THE BOOK: Eaglebait.

PUBLISHED IN: Hardcover: 1989; paperback and e-book: 2022

THE AUTHOR: Susan Coryell.

THE EDITOR: Valuable help with formatting: Mike Ponzio.

THE PUBLISHER: 1989 publisher: Harcourt; 2022 publisher KDP.

SUMMARY: Eaglebait is a young adult novel dealing with school bullies, building self-esteem and coming of age for the 14-year-old protagonist, Wardy Spinks. Wardy has been a loser for as long as he can remember. Freshman year in high school Wardy becomes the victim of malicious bullying. Eventually, his life begins to change. First, a charismatic science teacher becomes his mentor. Then, quiet Meg seems friendly. And Big Vi takes on a life of her own. Wardy discovers his attitude makes a difference in how others treat him. If Wardy doesn’t feel like a loser, maybe he won’t be one.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote Eaglebait when I was teaching middle school English. I saw how devastating bullying could be and I wanted to address that through the medium of realistic fiction. Also, I felt that most of the young adult literature available at the time involved female protagonists and I wanted something that male students could better identify with. It took me three years to complete and publish the manuscript. Keep in mind I was teaching full time and had three children at home. I could only work primarily during the summers.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I do think Eaglebait is a unique title. Wardy attends Evanstown High, home of the fighting Eagles. Any opponent – say a rival basketball team—is “Eagle bait.” Because Wardy is a bully-target, they dub him “Eaglebait,” all one word because it’s his “title.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Since its original publication, I have found that Eaglebait resonates with kids from upper elementary to middle school to early high school – teens and ‘tweens crossing three segments of schooling. I have done dozens of book talks and writers’ conferences with school kids who have expressed how affecting they found the novel to be. Eaglebait is not just for young readers. Educators, community leaders and church youth groups have also used the book as background for anti-bully and building-self-esteem programs. In addition to public schools, the novel has been praised by homeschool, private school and military school personnel. I have also heard from numerous parents of troubled teens who acknowledge the value of the book’s built-in suggestions to thwart bullies: tell a responsible adult; find a mentor; invest time and effort in an interest you love in order to gather like-minded friends around you. Eaglebait is, perhaps, unique in that it appeals to so many readers in so many different stages of life on so many levels.


Booklist: “Wardy is a multi-dimensional protagonist whose misery, as he tries to find himself, is realistically drawn… {The novel} will resonate with meaning for students who may have experienced problems with self-acceptance.”

School Library Journal: “The pace is good and Eaglebait is a quick, successful read.”

From reader Mark Anderson, in part: “We may now take a new and refreshing look at an early novel which targets the issue of bullying. In 1989, Susan Coryell, a career educator in Virginia, wrote Eaglebait, a young adult novel that is prescient in its realization of an enormous problem that in the ensuing years would create headlines and careen out of control. We now have a re-issue and we can read again how Coryell’s perceptions still ring true. We can discern how her hip and often amusing depictions of 1980s culture and technology more than withstand the scrutiny and the flippancy of our new century. Updates of her situations and ideas slide into our consciousness as easily as a couple of thumbs flicking the latest palm-size screen. Our main character, Wardy, is not the world’s greatest 14-year-old. He is insolent to his mother, and disdainful of his father. He literally blows apart his chance at a good high school career at a prestigious private school. He further skews the moral compass of his life by carrying out a minor deceit. But does this mean that he should be subject to bullying? Emphatically, no. However, he is also pudgy, confused, and a brilliant science student. That’s the fodder which arch-bullies Jimmo, Jocko, and their mates find worth pursuing when Wardy shows up at his new school. Now what can Wardy do when bullies block his future? Coryell delivers vicious scenes of bullying, cutting them from the whole cloth of a society’s perversions. Public humiliation and the mob effect take hold and engulf the hapless Wardy. We recognize the slow, gnawing nature of bullying. It wrenches our hearts because we recognize it yet today. Coryell makes the key point that solutions are needed. If you can’t talk sense to a bully, try to steer clear and find your own support.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: I have been a writer for as far back as memory takes me. Writers have to write, and we know who we are! Since the publication of Eaglebait, I have written and traditionally published with The Wild Rose Press (NY) four cozy mysteries, three of which are also Southern Gothics and a murder mystery entitled A Murder of Principle.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Stones-Susan-Coryell-ebook/dp/B00UF1YM6M/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2WQ086JIS94BY&keywords=the+wild+rose+press+authors+susan+coryell&qid=1661449431&sprefix=the+wild+rose+press+authors+susan+coryell%2Caps%2C77&sr=8-1

Just published through KDP is my very first children’s picture book, Spooky Yoga, co-authored with a certified yoga instructor. My family is riddled with writers, starting with my maternal grandfather and cycling on down to several of my grandchildren. I suppose writing is embedded in our DNA. Check out some of my thoughts via my Facebook Author page. Posted there is my interview with Rose Martin for her PBS series “Write Around the Corner,” which gives you good insight to my writing life and philosophy.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063592146345

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Because of Eaglebait’s success, I decided to update it with current school details and cyber-bullying, which did not exist in 1989. For example, I included uses of technology in schools. In the updated version bullies take out a Facebook page, “Eaglebait Fan Page” for snarky comments. Wardy receives bullying instant messages on his smartphone. What I hoped to accomplish was an audience of young readers who would enjoy the story while finding ways through Wardy’s dilemma to build their own self-esteem and combat school bullies. Bullying has become a huge issue in the years since Eaglebait was first published. An Internet search will reveal hundreds of groups, programs, and materials pertaining to the subject. My novel is securely tied to this relevant and important issue.

SAMPLE: In the gym at Evanstown High: “EA-GLE-BAIT. EA-GLE-BAIT. EA-GLE-BAIT.”

The bell rang, breaking the spell. Students climbed down from the bleachers, sauntering out the gym doors and on to their classes. Wardy walked alone. He had Latin next. Concentrating on irregular verbs would be harder than ever. He couldn’t shake the chill of the Eaglebait cheer. He wondered what about it had affected him so. He tried to shrug off the feeling. Rounding the corner to the language hall, he ducked into the rest room. Putting his books on the shelf above the mirror, he turned toward the stalls. Something bright red caught his eye. He looked back toward the mirrors and then he saw it. Painted boldly in bright red letters on the cinderblock walls were the words: WARDY SPINKS IS EAGLEBAIT.

Shivering, he grabbed his books and bolted out the door.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Pendleton Book Shop near Clemson, SC. WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon PRICE: paperback: $9.95; e-book $4.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Twitter handle: @SCoryellAuthor.

My Facebook Author page again: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063592146345

My website: http://www.susancoryellauthor.com

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s