By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
As the mom of three children, Steiner Ranch resident and author Venessa Kimball was deeply saddened by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. After seeing repeated acts of school violence in the media, Kimball began to question how a troubled young person could commit such atrocities. In her new book “Dismantling Evan,” released earlier this year on Amazon, Kimball delves into the topic of teen mental illness and many of the other pressures teens face today.
“Dismantling Evan” is a fictional story based in a small Central Texas town. The main character is Evan “Evangeline” Phillips, a teen struggling with mental illness. Kimball said she did a lot of research for the book including reading numerous case studies involving school violence and mental illness. She also talked to local police and drew from her own experiences as a middle school teacher in Del Valle.
“I wanted to make sure to get the characters right and do justice for the mental illnesses I was addressing in the novel,” Kimball said.
This is the fifth book Kimball has written. She began her writing career with a four-book science fiction series. The first book in the series, “Piercing the Fold,” was published in September 2013 through an independent publishing house called Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly, based in Michigan.
Kimball and her husband have three children, ages 12, 10 and 7. She said her children indirectly inspired her latest book.
“We are blessed to live in a very tolerant and open-minded community, but that is not the norm of society,” she said. “I took myself out of the community that I am blessed to be in and ventured into the norm of our nation as a whole.”
She said she hopes that readers of “Dismantling Evan” will walk away from the book with a greater awareness of mental illness in teens.
“I want people to have a knowledge that teens, adults and the people around them are dealing with more than what is on the surface,” she said. “Everyone has a story. People must have an awareness of the flaws that are in the fabric of our communities and the lack of ability to address and help heal teen mental illness on both a psychological and generalized community level.”
Since its release two months ago, the book has been well received.
Within the first week of release, “Dismantling Evan” held an Amazon Best Sellers position in the top 100 young adult/teen contemporary fiction novels dealing with self esteem and self reliance as well as a teen contemporary romance ranking. It continued to rank for over three weeks straight, she said. Not only did it rank nationally at that time, but internationally through Amazon Canada. This makes “Dismantling Evan” an Amazon international best seller.
“The readers are even suggesting it be a mandatory read in schools as well as a mandatory read by parents due to the relevant content,” Kimball said.
With the desire for readers to know more about the characters in the novel, Kimball has signed a contract with her publishing house to follow up with two additional novels; “Inventing Evan” and “Capturing Evan”. Both books will follow the characters after the “dismantlement” of their world which will be just as emotional as “Dismantling Evan”, Kimball added.
“Dismantling Evan” is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format.
Kimball attends local book signings, and has visited several schools including Cedar Park High School, where she served as a mentor for the Writing Club, and Laura Welch Bush Elementary, where she spoke to a fifth grade class about the process of writing a book. She visited Canyon Ridge Middle School’s Future Fest in the spring.
“I would love to do more with the community and the schools,” she said.
Kimball said it can sometimes be challenging to find the time to write while raising three kids.
“It is easier said than done when you are raising three children that are rushing around the house doing homework, needing to be fed and taken to different activities,” she said. “I do have consistent time every day where I can step into my writing cave. It is then that I’m able to fully give myself to the characters and story.”