Synopses & Reviews
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Praise for Splintered:
"Fans of dark fantasy, as well as of Carroll’s Alice in all her revisionings (especially Tim Burton’s), will find a lot to love in this compelling and imaginative novel."
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Alyssa is one of the most unique protagonists I've come across in a while. Splintered is dark, twisted, entirely riveting, and a truly romantic tale."
"Brilliant, because it is ambitious, inventive, and often surprising — a contemporary reworking of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’’ with a deep bow toward Tim Burton’s 2010 film version."
—The Boston Globe
"It’s a deft, complex metamorphosis of this children’s fantasy made more enticing by competing romantic interests, a psychedelic setting, and more mad violence than its original."
" Protagonist Alyssa...is an original. Howard's visual imagination is superior. The story's creepiness is intriguing as horror, and its hypnotic tone and setting, at the intersection of madness and creativity, should sweep readers down the rabbit hole."
"While readers will delight in such recognizable scenes as Alyssa drinking from a bottle to shrink, the richly detailed scenes that stray from the original will entice the imagination. These adventures are indeed wonderful."
"Attention to costume and setting render this a visually rich read..."
"Wonderland is filled with much that is not as wonderful as might be expected, and yet, it is in Wonderland that Alyssa accepts her true nature. The cover with its swirling tendrils and insects surrounding Alyssa will surely attract teen readers who will not disappointed with this magical, edgy tale."
—Reading Today Online
"Creepy, descriptive read with a generous dollop of romance."
—School Library Journal
YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten
"A Gothic touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror." Kirkus Reviews
"Bray's gripping and suspenseful debut novel provides the perfect canvas for Wyatt....Colorful details of Indian bazaars and the Spence School in London make this outing all the more compelling." Publishers Weekly
"A well written page turner, with strong characterization and dialogue, this Victorian-era gothic novel will find many readers unable to put it down until the very last page." Children's Literature
"Soundly researched and credible....[An] exhilarating and thought-provoking read." VOYA
"An interesting combination of fantasy, light horror, and historical fiction, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure." Library Journal
The Amethyst Road by Louise Spigeler Clarion, 2005 Junior Library Guild Selection IRA Notable Book SFWA Andre Norton Award shortlist/finalist NYPL Book for the Teen Age Kansas State Reading Circle Recommendation Puget Sound Council Best Book of the Year Amelia Bloomer Project List "This work is not only unique in its smooth and imaginative integration of genres; it offers an original blend of societal grit and compelling fantasy-based spirituality. Serena and Shem are complex young people in a complex world, who both collide and collaborate on their shared journey to meaningful adulthood. A terrific read for teens." --ALA Booklist "Those who appreciate bold heroines unwilling to accept society's dictates might wish to join Serena on her quest." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Praise for BLYTHEWOOD by Carol Goodman:
"A beautifully evocative tale perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Tiffany Trent. First in a trilogy, Goodman's story is intriguing, romantic, eerie, and adventurous...a multifaceted and mature fantasy."—Publishers Weekly
, starred review
"...a beautifully told fantasy, ripe with magic, forbidden love and unspeakably dark forces...a journey well worth taking." —Kirkus "...a treat for lovers of the gothic." —Booklist
"Heavy in atmosphere with just enough romance, this novel is sure to find an appreciable following." —School Library Journal
“Carol Goodmans Blythewood is reminiscent of both Harry Potter and The Diviners, but in a way that doesnt distract from the entertaining story within.”—Forever Young Adult
PRAISE FOR KATHERINE LONGSHORE:
“A more literary version of “Gossip Girl” overlaid onto 16th-century England . . .”—The Los Angeles Times on Gilt “I found my new favorite series . . . see for yourself why I couldn't put the book down.”—MTV.com on Gilt “A good, juicy story . . . royally riveting for the reader.”—Booklist on Gilt “The raw emotions and unflinching honesty of a young girl caught in a whirlwind of history shine through, keeping readers engaged to the end.”—Kirkus on Tarnish “Swoon overload . . . Funny, witty and entertaining, Tarnish is a must-read for anyone wanting to add invigorating drama and sensual romance to their bookshelf.”—MTV.com on Tarnish “Great for readers of romance, royal fiction and history, or those looking for a summer read that makes them think a bit, too.”—Shelf Awareness on Tarnish
