Writing a story, of any length, can be scary. It can be particularly scary when the subject matter may be considered “dark” or “sensitive.” Questions arise: “Will people appreciate what I am trying to say?” and “Will I accurately portray the real world through my fictional characters?” and, of course, the one all authors ask themselves: “Will people like it?”
I had all of these questions, and more running through my mind as I wrote The Perilous Road to Her. The story is set within the world of human trafficking and follows Olivia in her search for her missing sister, as she becomes a victim herself.
I cannot recall exactly how human trafficking came into play, however, I knew that was the world in which the story would take place. Honestly, I was scared to write it. However, I was passionate about the story and hoped my fictional story would bring awareness to a prevalent issue. Human trafficking doesn’t just occur “somewhere else.” It occurs in all of our backyards, and I hope the more we read and hear about it, the more likely we are to recognize and help prevent it.
From the outset, I knew that I did not want to glamourize or hide what happens to people—in this case women—who are trafficked.
Real World Portrayal and Sensitivity
As much as I wanted my fictional account to stay true to the real world of human trafficking, I did stray from how people usually become victims. During my research phase, I learned that the number one human trafficking myth is that people are kidnapped and forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. I acknowledge that myth in my book, however to keep the story moving at a rapid pace, and to get characters from Point A to Point B, I used that myth as a transportation vehicle. To balance that, I tried hard to give all of the women Olivia meets in Los Angeles a backstory which represents actual victim experiences I had read or heard.
I also worked hard to make some of the “bad guys” be represented as humans with their own problems. Characters you love to hate and hate to love. I have not met or read the stories of traffickers, thus, these characters are my own creation. However, criminals are humans and I can only imagine what could be going through their heads.
Setting my story in a devastating world meant that dreadful experiences would occur. I wanted to ensure I was sensitive when I articulated the violence that the characters experienced. For me, removing that aspect of the seedy underbelly of human trafficking would not do the subject matter justice. On the flip side, I also had the question in my mind about how the story would be received by actual victims or those who worked closely with them. A story like this had the potential to be a trigger and affect people’s mental health. As such, I advised readers about the nature of the story in a Letter From The Author at the start of the book. Additionally, I included Human Trafficking Resources at the back to support readers if they found that they wanted to learn more or needed help.
The good news is that I have received amazing feedback on my ability to portray a gruesome world with sensitivity. In particular, someone who works with victims of sexual exploitation said, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to read it, as a significant part of my job has been…to develop programs for children who are being sexually exploited. Your book was real for me for sure. It was a great read. I will be recommending it to my colleagues.”
Dark Subject Matter
Human trafficking is only starting to become a talked about social issue, and, often, when I describe my book, a common reaction has been: “Wow, that’s dark!” It could be considered that; It is not a light-hearted read, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I was talking to W. Alexander about guest blogging, I loved that he defined ‘dark’ as ‘truth’. It is very relatable. People can shy away from topics because they are hard, and it can be easier to call them dark, rather than truth, or an aspect thereof. I believe that it is in the dark that we can really start to understand the true nature of our world and its people.
The story is not for everyone and I respect that. There are books out there that aren’t for me. In the end, I wanted to create a great story that people couldn’t put down, while bringing awareness to a social issue, and maybe giving a voice to those who may not be ready to speak their truth yet.
Based on the feedback I have received, I believe I have done just that. Which means: bucket list item number one for writing is complete!
What’s Next for N.L. Blandford?
The Perilous Road To Her was released on May 4, 2021, and with that I am in full swing to get the word out. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in a riveting story that can’t be put down please check it out on Amazon! Part of a book club? Contact me via my website if you are interested in a virtual Q&A, after the group has finished reading the book.
Future writing projects for me will continue to be fictional accounts of real issues. I have many ideas that include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prejudice/judgement and the equity of persons.
As I continue to write, whether it be in Olivia’s world or not, I want to create compelling stories that pull readers in. I hope by doing so those same readers, whether they realize it or not, learn about a topic they may not necessarily explore outside a fictional world.
N.L. Blandford’s poetry was first published when she was thirteen, and, recently, her drabble titled “Love of a Lifetime” won the Arlene Duane Hemingway Unconditional Love Drabble Challenge. She loves to travel and has enjoyed exploring Canada, however her favourite spot is a tie between Hawaii and Jersey, Channel Islands. N.L. Blandford resides in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she has built a life of dream exploration with her husband, mild mannered dog, Watson, and stubborn but lovable cat, Sebastian.