Interview with Tara L. Nicole, author of Dancing in the Rain
It says this book is based on a true story. Is it your story?
Could you tell us more about how the book parallels your life?
Yes, it is my story. Most of it is autobiographical and was written
while I was going through the events. It was like my journal, when
things got really hard I told them in the third person, thus
chronicling what I felt but distancing myself from it at the same time.
I did however then go back and dramatize the story and create/combine
characters in order to make the story more compelling and more
If it is based on your
experiences, what gave you the strength to stop cutting?
Myself. I am a very strong person, very stubborn. And so when I made
that promise to myself I kept it. For the most part. There were
relapses and I still fight it most days, but I have an amazing support
network of friends and family, and I have tried to establish healthier
coping mechanisms to take its place, like exercise or drinking hot coco.
What advice to have for
parents, teachers and others who suspect their child may be self
First and foremost don't panic. Self injury is a coping
mechanism, it does not fortell suicide or dramatic actions. Then
educate yourself and the child involved on self injury. Read books
(like mine), in order to give you both a common language in which to
discuss what is going on. A child may not know what they are doing is
self-injury, it might just be a habit, like biting their nails till
they bleed. It takes both sides gaining an awareness and the
right words to describe what the teen is feeling, or examples that they
can point to and say "it's like that". Then it requires
establishing a support network and new coping mechanisms to replace
Current educational philosophy is
do not talk about cutting, it just encourages students to try it. Do
you agree with this?
No. I understand the rational behind this. But the same argument could
be said of drugs, alcohol or any eating disorder. Cutting has become as
common as these other things, and so it is no longer something we can
shelter our youth from and hope they won't find out about. 1 in 10
teens have tried it at least once. Therefore most teens have either
tried it or know someone who have tried it. No one will turn to
self-injury from curiosity, it is a cry of desperation. Thus a healthy
teen won't start self-injury just because they learn it exists. We
aren't giving them ideas, we are just teaching them how to help and
The lack of support of any other
characters for each other (except for Chris' devotion to Drue) is
remarkable. Do you really think people are that removed from each other
at that age?
In part. The amount of isolation comes partly because I needed to
simplify the story and didn't want to involve too many characters. It
also comes from the idea that when you are depressed, even if people
are reaching out, you don't see it. Thus you feel more alone then you
probably are. However, I think there is also a dangerous amount of
self-involveness in any age, but intensified in teens.It is not
malicious, or intentional, but when you are a teen your own problems
are so all consuming it is rare that you find someone who also has the
energy to focus and help with someone else's issue. Thus people are apt
to believe you if you are "okay." It's easier to believe that. In
society as a whole, we move at such a fast pace, everyone gets caught
up in their own routine and forgets to notice the person they bump into
on the street. This is no ones fault, it is just the way life
goes. You tell them you are okay, they are going to believe you,
because it is easier and they have their own battles they are
If you could have one person read
your book who would it be and why?
Originally I wrote my book for those people who were there with me
through this personal battle. Because I am such a private person,
people saw only the outside reactions of my battle without knowing what
I was going through.
Originally, I began my story in hopes of explaining to these
people: to my high school boyfriend how important he was to me, or to
my college boyfriend why I kept freaking out on him, or to my parents
to tell them there wasn't anything they could have done anyway. To
attempt to explain what was going on in my head for all those years
that i didn't talk to anyone. However, now, I'd like someone with
an influence to read it. I want my story to be an example of the
struggle that teenagers everywhere are going through. i want it to
prompt someone to DO something about this. To put heath classes back in
the Junior Highs, to give teens coping mechanism so life doesn't have
to be so hard at 15. I want people to acknowledge that this has become
a normal part of growing up, and it shouldn't be.
What process did you use for
writing the book?
My best friend in High School and I always discussed how it would be
fun to write about our high school experience from our three different
points of view. Mine, Roger's and Chris'. We experienced the same
events, but so differently. That's what the book started as, then I got
depressed. There were days I could do nothing but write. So I would
write. It was how I got all the stuff out of my head, how I made the
joys real, and let go of the pains. The book started as just a lot of
little excepts on scraps of paper that were written at church, or
durning class, or at 3am when I couldn't sleep. Then I started
chronically them, then I started reading them, and I discovered there
was a story, not the one I had originally set out to write, but a story
all the same. So I picked and chose excerpts, added some fiction and
made a novel.
What, if any, hardships did you
run into getting this book published?
Publishing this novel was always something in the back of my head, but
that I never quite took seriously. So when I started sending excepts to
small publishers it was on a whim. When the first people I sent it to,
asked for the whole manuscript and then sent me a contract I was
stunned. I was abroad at the time, so they were in the UK. I later got
an offer from an American publisher as well, but I had already agreed
to go with Pneuma Springs. I have loved working with the editors
because they gave me a tremendous amount of control in the editing and
appearance of my book. I got to approve everything from edits, to cover
design, to price. However, as I went into the whole process blind, I
had no idea the amount of work that I would have to put in myself. I
have since established my own business to distribute the book in the
states and am promoting myself through book talks, lectures, and
working hard to get my book up online and in bookstores. This is a
process that is both enjoyable and time consuming. At times it is also
What words of advice do you have
for new writers?
Believe in what you are writing. If you don't, no one else will.
It took me a long time until I was convinced this book deserved
publication, until I found the angle and the reason that this story
needed to be told. I am now convincing people every day why they need
to read it, or put it in their stores. It's a very good thing that I
believe every word I say. Otherwise this book would go no where. So
believe in yourself, believe in your writing, and believe in the story
and message you are telling. If you believe in it, other people will
You are working on another book.
What is this one about?
I had planned to write fiction for my next novel. But then the last
year and half took me by surprise and presented me with a story that I
don't need to use much fiction to tell. Like this last one which takes
one of the best parts of being 15: falling in love for the first time,
and also one of the hardest; depression. In this new story, I am also
taking on one of the best parts of college: the opportunity to live and
work abroad for a year, and one of the worst: the growing number of
date rapes. Like my campaign for self-injury I see date rape as a huge
problem in the states that is as of yet still under-acknowledged. I
want to help bring awareness to this issue, while also telling about
this incredible, life altering experience of falling in love with
another country and culture.
What are your future plans?
I am going to work on my next book (right now with the working title:
Someone Else's life) and find a job. I graduate college in two months
with a degree in Economics and Business and so hope to move to Ireland
or the UK and work in the Banking/Finance sector. I also plan to
continue to promote my book and educate on self-injury as much as
possible. And from there? I plan to be open to whatever life has in
store for me.