iUniverse is delighted to talk with Susan Norris, author of Rescuing Hope: A Story of Sex Trafficking in America. Susan was also recently asked to lend her expertise to the production of a film on human trafficking, Caged No More.
How would you describe your book?
Rescuing Hope: A Story of Sex Trafficking in America is a fictional book based on countless hours of interviews with survivors, families of trafficking victims and survivors, law enforcement, rape victims, a former drug dealer, a former drug addict, and even a former trafficker. It is written in fictional form to entice teens and young adults to read it; however, everything that happens to Hope in the story happened to someone I talked with during the interview process. While it is intentionally PG13, it’s raw, gritty, and real.
Hope is a typical middle school girl, growing up in suburbia. She struggles with the same kinds of issues most teenage girls experience, which made her a prime target for a smooth talking, good looking guy with less than honorable motives. Before she knew it, Sweet T gained more information from Hope than she knew she was giving as well as her trust. He was easily able to take her from a place of safety and familiarity to the very pit of hell before she knew what was happening. Once she realized it, it was too late.
Do you have any particular literary influences that have helped you develop in your genre, subject and style?
I honestly did not approach this project as a writer, determining genre, etc. I didn’t see myself as a writer. I simply went to the Lord in prayer and told Him what I had learned about the issue of sex trafficking and asked Him what I was supposed to do about it.
I felt called to write the book. I tried to get out of it several times. I made several suggestions of great writers to Him, but He didn’t seem interested. In fact, on one particularly frustrating day, I asked Him to get another author to take the project. I reminded Him there were several people out there far more talented the me. His response was a bit comical. It’s just a reflection of how He and I relate. He said,
“If they write the book and it’s good, people will not be surprised, because they’re well acclaimed writers. But if you write it and it’s good, people will know it was because of Me.”
Each day through prayer I would ask God one question: “What happens to Hope today?” I would then listen quietly and see a movie clip in my mind’s eye. When it stopped, I would get up and type what I saw. I know that’s not a traditional writing technique, but it is honestly how Rescuing Hope was written.
What inspired you to write Rescuing Hope, and how long did it take you to finish it?
In early 2010, I attended a luncheon and heard horrific statistics being shared by Mary Frances Bowley, a pioneer in the fight against sex trafficking in the metro Atlanta area. She stated the average entry age for girls into the sex trade was 12-14. I spent four years working with middle school students, ages 11-14 through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. These weren’t just numbers to me. They were faces, young people I had come to care about. The more I learned, the more I became outraged and realized I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing.
I approached Mary Frances and asked her where the weak link was in this fight. She said,
“Awareness. People don’t realize this is happening in their backyards and children don’t realize this could happen to them.”
As an educator, I knew students wouldn’t read a nonfiction book unless a class assignment was attached to it. I knew the best way to reach out to them was through fiction, but I wanted to make sure the information was factual. We — my agent and I — used to joke and call Rescuing Hope “factional.”
Just over two years after I learned of this atrocity, I held the first copy of Rescuing Hope in my hands. It was not a journey for the faint of heart, but it was worth it. Survivors, law enforcement, and front line freedom fighters who previewed it said it is as realistic a story as they’ve found. One survivor called me weeping and said,
“Finally, someone told the real story, my story.”
Richard Stearn said, “Before one can be held accountable for helping someone in need, there must first be an awareness of the need.” Rescuing Hope is a tool to make people aware of the need and start the conversation of how to step into the fight.
What started out as a book has evolved into a nonprofit, Rescuing Hope Inc. I remember the day I told my agent, “I don’t want my whole ministry to be about sex trafficking.” As soon as I said it, I heard the Lord say, “What if I do?”
Since that day, I’ve been all in: speaking, educating, equipping, empowering, and being Mama to many.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
Human Trafficking is not a respecter of persons. It impacts every demographic imaginable. It is going to take an army of people to advance the fight against it. Like the elephant in the room, it’s huge and overwhelming. People don’t where to begin, so in many cases they do nothing. As Bob Pierce said, “Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”
Everyone can do something in this fight. Use your platform on social media to educate others and raise awareness. Give of your time, talents and resources to one of the front line organizations. They’re all under staffed and underfunded. Befriend someone who may be different than you and let them know they matter. Take stand against this issue by what you read, view, listen to and purchase.
I like to tell people: Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.