Monday, January 4, 2016

G. Donald Cribbs - An Interview with Upcoming Debut Young Adult Author of THE PACKING HOUSE!

Young Adult Author G. Donald Cribbs

THE PACKING HOUSE - When sixteen-year-old Joel Scrivener has a raging nightmare in study hall and someone records it on their phone, he awakens to a living nightmare where everyone knows the secret he's avoided for ten years. Reeling from a series of bullying incidents posted on YouTube and an ill-timed mid-year move, Joel takes to the woods, leaving the bullies and his broken home behind. However, life as a runaway isn’t easy. Joel finds it difficult to navigate break-ins, wrestle hallucinations, and elude capture. He races to figure out who his dream-world attacker could be, piecing clues together with flashes of remembered images that play endlessly inside his head. Besides these images, the one constant thought occupying Joel’s mind is Amber Walker, the girl he’s been in love with for years. Amber sees little beyond the broken boy Joel has become, despite the letters they’ve written back and forth to each other. But Joel is stronger and more resilient than he looks, and it’s time he convinces Amber of this fact, before he runs out of chances with her for good.




An Interview with G. Donald Cribbs

Today, I'm very excited to share an interview with the upcoming debut author G. Donald Cribbs. I've known Cribbs through social media for a couple years now. We've become friends and I've had the incredible opportunity to see his debut novel take shape as he prepared it for the rest of the world to read. He is a tireless writer with an impeccable dedication to his craft. I just finished reading the final soon to be released version of his novel THE PACKING HOUSE and I absolutely loved it. Before its release on January 18th, 2016, I wanted to share the author I've come to respect and admire with the rest of my world. So please do read this interview with Donald. And be sure to pre-order his novel The Packing House when you're done. There will be links at the bottom of this post in order that you may do so.


(Donald and I both agreed that this interview should come with a TRIGGER WARNING. Please be forewarned that there is frank discussion on the topic of CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE in the transcript which follows.)





G. Donald Cribbs - The Bio:

G. Donald Cribbs has written and published poetry and short stories since high school. Donald is a graduate of Messiah College in English and Education, and is currently a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He and his wife and four boys reside in central Pennsylvania where the author is hard at work on his next book, the sequel to his debut novel, THE PACKING HOUSE (January 18, 2016), by Booktrope Editions. Having lived and traveled abroad in England, France, Belgium, Germany, China and Thailand (you can guess where he lived and where he visited), the author loves languages and how they connect us all. Coffee and Nutella are a close second.

Try This Book On For Size Asked:

1. The Packing House is firmly positioned as an issue book. It takes on arguably the most difficult issue facing children and teens. Sexual abuse…that’s a huge one, especially when the crime is against children. Were you afraid to write this book? Going in, what went through your mind as you set out to write this story?

G. Donald Cribbs Answered:

Forgive my rather lengthy first answer. But this topic requires a look at the cold hard facts, the numbers representing real people, real children who are suffering and struggling with the aftermath of child sexual abuse. With that caveat, let’s dive in.

When I wrote the first draft of THE PACKING HOUSE, the United States population was in the neighborhood of 309 million people. Approximately half are male, half female. According to the research study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on child sexual abuse (CSA), 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys prior to the age of 18 will experience an unwanted sexual act, either including touch or not. Therefore, more than 64 million are survivors of CSA (38 million girls, 25 million boys). Since then, an additional 3 million survivors of CSA have been born, raising the number of survivors of CSA in the USA alone to a staggering 67 million.

For comparison, the numbers in Canada include a total population of just under 36 million people, with 7.5 million survivors of CSA (4.5 million girls, 3 million boys). These are equally sobering and stunning numbers we need to look at, since silence only enables abusers to continue making these numbers rise.

As a father of four boys myself, I refuse to ignore and remain silent on this issue. The statistics are getting worse, not better. They’re moving in the wrong direction, and I will not let my boys inherit a world where the numbers are 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys as survivors of CSA. Not one child abused is ever an acceptable number, let alone 75 million in the US and Canada. Does it scare me? Yes. It scares the hell out of me. But I am MORE scared of a world where child sexual abuse is ignored and swept under the cultural rug to avoid unpleasantness. To hell with that.

This issue is also a personal one for me, as a survivor of child sexual abuse.

I wrote it as a part of my recovery. It was both triggering and cathartic to write this out in novel form, giving life and voice to “Joel Scrivener.” Once I started the process, and found my way to Joel, I was primarily focused on how I could convince readers to want to read about child sexual abuse. I mean, really, who wants to read about this topic? So, I had my work cut out for me. In my mind, I constructed a way to hook the reader before realizing they were reading about CSA. I remained conflicted through several years of revisions regarding this duplicity: trick my readers into reading about an unpleasant topic to the point they cannot put it down.

