Please welcome Shaina Cilimberg, the author of the Young Adult books Crowded and Perfect Forgiveness; as well as the Children’s Nonfiction tale Racing Bloodstream. Her stories focus on high school teens trying to navigate their way through life, relationships, faith, and who they’re meant to be.

When you’re not writing, what else do you do like to do? I love doing outdoorsy stuff with friends, going shopping, going online, watching Austin & Ally, Good Luck Charlie and The Bachelorette. I also enjoy getting smoothies and eating ice cream. I read the Bible, go to church, exercise

When did you realize you were a writer? I started at 11 but really saw myself as one in 11 grade. I just really enjoyed it and got people to help me.

What can you tell us about your books, and where can they be found? The Deep River High Series (Crowded, Perfect Forgiveness) are my way of reaching out to youth or teens at heart on topics such as bullying, sexual purity, abortion, school shootings and I kind of have a new one in the works. It’s still about bullying but touches on Asperger’s/OCD.  I write about teens who are outcasts.

Racing Bloodstream is non-fiction and I’m introducing a teen horseback rider to the world.

My books are available at:

What was the inspiration behind the Deep River High series?

Crowded was inspired by One Life To Live (Don’t judge; I bite); I’d say Robert Liparulo was very effective in his books in that it showed me good writing along with Melody Carlson, the bullying epidemic, other people’s suggestions…Cole’s sexting was a suggestion from previous books. I actually had books before these but so many people did not like them, so I kept changing and changing. Only one was almost published. So, I made book two book one and changed it a lot except for Cole and Josh fighting over Emily, the sexting, and Josh being arrogant. Cole’s clumsiness didn’t change either. (Haha now I sound like a wuss.)

Ummm, Beastly (the movie) also inspired me. It’s funny because I was writing [Crowded] and saw the trailer (I like Glee but really was not enjoying the episode that was on that night) and was like: “That reminds me of Josh”, but at the same time the book and movie inspired me. Narnia inspired me too and my book isn’t even fantasy!  Tobymac’s “Love Callin’“, Tenth Avenue North, Skillet, and Mumford & Sons inspired me, too.

Perfect Forgiveness was inspired by Columbine, and Charles Andy Williams (Santana Shooter). All these cases of children being tried as adults, feeling remorse and the fact they should be tried as juveniles. (I am 24. Therefore, I’m smart and know everything), Someone on a soap opera message board inspired me, Point Blank ( a Christian book) inspired me even though I hadn’t read it since I was 15 then read it again while I was working on [Perfect Forgiveness] and I wanted to see if these killers felt remorse for their actions, whether it was a school shooting or something else.  Curiosity got the best of me. I’m like Lucy Pevensie from Narnia.

I had written about a former gang member in the past, brought him back into the book about the shooting. He’s Jacob and not a school shooter. He’s one of the Christian kids who tried to become friends with one of the shooters, Kirk Williams. Narnia again inspired me (I LOVE EDMUND PEVENSIE YAY!!!); POD’s “Youth of the Nation” and Superchick’s “Hero” are songs that inspired me. “Dustbowl Dance” and “This is War” got played a few times while writing this, too. I’ve also just used soundtracks for both books (Harry Potter and Narnia) while writing.

Basically, my books are inspired by some personal experience, other books, movies, how I would react in a situation, how other people have reacted, the news, old news, TV shows and music.

Racing Bloodstream came about because a friend asked me to write this about Brianna Moore. So, I agreed and asked her a few questions.

What can you tell us about Crowded?  I edited it quite a bit. The most recent edit is up on Kindle now. Please follow me @longhairrox because I let people know when I edit. That way, they can email Amazon to give them the most recent copy. I hope to one day achieve the level where I don’t have to edit an already published book. I really want people to read my books and buy them. By doing this you are saying my writing matters and that I matter (Yes I’m a basket case). I want to bring people to the Lord, closer to God and entertain them; I want to show people how they should treat others. My books are only 99 cents, which is great because you do not have to spend a lot of money.  What I like about Crowded is how Josh is more than he seems. He is the villain but he has a heart. You get to see into his mind and why he’s such a jerk and how he really feels about the way he acts. Emily is the tough, gothic chick; but she wants to feel beautiful just like any other girl.

What would you like us to know about Perfect Forgiveness? It is from the perspective of a very repentant school shooter, who did this with two other boys.  You also get to see the perspective of some of the Christian kids who tried to be his friend and learn more about the victims, their families; and how it affects them.  The question is really what drives a person to do such a thing? For Kirk, it was bullying and a bad home life. The other two claimed God wanted them to and they are not the type of crowd Kirk should even be associating with. They are on a whole different level of morbid and disgusting. At least you can feel for Kirk, and he has remorse. He is a very insecure kid who was bullied relentlessly, abused, abandoned and takes care of his brother. Kirk hates himself. For every self-loathing thought Josh has, Kirk hates himself ten times more.

If you hated Josh in Crowded, you may change your mind in this one. He’s the one to look out for other than Kirk.  Lydia gets more of a role and a little more spunk. Her innocence shines through in both books. In some ways she’s smarter, in some ways not as bright. She puts her foot in her mouth, gets freaked out and basically has some angst in her. Kirk actually has a crush on her.

How would you describe Racing Bloodstream? A Non-fiction story about a teenage horseback rider. The book itself is very short, so I listed it as children’s even though the only picture is the cover. [A friend of mine] answered a few questions for me and I wrote the answers the way I would for children because I decided it would be a good way to introduce an athlete. Then, they can read or have their parents read it to them and see if they want to ride horses as well. I learned a few things, since I am more of a small-city girl. Note I said small city not big city lol. I am small too but that’s beside the point (A little feisty; I probably bite)

Is there a central theme or message that you would come across in your books? Yes. I have a Christian theme, a psychological theme and try to leave in some room for a little bit of fun.

What inspires you to write? What do you enjoy about it? I enjoy the characters. I think of them like I would think about a real person. Josh and Kirk really stand out as misunderstood. Cole is abused, but anyone could relate to him and his ways of doing things. He’s Cole. He’s clumsy, and wants to do what’s right, but not always.  Josh and Kirk struggle more with self-loathing and insecurities. Josh is arrogant but very insecure as well. Kirk is just plain out insecure and does a cowardly thing because he sees no other way out. Cole is only mean to people who are mean to him. Josh is mean to people as a result of how people treated him in the past. Kirk is not mean; yet he’s a killer so that makes him mean. The moment he became the school shooter, he became the bully and he has a hard time coping with what he’s about to do and the fact he did it.

So, Kirk seeks redemption, and doesn’t know if God will even forgive him. He and Josh are actually the ones who get plagued by flashbacks from the past and nightmares. Cole is just Cole, no sugar coating it.  He’s like any other Christian boy who messed up and wants his girlfriend back. I do have my male characters cry a bit and feel remorse for their actions and think about it. I don’t care if it’s seen as “Girly,” it isn’t. Teen boys can feel remorse and be dedicated to God. Cole barely cries compared to Josh and Kirk and when they do, it’s merited.

What would be your ideal writer’s retreat? The beach.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes. Don’t let people change what you write, but let them give you advice too.

Where can readers connect with you?

@longhairrox on