Human trafficking is such a big issue it is hard for many people to understand just how pervasive it really is.
Shining a light on that problem was a motivating factor for Lisa Clonch Tschauner in writing the novel “Reclamation,” which publishes July 1.
Tschauner, who lives in Hastings and is the director for the Center of Entrepreneurship and Rural Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, finished the first draft of the novel during the summer of 2019.
“It came to me kind of fast and furious, actually,” she said.
Her daughter, Madison, now in graduate school, has traveled all over the world with different academic programs.
“A little bit of it was inspired by just being the mom of a young person who travels,” Tschauner said. “A little bit of it came from that, and a little bit of it just came from the realities of this terrible crime, this awful situation that is happening in our world.”
A description of the plot on the book’s Amazon page states “After Mallory Shields graduates from college in her idyllic Midwestern hometown, she embarks on an adventure with her best friend, Jenna, taking a gap year to explore the other side of the world. Their journey quickly takes an unexpected turn, and the two young women find themselves in danger and exposed to crime, abuse, and the most dehumanizing conditions possible.
“Forced into the horrific world of human sex trafficking, and fighting to return to their lives and families back home, the women struggle navigating a corrupt system and injustice beyond their control. Faced with the loss of time, betrayal, and extraordinary guilt, Mallory learns she must conjure strength she never knew possible and make hard compromises to become her true self.”
Tschauner said human trafficking is the second-largest industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade.
“As I started developing this story it kind of came out of me,” she said. “I’m very passionate about it. I’m very passionate about raising awareness. Typically your average person who has the ability to make a difference and help tends to not gravitate toward the subject matter of human trafficking and anti-trafficking things.”
In order to do that, Tschauner knew she had to create something different.
“A lot of our current content and information around human trafficking, and especially human sex trafficking, is very information-based,” she said. “It’s about facts and statistics. You see a lot of documentaries, which are all very, very important and incredible resources, but in order to get your person of average means and capabilities to pay attention and realize they can make a difference, you have to have some heart there. You have to have a story. You have to have something that is going to engage them in the content. That’s why I turned it into a fiction story that has a lot of twists and turns and suspense. There’s lot of threads of love and hope and resilience. Definitely the number one thing that is played throughout the novel is the importance of relationships — with friends and family as well as the relationship you have with yourself.”
It was Tschauner’s goal to bring a voice to survivors and victims of human sex trafficking.
“To create a story that the average person is going to relate to is very important,” she said. “I typically shy away from those topics, or true crime or that sort of stuff, but when I realize there’s a story I can engage with and get involved in and immerse myself into I tend to then become a little bit more of an advocate for the subject matter.”
Her son, Wyatt, was an encouraging factor to publish the novel.
Tschauner graduated from Hebron High School in 1990.
“It’s really fun for a lot of my high school friends and people from Hebron, former teachers and stuff, to see this,” she said.
While this is her first novel, Tschauner has always dabbled with fiction.
“I’ve always loved writing and expressing myself and my creativity through writing,” she said.
She has other writing experience, as well.
In 2012 she published “Rule of Thumb: A Guide to Small Business Customer Service and Relationships (Rule of Thumb Series).”
Tschauner had a few different resources when it came to workshopping “Reclamation.”
She connected with three women on the West Coast who are volunteers for Agape International Missions, a nonprofit organization working to rescue, heal and empower survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia.
She got in touch with Agape International Missions through Catherine Lang, director of the Nebraska Business Development Center, a professional contact for Tschauner who has cousins working in Agape International Missions.
“Those three women read it and they gave me so much insight and guidance,” Tschauner said. “They’ve actually been on rescue missions to different countries to rescue survivors of human trafficking and help them.”
A longtime book club in Hastings also read a draft of “Reclamation” and reviewed the novel.
Tschauner also attended a writing and meditation workshop at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.
“I have a tribe of friends who have been so incredibly supportive,” she said. “They themselves are writers and talented artists and they were able to give me some really good feedback.”
She did a lot of research after the initial draft.
The book includes a section about tips when traveling, how to get involved and how to learn the signs of trafficking.
Tschauner’s ultimate goal is to get involved with a foundation or start a foundation where survivors of trafficking are able to get the help they need on the emotional side as well as the economic.
“I hope people fall in love with these characters as much as I have and really gravitate toward the subject matter in a way they wouldn’t otherwise if there wasn’t a story tying it all together,” she said.