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The Bully Inside by Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellThe jolt brought me back to what was left of my senses. What was I doing? No way I would become a puddle on the sidewalk. One thing life taught me was never be led by emotions. Emotions were bullies. They frighten, betray, and ultimately destroy. I’d never backed down from a bully in my life. I wasn’t about to start now. —Bianca Ravenwood, Lineage

Bianca, the strong, cynical, sixteen-year-old main character of my Redbend High series doesn’t show emotion. A survivor of severe childhood trauma, she would sooner face Goliath himself than express what she’s feeling inside.

Over the course of two years, Bianca slowly learns to trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and accept encouragement from her two best friends. In amazement, she watches as God renovates her entire life, starting with her alcoholic father, who trades his usual stool at the local bar for the church piano bench.

But things are about to change. When an endearing stranger walks into Bianca’s life, she’s suddenly aware of the one thing she’s missing. A real connection. Someone with common interests, a shared sense of humor, and an independent spirit so like her own. A person who truly understands her. A soul mate. She soon learns she and this stranger share not only have the exact same hair color, but also the same passion for old movies and Broadway theater, and are prone to say the exact same words at the exact same time. It’s as if they’re connected at the brain. Just the way Satan likes it.

Deep down, everyone craves relationship. The emotional need for acceptance can make us overly concerned with what other people think. And if we’re not careful, soon we’re not only tiptoeing over every word we say, we’re compromising what we believe in an effort to belong. We feel backed into a corner, afraid to stand up for ourselves because we might be looked down upon, laughed at or—worst of all—excluded. We fear rejection like a small, pale, fourth-grade boy fears the school bully. But it’s our own insecurity that turns us upside down and shakes our senses loose.

Insecurity is a hard thing for Bianca to own up to. In order to keep up her tough persona, she’s always been more intimidator than intimidatee. In the following Lineage excerpt, she doesn’t even recognize intimidation when she’s faced with it:

I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I was feeling. The new sensation was confusing. Not quite anger, not quite embarrassment. Somehow a mixture of both, with a dose of fear thrown in. I lifted my eyes to Chase’s hard glare, and it came to me.

Intimidation.

So this was what it felt like to be on the receiving end. I didn’t like it one bit.

Satan uses the need to belong as a cruel intimidation tactic— to twist us into the position of man pleaser instead of God pleaser. In Bianca’s case, the stranger used Bianca’s desire to belong as a tool to gain her trust, soften her up, and get what he really wanted. Even a person as streetwise and shrewd as Bianca can be blinded by the longing for connection.

Fortunately for Bianca, she has a discerning father and concerned friends who love her too much to lose her. Their words of wisdom and godly counsel continuously ring through her heart and mind—even when she doesn’t want them to. It is only when Bianca stops leaning to her own understanding and acknowledges God’s will that she can face—and defeat—her long-hidden fear of rejection.

Intimidation is just a big, stupid giant waiting for a rock to hit it in the forehead. I plan to keep these well-expressed words of Bianca Ravenwood in mind. No earthly relationship is worth jeopardizing the lineage we have in Christ Jesus.

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)About Lineage:

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father and the wicked schemes of another–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

About the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Author Interview: Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellToday’s guest is Anna Marie Kittrell.  Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Anna, welcome back to Inner Source. We are now at book three in the Redbend High series. I’ve followed Molly, Lenni, and Bianca through some rather exciting adventures, and I’ve truly enjoyed the novels. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hi, Fay. Thank you so much for having me back. I love it here!

Like Molly, Lenni, and Bianca, I also live in a small Oklahoma town. Redbend is loosely based on my hometown of Anadarko, where my husband of twenty-five years and I attended school, started dating, married, and established our home. Our son graduated from Anadarko High School in 2010, and he and his wife live close to where I work. Nine months ago, they gave us a beautiful little grandson who straightaway captured our hearts—and I get to see him almost every day! Our daughter will graduate from Anadarko High School in May.

I have worked as secretary for Anadarko Middle School for going on fourteen years, and the time has absolutely flown by. With over four hundred pre-teens and teenagers forever needing Band-Aids, icepacks, and telephone usage, there is never a dull moment. Drama is prevalent, to say the least. When I’m not working, I’m writing—or, more honestly, trying to find the time to write. Although I love my job, my dream is to one day write full time.

So, I happen to know the inside scoop. Bianca is played by none other than your own daughter—at least on the cover. Would she mind if you tell us how that came about?

Yes, my daughter is the cover model for Lineage—making her a bit of a small-town celebrity. Miz (her nickname) and Bianca share many similarities, both in physical appearance and personality. They each have a style that sets them apart from the crowd, though neither of them have a clothing allowance to speak of. Miz loves costumes and wigs, and saves up money from birthdays, Christmas, and her part-time job in the school cafeteria to buy them. She wears her manifestations to school regularly, without a second thought to what her classmates might think. (Before the first day of school her freshman year, she shaved a widow’s peak into her hairline!)

