Welcome to the 20th day of Christmahanakwanzika. Kelly's on vacation today, so I will be hosting the blog. Don't forget to check out my giveaway at the bottom.
Yes, that’s a shamelessly cute photo of a tiger cub waving at you. But I promise you it’s relevant as well as a way to grab your attention.
Thanks to Kelly, fearless blog leader, I’m taking over Read It In Houston today because I wrote the OTHERKIN trilogy, a YA paranormal series from KTeen. The third book in the series, OTHERSPHERE, will be out December 31, so they’ll all be available everywhere books are sold.
They’re about a girl with a back brace who shape-shifts into a tiger, and yes, they’re based on my own experience.
Allow me to explain.
The main character, Dez, is a teenage girl who wears a back brace. I know what she’s going through because I had to wear one for nearly three years, 23 hours a day when I was a teenager. It was a big bulky plastic thing that could be hidden under my clothes as long as I wore big dresses without waists or those oh so flattering jeans with elastic waistbands and a tunic over that. Here’s kind of what it looked like:
It was painful, hot, and profoundly uncomfortable. It warped my body and prevented me from bending. I made sure no one ever touched me because what if they felt hard plastic instead of girl? Not the greatest thing for a girl’s self esteem at an already difficult age.
It took me many years to really understand the effect the brace had on me, and then I knew that I had to write about it.
Meanwhile, I was busy playing Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends. Yes, I hereby confirm that I’m a geek.
One of the characters I played was a thief who could turn into a tiger. I loved playing her – maybe because she was very unlike me, a bit amoral, tough, and very confident about her body because her clothes were always getting shredded whenever she turned into a tiger. Shift back to human and she was naked – oh well. To her that was no big deal. I got to act out how would it feel to be that confident. It was wonderful. I also got to imagine how was to be a tiger.
Imagine you’re a beautiful striped creature weighing over 700 pounds that can move in complete silence, sprint up to 50 mph, kill a bear with your paws and crush bones with your jaws.
You live completely without fear and know how to hunt humans better than they can hunt you. Tigers have attacked helicopters; they've charged cars. They learn fast and will change tactics if the situation requires it. They know no master, and when challenged, will annihilate the threat if they can.
For startling proof, check out this brief video of a notorious tiger attack. Don’t worry, it’s not gory, but even in slow motion, the tigress comes out of nowhere and attacks a group of men on an elephant:
In case you’re wondering, the man lost two fingers but survived and was otherwise fine. The tiger tried to continue attacking, but the elephant stepped on her (!), pinning her until she could be tranquilized. She was later released unharmed.
But the fury, the power, the complete self-confidence and arrogance it took for that tiger to attack when it could have slunk away unseen…
Who wouldn’t want to know how it felt to be that?
But for me the tiger’s allure is about more being a bad ass. You see, tigers are never insecure. Wearing a back brace during my teenage years was a recipe for squashing down my feelings, for worrying that people would think I was a freak.
We all know how that feels in one way or another.
But a tiger doesn’t care what you think of it. A tiger doesn’t follow rules or repress its feelings.
A tiger follows its instincts without apology. If it hides, it does so because hiding fits the tiger’s agenda, not because it’s ashamed.
Because of all this, the tiger was the perfect animal for the girl with the back brace, for this self-doubting character Dez, to shift into. She had a lot to learn from the tiger.
We both still do.
So those two ideas collided in my head – what if I’d been able to shift into a tiger when I had the back brace? How would that have changed my self-image?
Would the sudden change in shape have lead to a change in perspective?Part of being a writer is having to constantly change your perspective. You need to step into the shoes of your characters, to fully understand them so that their words and their actions ring true. So in a way, writers are shape-shifters too. You put yourself inside the skin of all kinds of different people, and creatures, so you can tell their story.
Back brace. Tiger. Shape-shifter. In my own way, I’ve lived all three of these things. On the page I get to live them again, only in my own made-up world of shape-shifters, which also includes wolves, bears, raptors, and rats, and those who hunt them…
After all that self revelation, analogy, and metaphor, you should also know that these books are not a treatise on self esteem or some dry examination of body image. They’re full of romance and action – things like fiery helicopter crashes, life-threatening car chases, and kissing with blindfolds on.
Something for everyone, particularly if you’re a teenage girl, or if, like me, you’re a bit of a shape-shifter.
Before I go, I promised myself I’d do one more thing. All the research I did for my books has lead me to realize how few tigers are left in the wild. On hundred years ago there were over 100,000. Now there are less that 3,500, and they are in critical danger of disappearing altogether.
If, like me, you’re amazed and thrilled by these creatures and want to stop the illegal trade in their skins and other body parts, please go to http://tigertime.info/ to learn more and sign their petition asking the Chinese government to do more to stop the trade. Other worthy organizations saving big cats in the wild include Panthera.org and the World Wildlife Fund (wwf.org). Their sites can give you more information and ways to help.
Thanks for hanging out with me and letting me babble here on Read it in Houston. It’s been a joy and a privilege. Rowr!
About the Author
Nina Berry is a writer, redhead, and bodysurfer. She's the author of the OTHERKIN series from KTeen and the upcoming PAGAN JONES series from Harlequin Teen. She lives and works in Hollywood, pretending to lead the glamorous life. She blogs at ninaberry.com, or you can follow her on Twitter @Ninaberry.
One (1) paperback copy of all three books including an ARC of Othersphere.
Open to US/Can citizens
The 23 Days of Christmahanakwanzika