"...readers will find themselves both fascinated and terrified as this independent young woman fights to live and love on her own terms." —Booklist on Brazen
"Longshore skillfully blends history with romance, weaving a compelling, poignant story of love, loss and betrayal." —Kirkus on Brazen
"Fans of the authors other offerings about the Tudors—Gilt (2012) and Tarnish (2013, both Viking)—and the TV show Reign will enjoy this steamy historical romance, perfect for teens not yet ready for Philippa Gregorys novels." —School Library Journal on Brazen
"This book makes a great entry for readers not yet introduced to the novels of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir." —Library Media Connection on Brazen
Praise for The Springsweet:
"A lovely historical romance. . . . The author conjures a convincing picture of life on the Oklahoma prairie, painting an absorbing portrait of the landscape and of the people there. . . . A high-quality, absorbing drama."—Kirkus Reviews
will steal your heart. Zora is a wounded heroine who had me cheering as she rediscovers the strength she thought she'd lost. Blend in a smoldering, yet refreshingly subtle hero, and add a twist of magic and you have a perfect romance in the Old West with another of Saundra Mitchell's signature rich and nuanced historic settings!"—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times
bestselling author of Wings
"I didn't think YA historicals could get better than The Vespertine
. The Springsweet
proved me wrong. This is a gorgeous, unputdownable book that will stay with you long after it's through. Saundra Mitchell just gets better and better."—Sarah MacLean, NYT and USA Today bestselling Author of Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
and Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord
"With Saundra Mitchells trademark evocative and gorgeous language, The Springsweet takes us across the plains, where the people thirst for love just as the land thirsts for water. I never wanted this book to end!"—Carrie Ryan, New York Times
best-selling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series Praise for The Vespertine:
"[A] richly conceived historical romance. . . . Fans of Libba Brays A Great and Terrible Beauty
will find themselves enchanted by this atmospheric tale."—Bulletin
"Equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true . . . an absorbing tale."—Booklist
"Written in a passionate, inviting voice, The Vespertine is a rich, historical novel of otherworldly power, forbidden romance, and questionable motives."
—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times Bestselling Author of Wings and Spells "Sheer pleasure from beginning to end."—TeenReads.com "I savored every word of The Vespertine; I knew it was an amazing book from the first page and I was entranced until the very last."—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series Praise for The Elementals: "In The Elementals the worlds of The Vespertine and The Springsweet collide with glass-brittle hopes and devastating consequences. The children of the supernatural must learn what their parents have long known, that even the most innocent magic demands a cost. A sumptuous read, as bittersweet as it is beautiful."—Aprilynne Pike, New York Times bestselling author of Wings and Spells "Saundra Mitchell pulls off a thrilling conclusion to a mesmerizing series! She just gets better and better!"—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series "Mitchell convincingly portrays the glittering, raucous L.A. of the burgeoning movie industry and the oppressive unease of looming war."—Booklist
"Entertaining. . . . a Philippa Gregory spin-off for teens."--VOYA
"[Sullivan] paints a colorful and largely accurate portrait of Restoration London. The unusual ending, especially, anchors the book more to history than to romance."--Kirkus Reviews
Praise for BLYTHEWOOD by Carol Goodman:
"...a beautifully told fantasy, ripe with magic, forbidden love and unspeakably dark forces...a journey well worth taking." —Kirkus
Its 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemmas reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, shes been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spences most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?
