Sunday, April 18, 2010

Interview: Caragh O'Brien

It's no secret that I've recently been doing a fair amount of gushing about YA dystopian novel Birthmarked (March 30th, 2010 Roaring Brook Press). Well, it looks like we've all lucked out, because today we have the brilliant mastermind behind this masterpiece here to discuss a plethora of stuff. And without further ado, presenting: the brilliant Caragh O'Brien!

This has become a bit of a
Lucid Conspiracy
interview opening question tradition - summarize BIRTHMARKED in twenty words while tossing in as many alliterations as you can.

First, let me say thanks, Deltay, for inviting me by to talk a bit about BIRTHMARKED. That’s a real doozy of a question to start with, but here goes:

Catching her quota of kiddos, Gaia gains a ghastly glimpse of a survivalist society. Cells, cyphers and science ensnare her.

Thanks for coming by :) Great summary. Let's get the ball rolling with some general questions first. Words of wisdom - what do you do when the muse has gone on vacation?

I tell my muse to get its sweet little posterior back on the couch and keep working.

Haha, that's the way! Do you have a specific writing ritual or any unique quirks you subscribe to?

I don’t suppose the toy monkey on my head counts as quirky. Actually, there’s no monkey. Now that I’m on leave from teaching, I just sit on the couch with my laptop and write all day. When my fingers get cold, I hug a bottle full of hot water. That’s a little weird, I guess. I forget to eat. Is that weird, too?

Nope, I suppose we'll have to proclaim you relatively normal! If the apocalypse were to come tomorrow and you could only choose three books to keep safe and bring into the "New World," which ones would they be?

I really don’t know. I’m distracted by the specter of the apocalypse and wondering what would be left in the new world. I’m not sure we could read any more with our eyes blasted out. As you might imagine, I had a little trouble with this sort of question when I was a schoolgirl. Still do, I’m afraid.

Ah well, it is a bit of a tough question. Leon's quite a dishy YA guy. ;) Do you have any literary crushes, fictional or author-wise?

I don’t have any at the moment because all of my literary crushes have been unrequited. I try to be mature and get over them. Still, if Fitzwilliam Darcy had a sense of humor, I could be quite miserable. I’m very glad to hear that Leon, in his own twisted way, works for you.

Ooh, Mr. Darcy! Global warming, global cooling, flooding, drought... there have been countless theories about the environment's demise. What made you pick the one you did for BIRTHMARKED?

I drove through the southern states a couple years back during a drought, and it really got me thinking about what climate change would do to our country, politically and socially. A wasteland around Unlake Superior seemed very possible to me, and extreme enough to set up a powerful story of survival and hardship.

It definitely made for a great story! I noticed that throughout BIRTHMARKED, there are countless references to hats. Why hats in particular, and not, say, sunglasses? Is it a thematic element or symbolic motif?

Hats are just so fun, frankly. I love what the British royalty do with theirs. In BIRTHMARKED, the hats and hoods serve a practical purpose in saving everybody from severe sunburn, but I also love the visual effect of all the brims tipping this way and that. The hats were versatile for showing who was classy or coy, guard or prisoner, powerful or shy. How could I not put in hats?

It's one of the great key details that contributes to awesome world-building. That, and the symbolism there too. One of the distinguishing factors of a society is its language. How did terms such as "Mabrother" and "Masister" come about?

I was playing around, trying to find a term that would suggest respect, sound possible, and also work ironically. I liked how “Masister” was a bit like “my sister,” but by making it formal, I undermined what should be a term of endearment. Similarly, “Tvaltar” combines “TV” and “altar,” suggesting the worship of TV. When I hit upon “advanced” for the babies, I was beyond thrilled. It’s just what we want for our children, normally. (Evil laugh.)

I like that! Of all the potential consequences of inbreeding there were to choose from, why hemophilia?

I didn’t have to go far to find heartbreak when I did research on human inbreeding. Hemophilia and infertility were the obvious problems for the Enclave.

Let's play around with hypotheticals for a moment. If Gaia's world was real, would you be inside the wall or outside? What would your profession be?

At risk of answering a heavy question quite seriously, I must say we already inhabit Gaia’s world. I could not live in a more privileged society, with more advantages, while others just outside the wall have nothing. I’m a writer.

Put like that, we do, don't we? BIRTHMARKED is set up perfectly for a sequel(s). Will this be a series?

Yes. I am so thankful to my publisher, Roaring Brook Press, for asking me to write two more books. I’m in very good hands with my editor, Nan Mercado, who has an uncanny way of asking the right questions.

So it'll be a trilogy! I do love me some trilogies ;) That's very fortunate for us readers as well, then. Are there any juicy tidbits you're at liberty to share with us about upcoming books/WIPs, by any chance?

Funny. My mom just asked me this same question. I can tell you I was worried that Gaia had grown so much in BIRTHMARKED that there wouldn’t be anywhere more for her to go, but she’s surprised me. Book 2 involves more research about biology and infertility. That much is certain, and I’m completely obsessed with this draft.

That's great to hear! I really enjoyed the scientific aspects of Birthmarked. If there is one main message in BIRTHMARKED that you'd want to make sure every reader understood, what would it be?

Oh, dear! Not a message! Isn’t it enough just to have fun reading?

Thank you so much, Deltay, for having me by, and for these mind-boggling questions. I really appreciate your kind review of my novel and all your support. Lucid Conspiracy is great.

Thank you so much for dropping by, Caragh, and taking the time to answer my behemoth mass of questions! :)


Steph Su said...

Ahhhh Caragh is awesome. And I'm so excited about the trilogy news! Can't wait to read more about Gaia's world. :)

Adriana said...

I'm so happy it's going to be a trilogy! I loved Birthmarked, I just wrote my review on it. I liked how she came up with new terms of greeting people and also the Tvaltar was really creative. The whole society was fantastic!

Erica said...

I am SO relieved Birthmarked is going to be a series! I loved it so much, but I was so let down by the end because I thought it was a stand alone! :) I can't wait for book 2.

deltay said...

Steph - I know, right?! Same here :)

Adriana - Me too! It'll be great to see more of Gaia's world.

Erica - I was super happy when I found out about that too :) It's going to be a great adventure!

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