Lauriane Povey

My latest novel, Veil of Anonymity, has received quite a lot of publicity from my local press. I’ve been congratulated for writing an ‘anti-bullying’ novel. I never set out to do this, I just thought of a story and thought it would be a good book to write. There was never a moral reason for writing this book and there was never meant to be an educational message associated with it. But after speaking to young people and victims of bullies, I want to help raise awareness of Cyber Bullying and if my book has the potential to prevent one child from turning into a bully, it’s worth a try.

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I was never a victim of cyber bullying but I saw its effects when at school. Someone in my class was being bullied online and people were sending him anonymous, quite sickening messages. I was in the dining hall one morning and overheard a conversation about these messages. There were about five or six lads laughing about these messages and these were the victim’s group of best friends. I quickly discovered that it was them, the victim’s best friends, who were the bullies. I was shocked and I couldn’t believe that they were laughing about it so openly and telling another pupil about what they’ve been doing, who also found it funny. I think I made a mistake by ignoring this and not telling the victim who his bullies were but I barely spoke to the person and I didn’t want to upset him, I also didn’t think he’d believe me. I don’t think his best friends realised that they were bullying him and how awful they were being and I think more awareness on what cyber bullying is, is needed.

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The media reports on worst case scenarios such as suicides resulting from cyber bullying but I think in most cases, the victims suffer in silence and the bullies aren’t aware of what they are doing and do not regard their actions as bullying. In Veil of Anonymity, the story is focused on the bully and his life. At first he doesn’t think he is a bully and it takes him a long time to realise the emotional damage he’s inflicted upon Marcus, the victim. I don’t know why anyone would start to cyber bully someone and I think most people think they would never be a bully, but as cases of cyber bullying victims are rising, the number of cyber bullies must also be rising. There is a lot of help and advice available for victim’s of cyber bullying and this is important but I think the best way to stop bullying is to prevent people from becoming bullies. A lot of anti-bullying material is focused around the victim’s but I not only want to help the victims, I want to stop the bullying from ever happening.

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It was important for my characters, both the victim and the bully, to be ‘ordinary’ teenage lads. I didn’t want the bully to be portrayed as a stereotypical bully and I didn’t want the victim to be weak. I wanted Marcus to be able to stand up for himself and I wanted the bully to have ‘human’ qualities. I wanted this because I not only wanted to show that everyone can be a victim of cyber bullying, but that anyone could be a bully. Children are taught from an early age what to do if they are bullied but Marcus didn’t know who his bully was and this is what makes cyber bullying hugely different from ‘normal’ bullying. How can you defend yourself from an invisible attacker? The anonymity that is used by some cyber bullies also causes great problems such as paranoia because the victim doesn’t know who is threatening them and it could be someone close to them.

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The summer holidays have arrived – or they soon will – and previously these six weeks would have been a welcome break for victims of bullying, but now bullying is frequently taking place outside of the classroom and playground. Most teens have unlimited access to the internet through their phones and computers and they have the ability to bully at all times. I have heard many people say that victim’s of cyber bullies are stupid. They say if you are being bullied on facebook, get rid of your facebook account, change your mobile number, remove all your social network profiles and then no one can cyber bully you. And yes, for some people, these simple solutions work and I don’t know why people don’t just get rid of their facebook account if they are being bullied on there, I would. I have spoken to young people who have been bullied online and they still use facebook and put up with the abuse, I wouldn’t and I can’t say I understand but the public need to remember that it’s not the victim’s fault they are being bullied. You can’t blame the victims for putting up with the abuse and more people need to be aware that cyber bullying is a very real form of bullying. It isn’t always as simple as not going online. Many people are ‘indirectly’ cyber bullied. Bullies can create new profiles and pretend to be the victim and cause a lot of trouble by pretending to be someone else. Even if you get rid of facebook, you can’t stop someone from creating an account and pretending to be you. Bullies can spread online rumours about you to people at school and there is little the victim can do to stop this. Even if you do change your phone number, it is probably not hard for the bully to find someone with your new number. I wanted Marcus to stop using facebook and change his mobile number, to show that he wasn’t going to just put up with the bully. But the bully found new ways to use technology to attack him.

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I don’t want Veil of Anonymity to be seen as a boring educational book to teach young people about bullying. I didn’t write it for that reason, it’s a fiction book based on a real-life issue. Even before I started writing I thought it would be interesting to write a book about a bully. The young adult fiction market is so dominated by books on vampires and dystopia worlds for commercial reasons but I wanted to write about something real, something that is relevant to teenagers today. And cyber bullying is a very under-represented topic in young adult fiction, especially when cyber bullying is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue among secondary schools and young people. If a young adult reads Veil of Anonymity and stops to think about their behaviour when online then I would be very happy. But I would be equally happy if you read my book and enjoyed it, if I wanted Veil of Anonymity to be educational I would have written a textbook not a fiction novel.

Veil of AnonymityOrder your copy now for £4.99 (plus £1 postage) or find out more