For the past few weeks I’ve been sharing the books in the North Star to Freedom series.
Well, this week it’s my turn!
#Lured is my book in the series, and I have to say, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.
Anyone who has read my Jagged Scars series won’t be shocked that Warren, the trafficking survivor in this book, deals with some serious PTSD.
I have to admit it was difficult to put myself in Warren’s shoes. I’m fortunate not to have abuse in my past, so I had to imagine what it might be like being a sex trafficking survivor. Not my favorite topic to think about, but I feel like I scraped enough of the surface to make everyone reading feel for Warren.
Scroll down to see how I got sucked into this project!
The girl being lured away
The trafficking survivor trying to save her
Kaylee Roberts, sophomore and varsity soccer player, is furious when her arch nemesis not only beats her for the half-back position on the team, but then sends a picture of Kaylee’s eczema-covered face on fire to the whole school. It’s not like she needs a reminder about her skin condition. Lucky for Kaylee, she’s been chatting online with a basketball player from another school who appreciates her photography skills and likes her for who she is.
Seventeen year old Warren Scott’s plan to get out of juvie and rescue his best friend from a trafficker goes out the window when he gets into a fight defending another kid. He’s expecting a reprimand, but instead gets an offer: join a specialized team of sex trafficking survivors who go into high schools to find and warn teenagers who are being targeted by predators. The rich guy in charge promises Warren help finding his friend in exchange for his time.
Warren agrees, but while he and his partner are desperately trying to find the target, he starts having crippling flashbacks of his old life. In the meantime Kaylee’s amazing and supportive online boyfriend tells her he loves her. She loves him too, and wants to show him.
Can Warren find Kaylee before it’s too late, or will Kaylee be #Lured away to a fate Warren knows all too well?
How I got involved in this project
Taylor Hart approached me about this project early in 2019. We were sitting in a crowded Olive Garden and she was telling me stories that she’d heard from Cammy Bowker (see her forward at the beginning of the book) about child sex trafficking and exploitation in America. Right here in our home state. I was blown away. Of course I knew it happened, but had never looked too close. Like many of us, for me ignorance was bliss. That night Taylor destroyed my ignorance, and I’ll be forever grateful.
Taylor said she wanted to join the fight, and asked me if I would be willing to write a book and donate all of the proceeds to charity. Duh. Yes. When do you want it?
Our original idea was to write sweet romances, which I write under my pen name Karly Stratford, and donate the money. Then Taylor ran into Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, at the mall. I saw a picture she’d posted on Facebook and I sent her a text asking her if she was stalking the poor guy! Nope, not stalking. A fortuitous, and possibly inspired, meeting. Taylor thanked him for all he has done, told him we were authors, and asked him what we could do to help. When he said he would love it if we would write books directed at the teens, because more and more get taken every day, that threw a wrench in the plan.
At this point, Heather had joined our little party, and the three of us were a bit dumbfounded. Most of the group write sweet and clean romance…how are we supposed to write something to teens on the topic of sex trafficking?
I’m the young adult writer of the group, so I started thinking. And praying. And thinking. Here’s the thing, in young adult books you need to empower the teenage characters. They have to be driving the story, not be bossed around by their parents or teachers. And we didn’t want to just focus on a victim after they’d been taken—first too grisly, and second most teens won’t relate to the situation. Finally, after a few weeks, I had an idea. If you remember the old 21 Jump Street, with Johnny Depp, you’ll know that young-looking cops got sent undercover into high schools to sniff out drug and theft rings. In the process they usually helped teens who were in trouble. Then it hit me. What if we used young trafficking survivors as our 21 Jump Street-type teams, and they went into high schools to help kids who are being targeted by predators? That way we could tell a story that would be familiar to teens (high school), as well as explore a victim of trafficking after they’d gotten out!
It took a lot of work, praying, planning and coordinating, but in the end it all came together!
I’m not often public about my religious beliefs, but I certainly felt a divine hand holding mine more than once as I researched this brutal topic, planned my book and then wrote it. There was also plenty of opposition as we fought to get this project finished and out to the world.
I hope these books made you just a little bit uncomfortable, but I also hope that you go away from them with a better understanding of the process predators use to lure people into their traps. The internet is not going away, and the best defense against it is open communication with friends and family and as much knowledge as you can gather about the dangers that lurk behind the screen.