Sixteen-year-old Addie McNeal is a typical teen with a comfortable life. She lives in a cozy apartment above her family's bookstore in Seattle with her dad, her little brother, and her best friend, Whaley, who was kicked out of his own home after getting in trouble at school. Her biggest worry is overcoming the humiliation of not getting a part in the school play. But then a war is declared in the Middle East, and Whaley gets it into his head that the only way to stay out of trouble and make something of himself is to join the military. An earthquake and the discovery of a mysterious antique mirror unleash forces that jolt Addie back to 1917 Seattle, just as the United States is entering World War I. While at first she struggles to accept that she has somehow traveled through time, Addie soon finds herself shuttling back and forth between past and present, and eventually even learns how to control her leaps across the decades. In both times, she is drawn to the grand Jewel Theater, where she discovers that the lives of the people she meets are connected across the span of years. In both times, the existence of the Jewel is threatened. And, perhaps most importantly, in both times, there is a war going on . . . and someone she cares about is determined to get caught up in the fighting. Eventually, Addie understands that the Jewel holds the answers to questions she has about her own future, and only she holds the key to saving the Jewel--and the lives of her friends--in both the past and the present. But will she figure out how to manipulate the intricately woven threads of time and truly set things right?
An earthquake and the discovery of a mysterious antique mirror unleash forces that jolt sixteen-year-old Addie McNeal back to 1917 Seattle, just as the United States is entering World War I. Addie finds herself shuttling back and forth between past and present, drawn in both times to the grand Jewel Theater. In both decades the existence of the Jewel is threatened and war is looming . . . and someone she cares about is determined to fight. Eventually, Addie realizes that only she has the key to saving the Jewel—and the lives of her friends. But will she figure out how to manipulate the intricately woven threads of time and truly set things right?
Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!
Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.
With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.
With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.
Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.
In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.
Welcome to Blythewood. At seventeen, Avaline Hall has already buried her mother, survived a horrific factory fire, and escaped from an insane asylum. Now shes on her way to Blythewood Academy, the elite boarding school in New Yorks mist-shrouded Hudson Valley that her mother attendedand was expelled from. Though shes afraid her high society classmates wont accept a factory girl in their midst, Ava is desperate to unravel her familys murky past, discover the identity of the father shes never known, and perhaps finally understand her mothers abrupt suicide. Shes also on the hunt for the identity of the mysterious boy who rescued her from the fire. And she suspects the answers she seeks lie at Blythewood. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark secret of what Blythewood is, and what its students are being trained to do. Haunted by dreams of a winged boy and pursued by visions of a sinister man who breathes smoke, Ava isnt sure if shes losing her mind or getting closer to the truth. And the more rigorously Ava digs into the past, the more dangerous her present becomes. Vivid and atmospheric, full of mystery and magic, this romantic page-turner by bestselling author Carol Goodman tells the story of a world on the brink of change and the girl who is the catalyst for it all.
An epic romance with glittering magical elements, TSARINA is swirling with beautiful prose, stark Russian contrasts, and lavish visuals perfect for fans of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty.
Romanov Russia is churning with rebellion.
But Natalya holds a secret.
It hums in her hands and warms her fingers with its magic,
with the mystic power pulsing at its center
the power to protect the Tsars true love.
It is the secret of the Constellation Egg,
Will it keep her safe?
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazis wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . shes falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when shes married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIIIs illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor courts inner circle. Mary and Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of courts strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed
but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
A stirring historical paranormal romance, and companion to The Vespertine, featuring a spirited young woman as she sets out on her own to find new love, a new home, and her extraordinary magical power—and experiences all the joys and hardships of pioneer life.
Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancé, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves
Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed
aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing
ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a
“springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of
holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land.
Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water.
Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving
and start living.
Enter the scandalous world of King Charles II's court, where three young ladies in waiting discover a palace teeming with love, intrigue—and treachery.
Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the kings theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her fathers wealth.
Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart.
Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting.
And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.
Sixteen-year-old Addie, an aspiring actress on a mission to save the historic Jewel Theater, time travels between Seattle at the beginning of the War on Terror and the Seattle of WWI, with the help of a magic mirror. Addie not only jumps between centuries and conflicts, but finds romance with a boy from another time.
A 19th-century historical romance set in Victorian Baltimore about Amelia van den Broek, whose prophetic dreams have made her the talk of high society, and whose love for an artist distinctly outside of the social circle that threatens her place in it.
About the Author
Its the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunsetvisions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his ownstill, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelias world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if shes not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.
