Earlier this week, Kelly reviewed Some Boys by Patty Blount. Patty’s here today with a guest post talking about the research process behind the book. How can you wrap your head around doing research for a topic as huge as rape culture?
Research is a critical part of my job, both as a software technical writer and as an author. It not only informs me, as the creator of the book universe, it helps me develop characters who feel real. I interviewed firefighters and visited firehouses for a book that will be released next year. I read everything I could find on organophosphate poisoning for a medical suspense novel I wrote several years back. But perhaps the most difficult topic to research was rape and rape culture for my latest release, Some Boys.
Why, you’re probably asking, when something is so often in the news like rape, would it be hard to research? Good question. I suspect it’s because Google searches tend to reflect the topics that are trending at the time. I found it almost impossible to find articles that weren’t about the latest news, like Steubenville and Maryville. I also found it hard to find trustworthy information (i.e., not editorials) about the underlying sense of entitlement those rape cases suggest.
That’s when I turned to my local library for help. Google got me only so far, so I chatted with a librarian and told her exactly what I was looking for – things like surveys that describe why people rape – is it always about control and fear, or is it sometimes about the sex? The answers to that research shocked me. I learned a good portion of acquaintance rapes are about the sex – which suggested to me that way too many people do not understand the definition of rape.
That conclusion led me to start researching rape culture. I’d never heard the term until I began working on this book, but the more research I did, the clearer it became that rape culture is not new. It’s something that’s always been lurking in the background – the reason why parents teach their daughters to always travel in groups, to never leave a drink unattended, to walk with keys between their fingers.
But what do boys learn? They learn not to throw like a girl, cry like a girl. They learn from a very young age that being a girl is less than being a boy. When they arrive at dating age, peers ask if they scored or got lucky, teaching boys that sex is a sport. And if all that wasn’t enough to raise my blood pressure, I began reading what politicians think of sexuality and became ill. Slapping on words to qualify rape? Suggesting that women should simply close their legs to avoid pregnancy? UGHHHH! The more research I did, the more I came to understand that rape culture is the systemic and insidious movement that cultivates, at the very least, disrespect for the female gender and its worst, misogyny.
I knew my book needed to address these topics from the perspectives of both the male and female lead characters. I want female readers to understand what boys are facing and I want male readers to understand the fear I believe all girls experience. And I want, more than anything, for both genders to end use of the S word, a word I believe was slapped on girls for daring to like sex.
I have to send sincerest thanks to the librarians at Sachem Public Library for helping me write a story that’s relevant.
Some girls say no. Some boys don’t listen.
When Grace meets Ian, she’s afraid. Afraid he’ll reject her like the rest of the school, like her own family. After she accuses Zac, the town golden boy, of rape, everyone turns against her. Ian wouldn’t be the first to call her a slut and a liar.
Except Ian doesn’t reject her. He’s the one person who looks past the taunts and the names and the tough-girl act to see the real Grace. He’s the one who gives her the courage to fight back.
He’s also Zac’s best friend.
Patty Blount works as a software technical writer by day and novelist by night. Dared by her 13-year-old son to try fiction, Patty wrote her first manuscript in an ice rink. A short version of her debut novel, Send, finished in the top ten of the Writer’s Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition.