Monday, March 11, 2013

Researching A Novel: How Far Do You Go? by Kim Purcell + Giveaway



TRAFFICKING:
traf-fic-king
Deal or trade in something illegal
Title: Trafficked
Author: Kim Purcell
Pub. Date: February 16, 2012
Pages: 352
Find it: Amazon | Goodreads B&N
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
A 17-year-old Moldovan girl whose parents have been killed is brought to the United States to work as a slave for a family in Los Angeles. Hannah believes she’s being brought from Moldova to Los Angeles to become a nanny for a Russian family. But her American dream quickly spirals into a nightmare.

The Platonovs force Hannah to work sixteen-hour days, won’t let her leave the house, and seem to have a lot of secrets—from Hannah and from each other.

Stranded in a foreign land with false documents, no money, and nobody who can help her, Hannah must find a way to save herself from her new status as a modern-day slave or risk losing the one thing she has left: her life.



You can read the stats about human trafficking and they’re pretty shocking. Over a million slaves are in America today. At least 100 000 American kids are trafficked as slaves across America. 15 000-17 000 foreigners are trafficked into America each year to be used as America’s modern-day slaves in homes, in brothels, in sweatshops. But this doesn’t tell the story, not really. It’s hard to connect with a number. When I decided I wanted to write Trafficked, I knew I had to find a way to get inside the head of a modern-day slave in America, without actually getting trafficked myself.

For this, I decided I had to travel to a country that has one of the worst trafficking problems in the world - Moldova. I needed to talk to girls and women from that country, as well as girls and women in America. I needed to speak with anti-trafficking nonprofits both in America and in Moldova, learn from the people who help the victims of this crime. I had to go where my girl would go.

I traveled into Moldova via Romania because this is cheaper and therefore would be a likely travel route if Hannah were coming to America. Fortunately, my cousin was living there so I could stay with her. I flew into Bucharest, took a taxi to the bus depot and took the bus to Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova. At the border between Romania and Moldova, they made everyone get off the bus and go into this huge warehouse, with a small bulletproof glass room in the center. There was one light on inside this little glass room, but no one inside, and the rest of the cavernous warehouse was dark. There were no windows, no chairs, nowhere to sit. We all had to stand or lean against the walls, for hours, in the middle of the night.

After the first hour, a young, beautiful woman with long dark hair and fur vest approached me. She showed me pictures of her boyfriend’s hotel, tried to convince me to come there with her. Her name was Ina and she appears in the book. I told her no thanks. I wanted to see Hannah’s world through her eyes, but going to that hotel sounded like a bad idea. I told Ina I was meeting my cousin in Chisinau and said I wouldn’t have time to go. She shrugged and said it was my choice, as if it were my loss. I asked her why we were waiting for so long. She said the immigration officials were waiting until they got a big enough bribe from the bus driver. Finally, after three hours, the immigration officials showed up and let us through.

The bus arrived in Chisinau in the middle of the night on a random road, nowhere near the bus depot. There were no phones, no way for me to call my cousin. On top of that, several large men in black trench coats were standing next to the bus. One of them asked me if I wanted a ride. I said no. Again, Ina tried to get me to come with her. Now, an older man was standing next to her in a fur coat. I recognized him from the border, and thought it strange she hadn’t talked to him there. Again I refused. They left. I grabbed my backpack and ran for a nearby hotel sign and waited there until morning.

I had traveled all over the world, but I never felt more frightened than when I was in Moldova. Many people have said the main character, Hannah, feels so real that she must be based on one actual modern-day slave. However, the reality is that she’s a mix of many different girls and women I interviewed for the book both in Moldova and America, as well as many of the foreign students I taught over the years.

Hannah’s memories do come from my observations in Moldova. For example, in Moldova, if you want to pay for the bus, you sit down and people pass the money up and the driver sends you the money back. Despite the poverty in this country, you always get back the correct change. Naturally, if you took the bus in America and you tried to figure out what the change machine was all about, you might be confused. I used this when Hannah has to take the bus in Los Angeles. 

Interviewing people wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, it was tough to get them to share difficult memories. I sat with one Moldovan woman in her apartment in New York City, surrounded by about fifty machetes and knives that hung on the walls, and we talked for two hours. When I called with some follow-up questions, she didn’t answer my calls at first and finally emailed to say she didn’t want to share any more. When I asked her why, she said her boyfriend, the owner of the machetes, was back in town. I didn’t argue.

I could have made the story up entirely, but it feels real because it contains a lot of real details, and that’s the trick to researching a novel. You don’t have to experience everything yourself, but the details make it feel like you could have. And they give the reader the feeling that they are right there, holding your character’s hand. 



Kim Purcell is a journalist, teacher and novelist.


When she’s not writing or teaching writing workshops, she loves doing yoga, going for long runs with her dog, playing board games with family, and dancing in empty elevators to cheesy elevator music.


My bio, in many ways, is about never giving up. And doing what you love because you love it and that alone is a great reward.
                                                                                        
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