"Mitchell depicts Victorian middle-class society with real flair. Her descriptions of the girls ring vibrantly true."Kirkus Reviews
"This historical paranormal romance, taking place in 1889 Baltimore, is equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true. . . . An absorbing tale."Booklist
"Written in a passionate, inviting voice, THE VESPERTINE is a rich, historical novel of otherworldly power, forbidden romance, and questionable motives. From the very first line, readers will be swept up in Amelia's plight to discover her own powers and find the courage to face her fears, her blossoming love, and even accusations of murder."Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author ofWingsandSpells
"I savored every word of THE VESPERTINE; I knew it was an amazing book from the first page and I was entranced until the very last. Saundra Mitchell's descriptions are almost truer than truthyou feel them rather than know them."Carrie Ryan, New York Times Bestselling Author of the critically-acclaimedThe Forest of Hands and TeethandThe Dead-Tossed Waves
"Dark and luxurious with rich, compelling characters and a perfect blend of the mysterious and the fantastic, Saundra Mitchell's THE VESPERTINE is Victorian gothic at its finestat once evoking the lyricism of Bronte, the heart-pounding of Poe and a vivid, enticing voice that is entirely her own."Sarah MacLean, Author ofThe Seasonand9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake "Equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true . . . an absorbing tale of a headstrong and passionate (but not anachronistically so) woman seeking her future."
Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. As executive producer and head writer for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair short film series, she mentors young screenwriters from first page to production of their films. Her own feature film,Revenge Ends,debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. She has published short fiction in theEdgar Literary MagazineandSmokeLong Quarterly,and her short story "Ready to Wear" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel,Shadowed Summer,is a 2010 Edgar Award Nominee, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick. Saundra enjoys studying history, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. She lives in Indianapolis and welcomes you to visit her on the web at www.saundramitchell.com.
A Conversation with Libba Bray about A Great and Terrible Beauty
Q: From the beginning, you envisioned Gemma as a heroine who kicks butt and takes names–all in a corset and crinoline. What changed about the character after you began writing the book? What stayed the same?
A: It’s hard to believe, but I actually envisioned Gemma and the book as being much lighter and funnier. Yeah, right, because dealing with supernatural visions, secret societies, and lots of not-quite-dead people is always a real laugh riot, right? Okey-dokey. Moving on . . . I did always see Gemma as sardonic, a social commentator in the vein of a Jane Austen character, and I think that stayed the same. But as often happens in the course of the writing, the character took over, and I discovered that Gemma was much more vulnerable and conflicted and infuriating and all those yummy things that make people into people. And for that, I am glad.
Q: Gemma is accepted into the most powerful and mean-spirited clique at Spence only because of blackmail–she keeps a secret that could destroy Felicity’s future. But as her friendships with Felicity, Pippa, and Ann develop, she begins to love and trust them. And she is offered, in turn, love and trust, anger and mistrust. The only rule of the Order is that the girls must always tell each other the truth. Their friendship is ultimately as dangerous as it is passionate. As you wrote about Gemma, Felicity, Pippa, and Ann, did you have anyone you know in mind?
A: Yes and no. To a certain extent, I drew on my own adolescent friendships, which were very powerful and important in my life. I felt rather estranged from my family emotionally as a teenager, and those friendships were everything to me. But at some point, the characters take on a life of their own and become who they are, and you, the writer, are just along for the ride. For me, it’s more about recalling the dynamics of certain relationships and the feelings involved (What does it feel like to be the new kid? How is it that one day you’re best friends and the next, you’re fighting like mad? What is it like to stand on the precipice of doing something you know could get you in big trouble?) rather than focusing on, say, when Felicity says this, it reminds me exactly of my old pal So-and-so. That sense of discovering your characters and how they react is part of the joy of writing fiction for me. It teaches me about human nature, and I’m always interested in that.
Q: Your story is rich in Victorian period detail, yet the characters feel real and immediate, as if they were alive today. How were you able to get inside the heads of girls who lived over a hundred years ago?
