Episode 2

Exploring abuse and trauma in children's fiction with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was the sort of kid who would skip lunch breaks to read and talk with the school librarian. She studied chemistry and worked as a research chemist after school, writing at night and on the weekends. Eventually, she realised that writing was her true passion and got her first publishing contract while pregnant with her second child. She now lives on a farm in Tennessee with an assortment of animals and is celebrating the publication of her 18th novel, Fighting Words. 

Just a note a warning before listening:  This episode deals with discussions of child sexual abuse and may be triggering for some listeners. If you need support:

In the UK, you can find support here.

In Australia, you can find help here

Interview starts at 21 minutes.

Mini-book club: Every Lie I've Ever Told by Rosie Waterland

This memoir is a moving and beautiful exploration of friendship and grief. We are both in awe of Rosie's ability to make us laugh and cry in the space of a few paragraphs. 

Please note that Caitlin's job at HarperCollins Publishers did not affect our opinion of this book. 

In this interview, we chat about:

  • Why Fighting Words is the book Kimberley feels she was called to write (and why it was also the most challenging of all her work)
  • How the #metoo movement spurred Kimberley to write the first sentences of the project which became Fighting Words
  • How Kimberley fine-tuned the difficult subject matter to make the novel appropriate for ages 10 and up
  • Why Kimberley believes children’s novels have to sometimes explore this darker subject matter
  • The reaction of readers and teachers to the novel
  • The research process for her previous historical novels, set in WW2 Britain (The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won)
  • The changes Kimberley has seen in the publishing industry (the need for diverse books) and how she’s grown as a writer

Books and other things mentioned:

  • The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland
  • How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
  • Margot and Me by Juno Dawson
  • Author: Angie Thomas
  • Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
  • Author: Nikki Grimes
  • Author: Elizabeth Acevedo 
  • The Enigma Game and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Skylark’s War by Hilary McKay

Get in touch with Kimberly at her website

Follow us on Instagram @betterwordspod

*Note: We received PR copies of Fighting Words from Text Publishing.

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Better Words
Better Words

About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.