Guest Post/Virtual Tour with Giveaway ~ Survivor’s Dawn by Ashley Warren

Flinch Not: Digging Deep to Research a Tough Subject

On a sunny day in early 2010, I sat in my parked car, late for an appointment, stunned by an NPR story about sexual predators. I had no idea such criminals roamed freely on university campuses.

Since then, I’ve paid close attention to the issue. It never goes away, and by all accounts the crime is pervasive at every college. As I heard story after story, I began to wonder if I could write a novel about victims whose lives were brought together by a common assailant.

To write a credible story, I had much to learn. Readers demand plausibility and accurate details, and this was all fresh territory for me.

One of the first topics I explored was the rape kit exam, a four-hour procedure described by victims as a nightmare. Next, I read of the aftereffects of medication offered to victims to reduce the risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. To flesh out the story, I explored many minor subjects: the range of good LSAT scores, chastity pledges, low alcohol cocktails, and the charges filed against Roman Polanski in 1977.

To make the character of Lauren Le’s mother credible, I researched the patterns of Vietnamese immigration in the 1980s and 1990s. To describe one harrowing scene, I learned about the physical attributes of scalding burns.

My hours of exploration turned into days, and then the days stretched into weeks. I read books on the subject. Two of the best were We Believe You by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino, and Missoula by Jon Krakauer.

We Believe You related the first hand account of many different survivors—life before the attack, the attack itself, and the long painful road that followed. Their stories were heartbreaking but also inspiring. I came to see the survivors as heroes. Many of them went on to become patriots in the fight to create a safer world for future students.

As I dove deeper, I learned of the symptoms of victims: stress, guilt, shame, sleeping disorders, eating disorders, anger, depression, flashbacks, and feelings of powerlessness. I found this quote on the website of the Rape Treatment Center at UCLA:

"Afterwards, I was too ashamed and confused to tell anyone what had happened. I tried to forget about it. But, it was eating away at me. I withdrew from my friends. I couldn't concentrate. My grades fell. I started to drop classes. I had no self-confidence. Eventually I dropped out of college and returned home . . .”

It surprised me to learn that some victims become sexually promiscuous after their assault. Psychologists believe they do this in an attempt to take control of their feelings of abuse. In Survivors’ Dawn, I wove this behavioral pattern into Lauren’s character change arc.

As I dug deeper, I kept encountering the same chilling statistic: approximately one in five undergraduate women has been the victim of attempted or completed sexual violence during college. The source, I learned, was a 2012 study conducted by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

In his book Missoula, Krakauer references the clinical psychologist David Lisak several times. This quote is from Missoula:

“What Lisak found was that students who commit rape on a college campus are pretty much like those rapists in prison. In both groups, many are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes.

“‘It's quite well-known amongst college administrators that first-year students, freshman women, are particularly at risk for sexual assault,’ Lisak says. ‘The predators on campus know that women who are new to campus, they are younger, they're less experienced. They probably have less experience with alcohol, they want to be accepted. They will probably take more risks because they want to be accepted. So for all these reasons, the predators will look particularly for those women.’”

To prepare to write a hearing scene, I researched university processes for adjudicating complaints. The rules and procedures varied widely from school to school, so I felt comfortable designing my own. In the Survivors’ Dawn hearing, Colin Jordan is not allowed to question his accusers directly, but he can channel questions to them via the review board of faculty members.

To craft the climactic pivot in the story, I spent hours researching the legality of clandestine recordings of conversations. Different states have different rules. Some states allow such recordings with the consent of one party; others require the consent of both parties. I went back on forth on this issue, doubting my plot twist, but then I found a case where a serial rapist was convicted largely due to a phone conversation recorded by one of his victims.

Researching this novel was often heartbreaking, at times infuriating, and occasionally inspiring. When I started writing the first draft, I had an enormous cache of facts, data, and true stories. Although my first duty to the reader was to write an engaging story, I forced myself to stay within the confines of what really happens on college campuses.

Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers are fictitious characters, but when you read Survivors’ Dawn, you will walk with them—you will feel their fear, despair, anger, disgust, purpose, redemption, and hope.