A:Uh, well . . . I cheated. There’s definitely an element of “fusion cooking” at work here. I wanted to have all the trappings of that era, which fascinates me. I wanted to have that feeling of girls near the dawn of a new century, of girls who are torn between two worlds in so many senses: adolescence and adulthood; sexual awakening and sexual innocence; the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries; the lives afforded their mothers and teachers and the more daring lives they might themselves be able to live. But I wanted them to have a universality to them, too; a sort of modernity of feeling. However, in doing research, in reading novels and correspondence of the time, I discovered that girls are girls, feelings are always feelings, whether it’s 1895 or 2005. Those feelings–the desire to be loved and understood, the fear of disappointing others, longings and yearnings, fear of and curiosity about the unknown–are timeless. The difficulties of growing into selfhood are the same, in many ways.
Q: Gemma and her friends feel invisible, as if they don’t count in the world they inhabit. In reference to the qualities a man looks for in a wife, Gemma’s brother, Tom, puts it, “Above all, she should keep his name above scandal and never call attention to herself” (p. 27). When Gemma and her friends bring power from the Realms back to the real world, they become literally invisible and are able to do things they couldn’t before. Gemma says, “Oh, God, the great and terrible beauty of it” (p. 334). This is a bit of a delicious irony. What did you mean by giving the book the title A Great and Terrible Beauty?
A: Wow, will this be on the test? Was this on the review? Who’s coming up with these questions, anyway? Okay, let me put down my potato chips and really think about this. I suppose I meant that having power is both an awesome and a terrifying thing. It is awesome in that one gains confidence and freedom. But it is terrifying in that there are consequences, and one must accept the terms of this agreement. It’s like Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You can’t have one without the other. Empowerment and choice: great, terrible, and beautiful. Talk amongst yourselves. Potato chip, anyone?
Q: On AGreatandTerribleBeauty.com, you mention that Kartik is based on a boy you used to have a crush on. Does the real Kartik know you’ve written about him?
A: Why, did he call you? Seriously, I have no idea. I haven’t seen him since my waitressing days in Austin, Texas. It was the proverbial summer crush. Oooh, he was such a cutie! Kartik also shares qualities with another friend from my college days. He was half Indian, and we had a rather passionate friendship. We argued as much as we laughed. But there was a real meeting of the minds, and he challenged me in some very good ways. Sadly, I lost contact with him, too. I keep hoping we’ll connect again because I still owe him $250. You’d think he’d want to collect. Christopher, dude–I’m good for it now!
Q:What do you think of the term chick lit? Would you categorize A Great and Terrible Beauty as chick lit?
A:Argh! Okay, here’s the thing: I hate the term chick lit because it feels demeaning. Nobody calls the work of John Updike and Philip Roth old white guy lit. By and large, the writing of men is not categorized and compartmentalized in this way beyond specific publishing genres, i.e., mystery, horror, science fiction. I have the same problem when movies are referred to as chick flicks. It’s dismissive; it says that the themes that often show up in women’s novels and films and the perspective of women artists are somehow less than. I think that was what stuck in my craw about Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections) dissing the Oprah show. I felt that what he was essentially saying was “Oh, she champions those, you know, ‘women writers’ and I don’t want to be lumped in with them.”
Now, that said, can we please, please move away from this recent spate of navel-gazing, whining, shopping-obsessed superficial novels in which guys are just accessories like the right shoes, and the deepest feelings encountered are a sort of self-absorbed sulkiness on the part of the heroine? Puh-leeeze. People, I did not march for NOW in my teens for this crap. Okay, rant done. Carry on.
Q: In A Great and Terrible Beauty, there is a secret women’s society, the Order, whose job is to guard the Realms and pass along knowledge of it, and a secret men’s society, the Rakshana, whose job is to prevent women from using the Realms at all. Did you see these battling groups in terms of men versus women? Do you believe there is a battle of the sexes going on today?