I once asked Miz if she would dress like Bianca so that I could post her picture to Facebook, as an advertisement for Witcha’be. She put on her long red wig and corset-style top and snapped a photo. I later showed Prism’s editor-in-chief (and cover artist) Joan Alley, who agreed Miz looked a lot like my description of Bianca. When the time came to design a cover for Lineage, Joan surprised me by asking if Miz would be interested in posing for the cover, and if so, could we e-mail her a few shots. I think I was more excited than Miz! She got into her Bianca costume, set up a tripod in the spare bedroom, took six photos of herself, and I e-mailed them to Joan. Joan narrowed it down to two poses, and Miz and I picked the one that appears on Lineage. I couldn’t be more pleased. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous—and the perfect depiction of Bianca.

I have the book cover as my screen saver in the school office. A teacher I work with made the comment that Lineage was the perfect book for my daughter to appear on—because she is my lineage. I hadn’t even thought of that! Of course, I dedicated the book to my daughter, Miz.

The one thing that I have to admit to when reading the story is that times have changed since I’ve been a teenager, but certain things remain the same. Girls still giggle. They still flirt and have fun. You were very careful to detail some of the girls’ clothing in the story, and I was surprised that certain styles have returned. I can remember my mother forbidding me to wear some of the clothes that Bianca wore. In your experience as a school employee, what would you say to someone like my mother when it comes to what kids might wear?

Well, my daughter and her outlandish style pretty much changed my opinion on “appropriate” attire. I don’t allow her to wear clothing I feel is provocative or too short in length, but I do let her express herself through her outfits, hairstyles, and makeup—on the condition that she keeps her grades up (she’s a straight A student) and treats other people with respect. She isn’t allowed to have body piercings, except in her earlobes (although, she does have a fake lip ring), and is not permitted to get tattoos. I’m confident she will cross both of these boundaries once she’s out of our house and on her own. I don’t think she’ll ever move too far away, though, because her dad is her colorist—under those wigs her short hair is bright blue on one side, pink on the other.

The middle school where I work has a very strict dress code your mother would definitely approve of. The school administrators do not allow students’ hair to be dyed unnatural colors, piercings anywhere except the earlobes, or the wearing of tank tops or sagging pants. Shorts are measured with index cards to check for the appropriate five inch inseam length, and skirts cannot be more than three inches above the knee. Leggings must be worn with long tunics. No bellybuttons or cleavage can be visible. Students who violate the dress code must call home for appropriate clothing or, in some cases, visit the counselor’s office for a big, roomy t-shirt. Needless to say, Bianca would never make it at Anadarko Middle School. And my daughter could not wait to get out of my building and into the high school, where the dress code is much more relaxed.

Working at the school has made me realize there are many, many more disturbing behaviors to worry about than unconventional wardrobe choices. I suppose I would share with your mother that bizarre clothing and hairstyles used to make me wonder where in the world the parents were when the child left the house. But then I went and had one of those children. Now I enjoy watching my daughter walk downstairs in the mornings. It’s fun to see who she’s decided to be each day.

I love your answer. It is perfect. I have learned that what’s on the inside (heart, soul, and mind) is so much more important than the outside—and I have one of those wonderful kids, too. He’s older, but he definitely doesn’t think like his mother.

Your experience as a school secretary shows in these novels. You take me back to a time when I used to act and cut up in the same way with my friends. And music—I was very particular about my favorite bands and musicians. I have to laugh at the girls’ obsession with their favorite singer. Besides your background in the public school system, did you pull on anything from your teen years to create these teenagers?

I love the sense of humor of our middle school kids. I truly believe if you work around kids long enough, you start to behave like them, at least a little bit. My coworkers and I are living proof of that, and it makes going to work each day a total blast.

People often say things to me like, “I bet you find a lot of book-writing material at the school.” But I really don’t gather as many story ideas at school as one might think. While all of my years spent in the school office have made it easy for me to remain in a “young” state of mind, the emotions and experiences I draw on when writing are almost always from my own adolescence.

Pretty much everything is a huge deal to teenagers—which, from the standpoint of a YA author, is terrific! When writing young adult stories, I don’t have to dial down the emotion as I do for my adult novels. Teens are dramatic—oftentimes melodramatic—by nature, which makes them very fun to write. I remember the euphoria and agony of those adolescent years well—sometimes too well. I recall everything as if it happened yesterday, which is both a blessing and a curse. When I look in the mirror, I find the jarring reality that my teen years are forever behind me. Writing about young people lets me recapture a part of my youth that is gone. Long, long, gone.

I have always felt that the best YA novels transcend the age group. They bring back memories for the older reader, and they let us know that not much has really changed. You do that well, and I want to know what’s up next for you? Any other books in the Redbend series, or are you delving into something new?

Storm Season, the final book in the Redbend series, is scheduled for release in the spring. Although I’m very excited about this story, letting my Redbend girls graduate from high school and go out into the world on their own is very bittersweet. I’m going to miss them.

I’ll share the blurb with you:

Sometimes the shelter is more dangerous than the storm.