Thank you for having me. Book bloggers make the world a better place!

File Size: 512 KB
Print Length: 316 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Chaparral Press, LLC. 
Publication Date: September 3, 2017
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction / New Adult Fiction
ASIN: B075CGGWTS
Buy: Kindle

survivors-dawn

A heroic story of three college women’s fight for justice

At first glance, Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers have little in common: a churchgoing virgin, a party girl, and a resident advisor. But they all have their own dreams, dreams that can be shattered in a single night.

When freshman Brooke Flanagan first arrives at the university, she’s excited to escape her sheltered life in a Southern town. Lauren Le, a scholarship student, likes to have a good time, but she never disappoints her hardworking, single mom. Nikki Towers always goes her own way. Confident, poised, and wealthy, Nikki’s biggest problem is what to do with her future.

Into these girls’ lives walks Colin Jordan. Colin is the son of a private equity titan, captain of his club basketball team, and a brilliant pre-law student. He is also a sexual predator.

Survivors’ Dawn relates a journey of heroes: the strength, courage, and determination of the victims as they fight to survive; the obstacles they face in their pursuit of justice; and finally, with its conclusion, hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

A contemporary novel, Survivor’s Dawn wrestles with issues of privilege, sexual assault, and the responsibility of academic institutions to protect their students.

Ashley Warren is giving away a FREE Kindle copy of SURVIVORS’ DREAM!

Terms & Conditions:

By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.

One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.

This giveaway ends midnight March 30.

Winner will be contacted via email on March 31.

Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

The unending accounts of sexual assault on college campuses compelled me to write Survivors’ Dawn.

My goal in writing the novel was NOT to focus on the act itself, but instead, to write of the victim’s journey, to tell a story about the strength, courage, and determination of survivors, to describe the difficulties they face in their pursuit of justice, and finally, to offer hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

As Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” implies, non-victims can never truly know how it feels to be assaulted, but we can try to empathize, and we can try to help. Awareness is key to reducing the incidence of sexual assault on campus. Please do your part by taking the It’s On Us pledge and contributing to organizations that are fighting on the front lines.

Thank you to readers who give me encouragement. It means so much to me. Word of mouth is an incredible thing, so thank you also for telling your friends about Survivors’ Dawn.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads 

Excerpt ~ 

A heroic story of three college women’s fight for justice

At first glance, Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers have little in common: a churchgoing virgin, a party girl, and a resident advisor. But they all have their own dreams, dreams that can be shattered in a single night.

When freshman Brooke Flanagan first arrives at the university, she’s excited to escape her sheltered life in a Southern town. Lauren Le, a scholarship student, likes to have a good time, but she never disappoints her hardworking, single mom. Nikki Towers always goes her own way. Confident, poised, and wealthy, Nikki’s biggest problem is what to do with her future.

Into these girls’ lives walks Colin Jordan. Colin is the son of a private equity titan, captain of his club basketball team, and a brilliant pre-law student. He is also a sexual predator.

Survivors’ Dawn relates a journey of heroes: the strength, courage, and determination of the victims as they fight to survive; the obstacles they face in their pursuit of justice; and finally, with its conclusion, hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

A contemporary novel, Survivor’s Dawn wrestles with issues of privilege, sexual assault, and the responsibility of academic institutions to protect their students.

Book Excerpt:

LAUREN LE BEFORE:

At eleven thirty Lauren Le stood with her new friends at the Homestead, a lively bar in the Triangle. Everyone talked at once, shouting to be heard above the music. The Homestead had space for a couple hundred people, with a large square bar in the middle, dozens of stand-up tables, and two dance floors. The constant beat and the bass notes coursed through Lauren’s veins.

She took a slug of the vodka soda.

Pace yourself, Lauren.

It had taken her a month to get comfortable on campus. She had grown up in Irving, Texas, outside of Dallas, and had never traveled this far to the east before starting school here. Some of her high school friends had gone to college, but none as far away as Lauren. They fell short when it came to grades and test scores and ambition.

