A boy searching for the right pet. A girl who wants to be a belly dancer. It’s with real-life, fun topics like these that Karen Coombs has been entertaining young audiences since the 1990s. More recently, however, the local author has embarked on a more serious and timely subject — bullying.
“Bully at Ambush Corner,” an E-book geared toward middle-grade readers, addresses the issue of bullying in a humorous fashion, using the story of a young boy bullied by a girl to offer real-life advice of how to overcome the problem.
“In the book, the character makes a valiant attempt to stay peaceable and not hit a girl. He does many things along the way, some hilarious,” said Coombs in an interview from her Solana Beach home. “The whole book is based on how he can get her to stop picking on him and still maintain his beliefs.”
By making the bully in the book a girl, Coombs said the book challenges the stereotype that bullies are usually boys. She was inspired by a “Hagar the Horrible” comic in which a character’s response to getting bullied by a girl was: “A good left hook has no gender.”
“Why not get people thinking along a different line,” said Coombs. “People may have a preconception that boys bully with fists and girls bully with words.”
But in her years of publishing more than eight novels, Coombs’ success has come from her staying open-ended and letting the subjects of her books take on lives of their own.
“The characters really take me where they want to go,” she said.
Coombs is a former elementary school teacher from Alberta, Canada, who discovered her love of writing while being cooped up in her countryside during long winters. She loved reading and writing, but really honed in on her passion when she took a class on writing for children while in journalism school at the University of Utah.
“Bully at Ambush Corner” is Coombs’ first electronic book, a starkly different experience than working with publishers of print novels, as she is used to. The books sells for $3.99 on Kindle, Nook, Sony and iTunes.
“The scariest part of E-book publishing is that you are on your own,” she said. “You don’t have editors looking over your shoulder.”
Coombs has also tapped into the issue of bullying in today’s schools, and shares her insight with the world through her blog,