part of the goal of this project, not just helping those who've been bullied heal, but examining the bully issue as a whole and changing our mentality as a society so that it stops and we are kinder to each other. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, any one who works with, lives with or is a friend of teenagers should read this, too.

How have your experiences made you stronger?

Being labeled an outcast helped me figure out who I was rather than blindly following a group. When I realized that no matter what I did or wore that certain people were still going to be cruel to me, I stopped trying to fit in and just embraced who I was. This wasn't easy. I am not going to lie, I was very unhappy for a long time. But once I learned to talk about it and to write about and put my feelings in words, I got stronger. It was a slow process, but in the long run, I'm doing what I want to do and am proud of who I've become.

How should someone reach out for help or support?

This is the hardest question because it is very personal. But remember what I said before, silence gives the bully power. Also what they are doing is not acceptable. They have no excuse. Not everyone thinks they are as cool as they think they are. Most people probably are just afraid to stand up to them. You have to reach out to the person who makes you most comfortable, if not your parents, a cool teacher, librarian, coach or other adult. Start by writing your feelings down, that always makes it easier for me.

Give advice about bullying in three words.

Talk about it.

Where you can find Stephanie:

Thank you, Stephanie, for participating in the DB Spotlight! You can order Dear Bully over at Amazon and check out the DB site here!

Peace and Fangs,
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