Lauren was the result of a short-lived and reckless affair between a Vietnamese immigrant, Kim Le, who worked in a nail salon, and a tall Texan who lit out for the oil rigs as soon as Kim missed her first period. Kim had never heard from him again, and she seldom mentioned him to Lauren. As Lauren grew older she became curious and would sometimes ask about her father.

“I was stupid,” Kim had said. “I tried for a big dream with a big white man. But he was no good.”

When Lauren pressed for more information, Kim would grow adamant.

“You forget about him. You need to study.”

If Kim wasn’t working at the salon, a short distance from their apartment, she was doing piecework for a local tailor. Kim never paid Lauren an allowance, but she let her work a part-time job so long as she kept her grades near perfect.

With a tired mother and an absent father, Lauren was forced to learn how to have a good time on her own, and at that she had excelled. As a senior with a full figure, a fun nature—her hobbies were cosplay, online gaming, and organizing flash mobs—and a curious mind about partying and sex, Lauren had always attracted guys.

She had drunk one cocktail at the Italian restaurant and started with a shot of tequila at the Homestead. When they had first arrived, the girls danced as a group for nearly an hour, not allowing the dearth of boys to deter them from getting the party started.

Lauren took a break, her head buzzing slightly from the alcohol and the dancing. Cool air from the duct above her whisked away the perspiration.

G-d, college is fun.

The bar began to fill, and boys drifted by their group in ones and twos. A sophomore from New Jersey bought her another drink. He was her height, with red hair, and talked fast in a northern accent. He was almost cute, except for a big pimple and his lack of coordination. They tried dancing but couldn’t make it work. Afterward, he told her his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Snore.

Lauren spied one of the resident advisors from Roxbury Hall, Nikki Towers, watching her from the other side of the bar. The girls had approached Nikki when they first entered the Homestead, nervous because they had used fake IDs to get past the bouncer. They needn’t have worried. Nikki’s nickname was Cool RA. She had a reputation for doing her own thing in her own way and never traveling in a crowd. Cool RA had wished them a good time but advised them not to get wasted. (“I’m your RA, not your babysitter.”) Nevertheless, when Lauren caught Nikki’s eye, she could tell Cool RA was not impressed with the New Jersey kid.

“So…,” he said, “do you want to come over to the frat house and listen to music? I’ve got some killer weed.”

“Oh…well…like…”

His eyes were glazed and his shoulders swayed, like a five-year-old on a bicycle. Lauren wasn’t a fan of just-met sex. If he had been gorgeous, like Liam Hemsworth, then maybe. Wait, maybe? Not maybe. Definitely! But she would not have sex with New Jersey, at least not tonight. “You know, I’m gonna hang with my friends a while longer. Thanks, though.”

“Not a problem. Catch you later.”

He leaned toward her as if expecting something. She hesitated, unsure, and then offered to shake hands. He only got about ten steps before he stopped to chat up another girl.

“What did he want?” said Caitlyn, her roommate. Caitlyn’s face turned sour as Lauren told her of the invite to smoke pot. “Eewww! That guy?”

They laughed. Lauren was light as a feather. She could party all night.

LAUREN LE AFTER:

At two thirty in the morning an Uber dropped Lauren outside Roxbury Hall. Lighting a cigarette, she gazed up at the three-story brick building and remembered move-in day, how excited she’d been; her mother and aunt and uncle had come to help. What had she wanted then? Freedom? Relief from her mother’s watchful eyes? Yes, that was part of it, but she’d hoped for a lot more.

Lauren had smoked pot with her latest score, a hipster from California, and now her head felt heavy and thick. After the joint he had wanted to have sex again. She had no urge for an encore but couldn’t think of a polite way to turn him down. What did that make in total? Three? Four? Five counting the blackout sex with Colin Jordan. Five boys (men?) in four weeks. What the hell? So weird. The hookups were like gorging on pizza, but the gnawing emptiness she’d felt after Colin hadn’t abated at all.

What did she have on the calendar for the next day? A couple lectures: Psychology and English Lit. She might make it to class, or she might not. They were easy courses anyway. Crushing the butt beneath her heel, she tossed it in a trashcan and walked through the door.

Inside Lauren’s dorm room, Caitlyn sat at her desk reading a textbook with her earbuds in.

