Sarah is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a fact that came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED. She and her husband, a magician, live in Southern California with their 14-month-old son. She's never been sawed in half, but there's still time. She loves to read coming-of-age and YA novels, effed up memoirs, and edgy non-fiction. Visit Sarah's website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook!
Martial Arts and the Inspiration for BRUISED by Sarah Skilton
Three reasons I took Tae Kwon Do lessons the summer after high school:
1. I wanted to kick butt like the women of X-Men. I especially loved Shadowcat, who could walk through walls
and was trained as a ninja in Japan (from a mini-series with Wolverine in the
2. I wanted to trick myself into exercising. I couldn’t fathom running on a
treadmill in a gym, but learning self-defense while burning calories? Yes,
please! Through warm-ups, poomse (routines), kicking, punching, and general
training I strengthened my arms, legs, and core muscles without feeling bored
or having to force myself to participate.
3. I wanted to be mentally strong as well as physically. Martial arts
requires meditation, confidence, and discipline to study it properly.
Despite my interest in the sport, I gave it up for most of college and didn’t
earn my black belt until my late 20s. To create Imogen, the 16-year-old
protagonist of BRUISED, I asked myself what it would’ve been like to reach black
belt status as a teenager. You’d have to be focused and determined, and I loved
the idea of writing about a girl who was extremely mature in some aspects (her
dedication to Tae Kwon Do) but immature in other aspects (her relationships
with friends, family, and boys).
Since Imogen is so young, she
hasn’t had time to amass a ton of real-world perspective or experience, so it
throws her for a major loop when she fails to act at an armed robbery. Suddenly
her identity as a black belt is shattered, and she has no idea how to make it
Although I still love X-Men, I really wanted to write about a girl living in the real world who didn’t have superpowers but trained hard to become a fighter. It was important to me to show that anyone can learn martial arts if they’re willing to work at it.
Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your own experience with martial arts! I was impressed to see just how much I learned reading BRUISED. I didn't know half of what I expected to, and seeing the history of Tae Kwon Do was truly enlightening!
Title: BRUISED Author:Sarah Skilton
Release Date:March 5, 2013
Publisher: Amulet / Abrams
Imogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else--more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault. Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight--a real fight--she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for. But when it comes down to it, a fight won’t answer Imogen’s big questions: What does it really mean to be stronger than other people? Is there such a thing as a fair fight? And can someone who’s beaten and bruised fall in love? Debut author Skilton understands and respects martial arts, and she does a beautiful job presenting the philosophy that drives serious martial artists... Here is a writer to watch who handles complex issues with sensitivity in the vein of Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen. ~ Booklist Online Offering psychological drama and an introduction to martial-arts code of behavior, the book has a meaningful message about power, control, and the internal bruises carried by victims. ~Publishers Weekly, starred review A useful exploration of the difference between fantasy-style omnipotence and the complexity of real-life human strength. ~ Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books