Writers write what they know, which means relying upon personal lived experience to inform the story. While THE PACKING HOUSE is not a memoir, it’s not far from that either. In order to “go there” and write about very personal and very difficult experiences (particularly to relive them the number of times necessary to revise this novel to the quality and level of publishable) I had to get uncomfortably close but find ways to protect myself as well. By fictionalizing my own account, it brought both the distance and the closeness needed to give an authenticity to Joel’s story that would resonate with readers, many of whom could be survivors or their loved ones. With respect to all survivors, I determined to take on this task and write this story. It is my hope others will be inspired to speak up and find their voices, and share their stories as well.


2. Your main character, Joel Scrivener, has had a serious life trauma…and yet he does not know what it is. How frequent does this phenomena occur? We see Joel really struggle through the first half of the story…attempting to grasp something that is just outside his periphery. Is this common for victims of childhood sexual abuse?

GDC Answered:

I work in the mental health field currently, and have observed countless children with traumatic histories. There is a strong correlation between trauma and mental health diagnoses. This fact makes me weep. But, it also inspires me daily, working with the next generations’ living heroes. I would rather call them survivors of child sexual abuse, since labeling them a victim could have deleterious effects. As for those who are survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), suppressing the trauma is a necessary part of the recovery process. Until they have stabilized themselves in the aftermath of abuse, and until they have gained the skills necessary to face their trauma, survivors “forget” what happened to them as a coping mechanism.

It’s one thing to face a bully in school, or deal with the way poverty limits resources; both are genuine struggles teens face today, but for survivors of CSA, theirs is a whole other struggle entirely. Yet another reason we need to speak up and help them discover the truth that they are not alone, and their experience can be validated by those who will listen and offer support.


3. Donald, do you feel that writing this novel has, in some ways, excised some of your own demons? How therapeutic was it for you to write this book? Do you want to talk about your own experiences on the subject that you covered in your novel?

GDC Answered:

The short answer is, yes. Yes, I have exorcized the demon that is CSA. Honestly, the demon from Joel’s nightmares represents his abuser, but essentially, he was created to give teeth to the hell Joel goes through awake or asleep. He is not afforded the dignity of rest, of relief from his traumatic past. You could say the demon represents what CSA is to survivors. That might look different from one survivor to another. Those traumatic memories can surface at any time. Sometimes a touch, or a smell, or returning to a specific place can trigger a memory for a survivor.

I said above that it was cathartic to write this book. One of Joel’s biggest hurdles is to find a way to recover his dignity and choose how to share his abuse experience, rather than have it chosen for him the way it was at the beginning of the novel. For many survivors this is a daily lived truth. The lie of CSA is that we somehow “deserved” what happened to us, or “brought it upon ourselves,” neither of which are true. In many ways, the action I took toward CSA by writing this book parallels the same journey Joel takes in the novel.

The experience was not without becoming triggered, and struggling at times. That cost me and my family, my wife and four boys, as I worked my way through a process that took 5 years start to finish. Am I better for it? Yes. I would say I have moved further in my recovery, toward overcomer, the last stage of my recovery model. The model I use runs along a continuum: victim, survivor, thriver, adaptor, and overcomer.

For a chart that explains each of these stages of recovery, as well as other resources for survivors, check out my Pinterest page for Survivors here:
For a frank discussion on the unique struggles male survivors face, check out my interview on two male survivors who are thriving at School Library Journal’s #SVYALit (Sexual Violence in YA Literature) site:
A common diagnosis among survivors of CSA is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it was not until graduate school I learned there is something else: posttraumatic growth (PTG) as an option for survivors. The thing about PTSD is it can be limiting. I will say it is a good starting point, but I would suggest that it should be viewed as a temporary label, that can be revised later once the survivor is ready to move beyond that place. Posttraumatic Growth allows the survivor to use a resiliency-based approach in their recovery. For a discussion on the differences between PTSD and PTG, check out the article I wrote for Stigma Fighters:
Finally, I will say that one of the greatest purposes in writing THE PACKING HOUSE is to support CSA survivors. With the sale of each book, I will donate 20% to Male Survivor to establish a scholarship survivors can use to attend a Weekend of Recovery. For more information, check out their site:


4. (As an aside, I would like to add that Male Survivor is a lifeline for male survivors of sexual abuse. I have myself gone to two of their WEEKEND OF RECOVERY weekend retreats for survivors. I credit them with saving me and helping me to move from victim to survivor to thriver on my own journey away from childhood sexual abuse victim. Thank you for mentioning them, Donald. And thank you for helping others discover this godsend of an organization. Your donation will be greatly appreciated by them.) With my own writing, I always try to write books that I would have loved to read as a teenager…to get them into the hands of readers who might feel less alone after reading them. The Packing House definitely would have been one for me. Your novel will be a way to begin dialogue on this subject that is becoming less and less taboo. If it reaches victims, it could potentially save them years (decades) of silent suffering. I want you to tell me what it means to you to put this out into the world.