“Hey,” said Lauren. “What are you doing up so late?”

Caitlyn turned in her chair. “Studying for the psych test.” She sniffed the air.

What? Caitlyn never studied this late. Lauren walked to Caitlyn’s side and saw, sure enough, that the fat psych book was open a third of the way through.

“What for? The test is next week.”

“It’s tomorrow.”

“No, it’s next week.”

“It’s tomorrow. I texted you to study together, but you never answered. Where’ve you been?”

Lauren ignored Caitlyn and walked to her desk to check her laptop. The test had to be next week; she’d skipped a few classes and hadn’t read the book. “What?”

“I asked where you’ve been.”

“The Homestead. I went for a drink.”

Fuck! Caitlyn was right. The test was that morning—less than seven hours away. Lauren shook her head. The buzz from the pot had turned into a headache. How did she mess this up? Caitlyn was saying something else.

“What?”

“You smell like cigarettes and pot. Where did you smoke pot?”

“Uh…I stopped at this guy’s place to party.”

“On a Tuesday? Shit, Lauren. What the fuck?”

“Hey, you’re not my mom. Chill the fuck out.”

After a shower and some caffeine, Lauren reviewed her notes and opened the textbook. Caitlyn had gone to sleep, and Lauren’s desk lamp made shadows on the floor. The quiet of the room calmed her, and for the first twenty minutes she made progress, covered the better part of a chapter, but then her eyelids grew heavy, and the words blurred on the page. A short nap would clear her head and allow her to absorb the material with her usual speed. She set a twenty-minute timer on her phone, lay down, and closed her eyes. The psychology concepts quickly drifted away.

* * *

Lauren sat in the classroom, breathing fast; her eyes flitted back and forth over the questions. Half of the class had already finished and left. She flipped back several pages. Damn. There had to be another question she could answer, but she couldn’t find it, and after another minute the professor called time.

She had woken at eight thirty to Caitlyn roughly shaking her shoulder.

“Wake up! It’s time to go. I woke you twice already.”

With no time to even brush her teeth, Lauren had pulled on boots and a clean top and walked with Caitlyn to class. She had never felt so unprepared.

And now she’d failed the test. Fucking flat-ass failed it.

Outside in the bright sunlight, Caitlyn stopped to face her. Her eyes peered into Lauren’s, her ever-present smile nowhere to be seen.

“How’d you do?” said Caitlyn.

“Awful. I really fucked up.”

“I’m sorry. You know…I tried to text you.”

Lauren’s legs were numb. Adrenaline had fired her up during the exam, but now all the energy had burned off.

Caitlyn headed off to another class, and Lauren trudged to the student union. She’d spent the last of her cash on cigarettes. Once inside, she made it to the ATM and took out ten dollars.

She stared at the red and white logo on the touchscreen.

Bank of America.

Her mother’s apartment was two blocks from a branch. Kim would deposit cash tips at the drive-thru while Lauren sat in the passenger seat. Some days at the salon were hard. The owner would berate the workers for not learning English. But the drive-thru had always lifted Kim’s spirits. On the way out she’d pause to look at the B of A sign and say the same thing every time: “Your future is in this bank.”

Lauren took two steps and her knees softened. She turned her back against the wall and sank until her butt touched the floor.

Don’t cry. Don’t.

But her throat tightened and warm tears forced their way through closed eyelids. She sat with elbows on knees, her hands over her face. Silent sobs shook her shoulders. Students walked past in the hallway, busy, with classes to attend, futures to build. Two girls giggled, happy, oblivious.

Fuck. What was happening? She was freefalling into black air.

Someone said something. A man’s running shoes appeared through spread fingers.

“Are you all right?” he said.

Lauren pressed her palms against her eyes to rub away the tears. She wouldn’t compound her failure by making people pity her, too. Pushing off the tiled floor she stood, pulled her backpack over her shoulder, and faced him.

“You looked kind of sad,” he said.

Who was this guy? What was his game? Not bad looking, with strong shoulders and a relaxed vibe, faded jeans and a simple black T-shirt.

“Do you want to fuck me?” she said.

“What?” His mouth opened. “No!” He stepped back and thrust his hands in front as if to ward her off. “What’s the matter with you?”

