With an absent father and unforgiving stepmother, Kelsie has nowhere to turn. She manages her guilt and grief with razor blades. The fleeting release she experiences becomes an obsession and soon she’s unable to hide it any longer. Once her cutting is revealed, Kelsie’s parents enroll her in a Wilderness Therapy program designed to rehabilitate troubled teens, but North Carolina is a world away from California.
Kelsie fights against everything the program has to offer until she befriends JC, a boy with a tortured past of his own. He’s also the only one who is able to ease her pain. The two grow close, but quickly discover that nature—both human and otherwise—can easily rip them apart.
Targeted Age Group:: 15+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have a friend and a family member who have both cut in the past. When I first learned about self-injury, I didn’t understand why people would purposely hurt themselves and, therefore, I thought it was to attract attention. I ended up spending quite a bit of time researching the topic, which opened my eyes. Most people who cut don’t do it for attention. In fact, like Kelsie in the book, they try to hide what they’re doing. They’re ashamed, but it’s beyond their control as it has become an addictive coping mechanism to try and deal with their overwhelming emotions, whether it’s depression, anxiety, whatever.
After learning so much about self-injury, I wanted to help others who were in my position—wishing to help their friends, but not understanding how to or even why their friends did what they did. That’s when I decided to turn it into a story. Because I typically write adventure-filled books, I knew immediately that the main characters would be in the wilderness and run into some unexpected hurdles along the way. I think it ended up being a nice mix of emotion, suspense, and romance with a couple plot twists to keep things interesting.
Who are your favorite authors?
Janet Evanovich, Suzanne Collins, Nicholas Sparks, Dean Koontz
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I loosely based Kelsie’s cutting behavior on a friend who has cut in the past; however, her physical traits, background, and what she went through are completely fictitious.
Tolerance is a common theme in most every book I write so I try to have characters from different backgrounds, cultures, or ethnicity. Breaking Free is no different. Right from the start, I knew I wanted Kelsie and JC to be from completely different worlds, but have a deep rooted connection from just one common emotional thread. It’s what draws them together and allows each of them to help the other.
I don’t know how much time passed or what exactly happened, but my next memory is standing over Jenna’s body on the pavement. It was twenty feet from the mangled wreckage. The tips of her blond hair were crimson and my first thought was she had a really bad dye job. I smiled and imagined we’d get a good laugh about that later.
When I knelt down, I realized the dye was more widespread. It formed a halo around her head like some sort of weird angel. I ran my fingers through it, smearing crimson lines towards me.
“Jenna,” I whispered, my voice cracking, “I think you’re bleeding.”
Her eyes were closed. I leaned closer. “Jenna, wake up. You might need to go to a doctor.”
When she didn’t move, I touched her cheek. It was cool and sticky. Her bangs were covering her face, so I swept them to the side. “Jenna, you’re scaring me. Please wake up.” She still didn’t move.
“Jenna?” I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her body towards me, gripping the back of her head. She felt like a doll. A lifeless piece of material that flopped in my arms. “Jenna?” I whispered, holding her tighter. “I’m scared.” I rocked our bodies back and forth like she was a child. “We don’t have to go to the beach. We can go home. We’ll put a movie in. Have a quiet night in.”
I stroked her hair, but my fingers got tangled in the bloody tips. I pulled them free and rubbed them together, smearing the red stain over my hand. “We need to go home. You have to wake up, okay?”
All I wanted was things to be normal. I wanted to be back in my best friend’s bedroom, lying in bed, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling, and gossiping about boys in our class.
“Jenna?” I dropped my hand to her back. As soon as I did, her head fell backwards and her eyelids opened. Her unmoving eyes gazed straight up to the sky. Their glassy look triggered something in me. “No…” I whispered, pulling her head back to my chest. “No, Jenna. I need you. You can’t leave me!”
SM Koz was born in Michigan, but moved to North Carolina for college and never left.
She enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, photography, reading, spending time with foster kids who call her house home, and learning new things. When she’s not creating online training for pharmaceutical companies (her day job) or writing, Koz can be found at the local community college taking courses on various topics ranging from digital art to HTML to desktop publishing. Next in line are auto mechanics and cake decorating.
Being trained as a veterinarian, it’s not surprising that Koz and her husband were recently told they have a mini-zoo with their two dogs, fish, cockatiels, and foster cats. In the past, they have also had parakeets and a snake. Other than the fish, all the animals were acquired through rescue organizations, something Koz wholeheartedly supports.
Breaking Free is Koz’s third original novel and fifth overall, but the only one she feels compelled to publish at this time. Her hope is that individuals who struggle with cutting may be inspired by Kelsie’s story and find the strength they need to begin the healing process.
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy Breaking Free On Amazon