A: Wow. Tough question. While I was writing Beauty, I thought a great deal about how historically, governments, the medical establishment, and religion have sought to keep women from having access to real power. Women who had some sort of power–midwives and herbalists, let’s say–were viewed with distrust and even hunted down and burned. So I suppose I did see the Rakshana as any religious group that views women as “other” and wants to hold the reins on them. That said, I think that any group in power, no matter who they are, does not want to relinquish said power.
As for the second question, I think we’ve become more of a polarized society in general, and that saddens me. I think what concerns me vis-à-vis the “battle of the sexes” is more a societal shift toward these rigid gender roles. You know–flip on MTV and in the majority of videos, the guys adopt this macho posturing and the women are all about sex and fashion. I don’t think I’ve seen the cover of any recent magazine aimed at youth that did not involve a scantily clad nymphet staring at the camera, all wide-eyed and pouty-lipped, as if to say, “Gee, this is all I know how to do. I meant to put on clothes and, like, have interests, but, you know, like, it was just so hard to figure out how the straps work on my bra.” Snarl.
It just seems like there’s got to be more middle ground. I’ve always cherished my male friends as much as my female friends. We are different. We have different things to contribute, and that is great. We also need to be aware, as women, that we often hold ourselves back. I often say that the most radical question a girl or a woman can ever ask is “What do I want?” We are not conditioned to ask that. But only by asking yourself that, by knowing what you want, can you really go and get it. Only by knowing what you want can you stop waiting for other people to supply it for you, which just leads to frustration and a feeling of powerlessness. What you want is valid. What you care about is important. Who you are, all of it–not just the “nice” qualities–is important. And if anybody wants to photograph you for the cover of a major magazine wearing only a thong and an expression like you’ve gotten something in your eye, just tell them to . . . well, just say no.
Q: Miss Moore says, “There are no safe choices. . . . Only other choices” (p. 267). What does she mean by this? Will we see more of Miss Moore in the next book?
A:I think that as a society, we are very consumed with the idea of safety and security. It drives our economy. It builds our gated communities. But safety is an illusion. There’s really no such thing. I think anyone living in this world today knows that, on some level. (This is not to say that you should test this theory by jumping off a cliff or going without your seat belt, okay? There’s illusion and there’s stupidity. Don’t cross the line.) We want to know that we are making the “right” choice, the money-back-guaranteed choice. The thing is that every choice carries with it a sense of personal responsibility and accountability and a degree of insecurity. You have to live with that and step outside the fear. You will definitely see more of Moore in book two. (More of Moore? Yikes.)
Q:You’ve had many jobs–waitress, nanny, burrito roller, to name a few. Do you believe that these widely ranging experiences helped or hindered you on your path toward becoming a published author? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
A:Every experience you ever have as a human being on this planet–from the mundane to the absurd to the sublime–goes right into the old writing bank. I like to use them all. At least, I’d like to think I can salvage something from that soul-sucking six months of saying, “Would you like hot sauce or a side of queso with that? Thank you, drive through, please.” (I’ve long argued that everyone in this country should be forced to spend at least two years in a service-related industry. We might end up with a nation of people who say please and thank you and tip twenty percent. But that’s another story.) My advice to aspiring writers is pretty straightforward: (1) Read everything. Read what interests and moves you. Read what challenges you. Read for pleasure. Read for craft. Read instead of watching reality TV. Just read. It just might change your life. I know it has mine. (2) Live your life. Writing’s all about that, anyway. And no one’s living your life, seeing things the way you see them, but you. You are unique, and this is a beautiful, beautiful thing, grasshopper. (3) You can write about anything you want, just don’t lie. (4) Have fun, for heaven’s sake! It’s not brain surgery. You won’t kill anyone if you choose the wrong words. You can just fix ’em later. Writing is power. You are in control of it. You are able to say whatever you need to say, long to say, must say. And that is an amazing feeling.
Q: The last line of the novel is perhaps the most powerful: “Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.” In the course of the story, Gemma learns a lot about herself. But she has yet to fully understand the role she will play for the Order–and the role she will play in her own life. Can you tell us anything about the road Gemma will travel in Rebel Angels, the companion to A Great and Terrible Beauty?
A: I could tell you. But then I’d have to kill you.
From the Trade Paperback edition.