Several students stopped, sensing an incident of interest.

Lauren marched away from the onlookers. She ran upstairs to the second floor and exited onto the grounds on top of the hill. She kept walking, past the admissions building and the Old Chapel and onto Philosopher’s Row. She took one of the paths into the side gardens and dropped on a bench.

She rocked slowly, hugging her arms. G-d, how pathetic was that? What would she do next? She wanted to skip class and walk to the Homestead for an early afternoon cocktail.

As if clinging to the edge of a dark abyss, Lauren tried to hold on, her stomach roiling, her arms shaking. She had propositioned the boy, because she had wanted to fuck him. She wanted to fuck a guy…any guy…every guy.

But why? She’d never done that before. Never on the first night…that was her rule, one she’d broken how many times now? Five.

She grasped the edge of the stone bench, squeezing, ignoring the grating surface against her fingers. A bird sang from a nearby tree. The bird flew from one tree to the next, a flash of red, a cardinal. It settled for a few moments on the branch of a maple tree, whose leaves had begun to turn, sang, and flew off.

The cardinal reminded her of Todd, the gay guy she’d met three weeks earlier, with his bright plumage and sweet song. What had Todd told her as they waited for the Uber driver? Something about the dean of student affairs. Maybe she should check it out.

Tour Schedule

Tuesday, January 2

Guest Blogging at Blogging Authors

Wednesday, January 3

Interview at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic

Thursday, January 4

Book Featured at What Is That Book About

Friday, January 5

Book Featured at The Writer’s Life

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Monday, January 8

Book Featured at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Tuesday, January 9

Book Featured at The Bookworm Lodge

Wednesday, January 10

Interview at Infinite House of Books

Thursday, January 11

Book Featured at The Book Recluse Reviews

Friday, January 12

Book Review at Books for Books

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Monday, January 15

Guest Blogging at My Fiction Nook

Tuesday, January 16

Book Teaser at YouTube

Wednesday, January 17

Book Review at Sefina Hawke’s Books

*******

Monday, January 22

Book Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, January 25

Book Featured at C.A. Milson’s Author Blog

*******

Monday, January 29

Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Tuesday, January 30

Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Wednesday, January 31

Guest Blogging at The Story Behind the Book

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Monday, February 5

Book Review at Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’

Tuesday, February 6

Book Featured at Mello & June, It’s a Book Thang!

Wednesday, February 7

Book Featured at Read My First Chapter

Friday, February 9

Guest Blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner

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Monday, February 12

Guest Blogging at Readsalot

Tuesday, February 13

Book Review at StoreyBook Reviews

Thursday, February 15

Interview at The Writer’s Life

Friday, February 16

Book Featured at Nuttin’ But Books

*******

Monday, February 19

Interview at PUYB Virtual Book Club

Tuesday, February 20

Book Featured at The Avid Reader

Book Featured at Book Bloggin’ Princess

Thursday, February 22

First Chapter Reveal at The Dark Phantom Reviews

Friday, February 23

Character Interview at Pimp That Character

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Monday, February 26

Book Featured at The Literary Nook

Wednesday, February 28

Book Review at 100 Pages a Day

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Monday, March 5

Guest Blogging at Dear Reader, Love Author

Tuesday, March 6

Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life

Wednesday, March 7

Interview at I’m Shelf-ish

Thursday, March 8

Book Featured at Book Cover Junkie

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Monday, March 12

Interview at T’s Stuff

Wednesday, March 14

Book Featured at Rainy Day Reviews

Book Featured at Write and Take Flight

Thursday, March 15

Guest Blogging at Literarily Speaking

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Monday, March 19

Interview at My Bookish Pleasures

Wednesday, March 21

Book Featured at A Title Wave

Thursday, March 22

Book Featured at What’s On Your Kindle?

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Monday, March 26

Interview at The Dark Phantom Reviews

Tuesday, March 27

First Chapter Reveal at The Book Rack

Thursday, March 29

Book Featured at SheWrites

Friday, March 30

Interview at My Book Launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. interesting

  2. Sounds like a wonderful read! Thanks for the chance!!

     

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