Friday, October 20, 2017

Author Guest Post: Herta Feely (Author of Saving Phoebe Murrow) Tackles Cyberbullying

Author Guest Post:Herta Feely (Saving Phoebe Murrow) on Cyberbullying

As you may or may not already know, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In honor of this, I have a special guest post today from Herta Feely, author of Saving Phoebe Murrow, which discusses the event that first inspired her to write Saving Phoebe Murrow, how she wrote her novel and characters, and more for you to explore.  More information about the book--and its current sale-- are available below the post!

Author of Saving Phoebe Murrow Tackles Cyberbullying
by Herta Feely

On January 10, 2008, I read an article in the Washington Post about a 13-year-old Missouri girl named Megan Meier who’d been cyberbullied, a cruel incident that led her to commit suicide. Though she thought she’d been communicating and flirting on MySpace with a cute boy named Josh Evans, 16, in fact Josh turned out to be 47-year-old Lori Drew, a neighbor.  Drew hid behind the phony profile to find out what Megan might be saying about her daughter, Sarah, with whom Megan had been friends. One day, Drew, tired of carrying on the charade, decided to end the hoax, using cruel language to demean and belittle Megan, and thus the cyber-bullying gained steam. Several teens, including Drew’s daughter, knew about the phony profile and piled on, something at least some of them would later regret. Finally, “Josh” posed the ultimate challenge by suggesting that Megan kill herself, to which she replied, “For someone like you I would.” And then she did. Her mother and father found her hanging in her closet a few minutes later.

The horror of this situation took me aback. At the time of the article, I was not yet participating on social media and was hardly aware of it, although I knew my two sons did on occasion use Facebook. (It had never occurred to me to monitor their use!) Though horrified, I was also intrigued by the power of this medium, and how it might obscure and complicate relationships. That we might not know who we are actually “speaking” with. Worse yet, that we, as parents, might not know who our children are communicating with, and that those people on the other end of a photo and name might become a menace or actually have predatory intentions.

Another aspect immediately took hold of me too: the idea of incorporating social media into a novel and including a character in the story who might pose as someone else on Facebook. Lori Drew repulsed and fascinated me. How could a mother do something like what she’d done to Megan, a vulnerable and insecure girl only weeks shy of her 14th birthday? And so, slowly, over a period of nearly three years, characters began to emerge in my mind, as did plot and storyline. The novel I planned to write would not be based on Megan’s story, but rather was inspired by it.

Saving Phoebe Murrow revolves around two families, in particular two women and their 13-year-old daughters who are best friends, and all the missteps that ensue, which ultimately leads to a cyber-bullying incident that brings Phoebe to the brink of suicide. Phoebe’s father also plays a key role. He has philandered before and though Isabel forgave him for the lapse she promised herself “never again” and that “actions have consequences.” In the opening pages, we learn that she has a nagging feeling he is behaving the way he had during that previous infidelity.

Once I began to write, the story flowed and I finished the first draft in nine months, the length of a pregnancy. Then I took a couple of more years to revise. I had writer friends read it, and also hired a series of editors to work with me on it. Finally, in 2015, it sold to both a US independent press, Upper Hand Press, and a UK press, Bonnier-Zaffre.

This is the one-year anniversary of the novel, which won the New Apple Award for best general fiction in 2016. Recently, the audiobook was released and is available on Amazon In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month (October in the US), Upper Hand Press and I have reduced the ebook price of the novel to $.99 for two weeks, beginning October 30th. (Thank you for spreading the word to friends who might be interested!)

The novel has stimulated much discussion about social media and cyber-bullying.  Many of my readers and audiences ask me questions about online safety and what parents need to do to protect their children when using social media. As a result, I’ve been interviewed on radio and TV and written articles and online pieces on that issue. Here is a link to one such recent piece: Earlier in the year I wrote a lengthier piece for Juno, a UK magazine on family life. My article, “Cyberbullying,” appeared in their Early Spring 2017 issue. For additional information about bullying prevention, here are two key websites: and

Finally, the novel has stimulated much conversation among women’s book groups, and I have either attended or Skyped with quite a few to participate in their discussions.

Please feel free to contact me through my website,

About the Book:

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what's needed to keep your children from harm. 

Phoebe's mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother's mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident. 
Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.


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