A courageous stranger risks his life to save Molly, Lenni, and Bianca from a deadly tornado, leaving the girls thunderstruck. As his injuries heal, the hero claims the girls’ hearts while reclaiming his strength. Is their friendship strong enough to withstand the brutal winds of jealousy, heartache, and betrayal? Or will graduation from Redbend High really mean good-bye forever?

Anna, that sounds like a wonderful story, and of course, I need to have you back so I can interview all the girls together. Maybe a little therapy session for their emotions. *Smiling*

Thank you, Fay, for once again asking me to visit Inner Source. As always, the experience is my extreme pleasure.

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)About Lineage:

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father and the wicked schemes of another–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

Character Interview: Bianca Ravenwood

ebook_lineage copy (427x640)Today’s special guest is Bianca Ravenwood, the heroine of Lineage, the third novel in the Redbend High series by talented author, Anna Marie Kittrell.

Bianca, it is so nice to meet you. I’ve met your friends, Molly and Lenni. Would you mind telling Inner Source readers a little bit about yourself: where you go to school, where you live, what your aspirations are for the future?

Hi. After meeting Lenni, I’m surprised you don’t know everything about me, including what I had for breakfast! She tends to get excited and talk too much. Molly’s a little more stable—I mean calm. They are both phenomenal friends, and I wouldn’t trade either of them for the world.

I am a senior at a small-town Oklahoma school called Redbend High. I’ve lived in Redbend my entire life. My dad and I have a house in an area the locals refer to as Old Town—the not so nice part of Redbend. Our place is pretty run down, but my dad has recently started doing repairs, beginning with our rickety old porch. It looks so much better now, but it was really sad when he tore down the wheelchair ramp he’d built for my mom ten years ago. He’d hoped she’d return home someday. She never did.

As far as aspirations go, I love the theater, and just recently found out it’s in my blood—literally. My biological father studied theater in college and was quite renown in his role as Papa Brasswell in the musical, Amie. But that’s another story…Anyway, I plan to enroll in a dramatic arts college following graduation, I’m just not sure exactly where. I attended Wild Rose Mountain’s summer arts camp a few weeks ago, and it was incredible. Without a doubt, I know acting is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Your story brings in quite a surprise for you. I’m not going to spoil it for the reader, but I’d really like to know where you gained your strength to deal with these two back-to-back changes in your life?

God. And the support of my father and two best friends. But since God is the one who put those incredible people in my life in the first place, I’ll give Him all the credit. My strength comes from God. Period.

You have quite a sarcastic wit. You remind me of a character who appears in three of my books, and like you, she’s going to get a book of her own. Tell me how you came by your sense of humor.

Me, sarcastic? What gave you that idea? My cynicism—at least that’s what the teachers call it—started out as a coping mechanism. When I was six, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my two-year-old brother, Sam, unaware he was allergic to peanuts. The sandwich killed him. My mother was so distraught over Sam’s death she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pain meds, but failed. Instead, she ended up in Sugar Creek Manor asylum with severe brain damage. My father used alcohol to ease his pain over the situation, leaving me to survive the tragedy on my own. I had no choice but to be tough. Sarcasm, cynicism, and humor were my mask, my sword, and my shield. I wanted to protect my vulnerability. Having a sharp tongue kept others from getting too close. Except for Lenni. She’s always been stuck right to my side. I couldn’t peel her off if I tried—and believe me, I’ve tried.

Part of your story involves a betrayal by someone who should have loved and protected you. If you got the chance to talk to him today, what would you say to him?

Oddly enough, I’d thank him. Without him, I would have never met my sister, Cassie. I would have also missed the opportunity to witness my dad’s unbelievable strength. The ordeal taught me that family has nothing to do with blood relation, and that things are not always as they seem. I’d heard that old saying all my life, and even experienced it first hand in my witcha’be days, but never fully realized how true it could be. Oh, and I’d tell him that, fortunately for him, God loves and forgives jerks all the time. And I’d remind him how lucky he is that I no longer hold grudges.

I’m smiling. I love the way you “cope” with things. You’ve mentioned the tragedies in your young life, and your readers, and even readers of this blog, know that you lived in a fantasy world because you couldn’t live with the self-blame. Bianca, what would you tell another teen if you knew they held some guilt in their heart over events that were truly beyond their knowledge to control?

I would tell her never to be intimidated by anyone—including herself. God forgives all, but to be truly free, I believe we must forgive ourselves, too. If we don’t honestly forgive ourselves, Satan uses our feelings of guilt to intimidate and torment us. That goes for sins we knowingly committed, as well as events we had no control over. Trust me, it is so much easier to forgive yourself and ask God to forgive you than it is to run and hide from yourself and God. Satan would have you believe otherwise, but he’s a liar (John 8: 44). Liars gonna lie and haters gonna hate. So what? That doesn’t change God’s power. Or his ability to forgive.

Let it all go.

Excellent advice. I’m doubly glad I met you today, Bianca, and I look forward to talking with your author, Anna Marie Kittrell, again on Wednesday.

More about Lineage:

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father and the wicked schemes of another–no way to escape.

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

Anna Marie KittrellAbout the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.