GDC Answered:

I definitely kept that idea in mind: writing the books I needed as a teen, when writing THE PACKING HOUSE. They just didn’t exist back then. Thankfully, I am not the only writer addressing the importance of this topic. Several must read titles include: The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick, Boy Toy, by Barry Lyga, Swagger, by Carl Deuker, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, just to name a few. I first learned the concept of writing the books teens need from author Cheryl Rainfield. I have loved every book of hers, and highly recommend reading Scars, Hunted, Parallel Visions, and Stained.

For me, it means I am doing something actionable: to normalize the CSA experience for other survivors by writing Joel’s story, by creating a tool for parents and family members (as well as clinical mental health organizations and professionals) to use in supporting survivors, and in underlining the importance of dialogue and action regarding child sexual abuse (CSA). We need to talk about it, and we need to take action.


5. We now know that one of the biggest barriers in the fight against childhood sexual abuse is SILENCE. Essentially, silence kills…it causes the victim to suffer and it protects the perpetrator. If you could start a campaign to end SILENCE, using your novel The Packing House as a jumping off point…how would you go about doing so? And how would you incorporate Joel Scrivener as a poster-child to break down the walls of silence that victims of childhood sexual abuse suffer behind?

GDC Answered:

I would love to see THE PACKING HOUSE used in the way you have just described. That is my vision and dream, and the story is not over with this book. It’s actually book one of a planned duology. Book two is in first draft, and I am about 12,000 words in so far, which is basically the hook. Hopefully it will take substantially less than five years to complete and share with readers. The tentative title is, Unpacking the Past, and picks up right where book one ends. Trust me to tell you, it takes off from there.

The movement you have described can be summarized by the hashtag I created: #YourStoryYourVoice to use on social media to talk about shattering the silence, your voice matters, and your story matters. Don’t allow your abuser to win. Find and use your voice, and speak up. Others, like myself, need to hear your stories, which are just as valid as Joel’s story. Together, we can speak up and end the crippling effect silence has on survivors. Let’s do this.

I am thankful for forerunners, like Tori Amos and her work with (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) and Lady Gaga, whose recent song from the movie The Hunting Ground, addresses sexual assault (SA) on college campuses, a related issue in the sexual trauma category. Her song, “Till it Happens to You” (Listen here: ) was on repeat as I revised part three of THE PACKING HOUSE. She lives nearby in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I am so very thankful for her example and for her championing this cause, given her own personal recovery journey with SA. I have learned I am not alone and there is much more to be done.


6. How did you begin your journey into WRITER? Did you want to talk about the evolution of your writing life leading up to the release of your debut novel?

GDC Answered:

As a child I found solace in the library. I loved and read as many books as I could get my hands on. My childhood could be described as tumultuous, to say the least. I moved more than fifty times before I turned 18. I was raised by a single mother, who was unlike Joel’s mother described in THE PACKING HOUSE. Despite the upheaval I experienced as a child, books saved me and taught me to tell my own story. Eventually, I would learn to write. I began with simple stories and poems, and this led to some recognition and awards in high school. As an adult, I wrote my first novel in 2010, and revised it countless times in the past five years. Now I am satisfied I have a compelling story to share (thanks to the tremendous support I received from my editor and proof reader), and I hope you’ll find Joel’s story one that touches you in the reader feels.


7. The journey to publication is almost over. I watched a lot of the becoming of The Packing House. I was constantly in awe of your dedication to getting it just right. This baby was incredibly important to you. As a writer, I’ve learned a lot from you while watching you go through the editing and rewriting process. It’s done! That must feel like an incredible accomplishment. Not to brush it aside, now, but…here’s the inevitable WHAT’S NEXT question. What does G. Donald Cribbs have in the hopper? With your debut young adult novel finally hitting the marketplace, what are you writing now? Any projects you want to talk about?

GDC Answered:

Kevin, I am so thankful to have found you and your books during my journey of writing and revising THE PACKING HOUSE. Your patience and endurance in reading and reading again the many iterations that were the drafts of THE PACKING HOUSE helped to shape it into what it is today. Without your support, I might have given up and shelved it or “trunked” it, as many writers say. If any of that process helped you in any way, I am humbled and grateful it didn’t drive you insane.

