Author Q&A with Mary Hanlon Stone
Mary Hanlon Stone lives in Beverly Hills, California and has been a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County for over two decades.
Q: In your words, what is Invisible Girl about?
A: It’s about a girl who didn’t grow up with any advantages who finds herself in treacherous waters when she is thrown in with a group of girls who have everything they have ever wanted. It’s about her journey to find out who she really is inside and that there’s more to life than just surviving--there’s love and friendship
Q: What inspired you to write Invisible Girl?
Over the years as a Deputy District Attorney prosecuting people who have abused children and teens I have grown to feel very protective over kids who don’t have anyone in their corner. I wanted to write a story where a kid like that can have a happy ending.
Q: What is the meaning of the title?
The title refers to all those kids who feel like less because they have been brought up to believe that they are not important. Our girl, Stephanie, is like that in the beginning of the book. By the end, she knows who she is and knows that she has a right to be seen, acknowledged and loved.
Q: What do you think makes Stephanie special as a character?
A couple of things. First her hunger for love is very real. Kids who grow up like she does are both starved for love and, at the same time, have a tough exterior shell. Stephanie is both tough and passive at the same time at the beginning. I admire her because she learns she’s worth something.
Q: You are a lawyer who prosecutes on the behalf of abused and neglected children. How did this affect the way you approached the telling of Stephanie’s story?
It was a very easy story to write because Stephanie is a composite of so many girls I have taken care of that I knew how she would react in all the situations I put her in because I’ve seen it so many times.
Q: You have assembled a team of teen girls to get the word out about Invisible Girl. How did you initially come into contact with these teens, and what have they taught you about the Internet and marketing?
I met the girls through my son’s school. I used to write plays that were trials for the kids to perform at the local courthouse. A lot of the girls were in these trials as lawyers or witnesses. I asked a couple to read invisible girl and give me their feedback. They really loved the book and told their friends about it. Then, the next thing I knew, I had twenty-five girls who wanted to read and then to promote the book. I thought this was a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about business so we started meeting at my house once a month for dinner and they all picked a title, like President of Marketing, or President of Public Relations (they all wanted to be Presidents or CEOs!) then I gave them a token salary, even though they tried to refuse it, because I wanted them to start learning that their time is valuable and they shouldn’t be afraid to talk about money because I don’t want them to think they have to take a second chair to men when they go out into the world of business. They are a complete joy for me to work with, they are so creative and enthusiastic. We brainstorm about ideas, and they have A LOT of them! I wasn’t even on Facebook when I started meeting with them. I’ve learned that if you want to reach teens, you have to start with the internet.
Q: Are you still a lawyer? How do you balance your job, your family, and your writing?
I am still a lawyer working full-time. I don’t know how balanced my life is at all, but I have a few basic rules. My kids and my husband always come first, my job as a Deputy District Attorney has to come second because victims depend on me. Writing, which takes the stress out of my brain is just something I have to do because I’m so happy when I’m doing it. I make time for writing when I’m driving (I write at red lights and use a little recorder), in the middle of the night, and between soccer games on weekends.
Q: If your audience could take on thing away from the experience of reading invisible girl, what would you want it to be?
That you should never give anyone the power to make you feel like less.
Q: With which character in your novel besides Stephanie do you identify or sympathize the most?
Even though I’m of a different cultural background that Amal’s mother, I really sympathized with her because she works hard and puts her child first.
Q: What are you working on now?
I’m working on a book called The Comedown Life which is about a girl who is brought up in a very wealthy world who is sent to live in a factory town with a father she barely knows.
From School Library Journal
Grade 7-10 Stephanie's abusive, alcoholic mother leaves their Boston home one night in a theatrical huff. Her weak-willed father cannot cope, so the 14-year-old is shunted across the country to a wealthy friend while the family figures out what to do. The friend's teen daughter is initially excited to include Stephanie in her clique, and Stephanie uses her Boston accent to make people laugh while spinning lies to keep them from knowing about her family's sordid past. However, after an overheard conversation, the queen bees turn on Stephanie. When a new girl appears and draws their fire, Stephanie is at first simply relieved to be out of the crosshairs but soon sees a different path and befriends the girl. Stone skillfully takes her protagonist from the bottom of a smelly closet where she is hiding from her mother's fists to a sunny, golden California beach club full of socially climbing girls concerned only with fashion, diets, boys, and possessions. It is as stark a change for readers as it is for Stephanie. She is in many ways younger than these teens, although she's had harder things to deal with, and her naïveté is heartbreaking. She learns from her trials, but there are no miracles. Stone portrays her growth believably, in small increments, with many slipups along the way. Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
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