It does feel like an incredible accomplishment. My boys have a father again, and my wife has a husband again. Thank goodness!

One area of growth I am working on as a straight male able-bodied cis Christian man is that despite my past I am privileged. There are many more who are not as fortunate as I am. When I write stories, it is important to me to consider perspectives outside of my own and represent straight and LGBT, male and female, those like my son who face and overcome disabilities and those who do not, cis and trans persons, and others on a spectrum of identity, Christian, Muslim, and other faiths or non-faiths, and those from minority groups who have been significantly underrepresented in history, books, music, the arts, and in many other ways. Mental health, since it is my profession, is important to me to talk about and write about and will likely show up in future books.


8. I just wanted to stop you there for a moment. You've brought up a topic I would like to touch on briefly. You speak of the importance of inclusion overall, and of LGBT representation. Did you want to speak to the sexuality confusion faced by your main character, Joel Scrivener, in The Packing House?

GDC Answered:

Joel's sexuality does come to the forefront during his journey as seen in The Packing House. Particularly for survivors who are the same gender, most commonly male-male survivors, this does come up, despite the fact that abuse is about power and control rather than one's sexuality. So, it was important for me to represent the incongruence a survivor must work through in his or her recovery. I introduce this underlying struggle for Joel who is conflicted about identifying himself as either a bisexual or heterosexual person. Another option could be identifying himself as homosexual. But this struggle will carry over into book two, regardless of what happens in book one. I will add that my own sexuality does not matter; it's Joel's story and struggle to tell. Still, it's important to be representative and inclusive when writing about these topics.

TTBOFS Answered:

I knew you would answer that question expertly. Thanks so much for elaborating! Sorry for the interruption. Please continue with the original question regarding your future projects. 

GDC Answered:

No problem at all. Once my first set of books are complete, I intend to write many more books, both standalone and series. I have a dystopian series on twins and diseases that has a neat rescue storyline. I have a fairytale retelling planned based on Beauty and the Beast with a twist. She is the beast, not he. Also, to explain the magic in a magical realism approach, I’m using a steampunk framework to tell the story. That story is next. But there are others, many, many others. I hope you and other readers will stick around. It’s going to be an amazing ride. I do plan to stick with Young Adult fiction to tell these and other stories. Don’t tell anyone but I am a huge fanboy of many YA writers and the books they write.

I look forward to connecting with my readers on social media, and continuing the conversation there. Sometimes, I may be reading or writing instead. I won’t be gone long. If Joel’s story resonates with you, I hope you’ll find your favorite place to post a review so other readers can connect as well. Thank you for reading THE PACKING HOUSE. We should probably hang out and talk somewhere online.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kevin. I hope this is one of many conversations to move CSA to a place of relevance and urgency, a place that necessitates future discussion and action.

TTBOFS Answered:

I will definitely share my review of THE PACKING HOUSE wherever I can, Donald. It’s an excellent read and an important one. You took on a monumental task and, in my opinion, you scored a homerun. TPH is an entertaining read and Joel Scrivener is a character I will remember for a long time to come. Thank you so much for your time. And, perhaps more importantly, thank you for taking the time to share with my readers your knowledge on the subject of CSA. I wish you the best of success with this novel. May it reach the hands of those who need it most! We look forward to seeing more from you soon! Thank you.

If you would like to pre-order G. Donald Cribbs's THE PACKING HOUSE from Amazon, please click on the book cover below to be taken to Amazon:
There is an offer for those who pre-order The Packing House early. Please see below for details:

Current offer for first purchasers who let me know:
First 50 who buy Kindle pre-order will receive an eChapbook of FISH OUT OF WATER, companion to THE PACKING HOUSE. First 50 who buy the paperback will receive a signed, numbered, limited edition printed chapbook of FISH OUT OF WATER, designed by the talented Michelle Fairbanks of FreshDesign.


Join G. Donald Cribbs online for a book launch party in your pajamas:

Sunday, January 31, 2016

5 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST

Join the TPH release party for book details, fun, games, giveaways, prizes, and more. You never know who might show up! Sign up here to reserve your party hat: FACEBOOK THE PACKING HOUSE RELEASE EVENT!


  1. This book sounds amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. I'm an author at Booktrope too, so I saw this one pass by a few times already. Curious about reading it, though!


  2. Thank you for your courage and inspiration. I have found "biblio-therapy" an incredible resource. I look forward to reading your book.