Today, I’m happy to welcome Julianna Baggott, author of the astonishing new post-apocalyptic tale Pure, to ThirstForFiction. She’s the author of several books and Pure is her first YA novel. Follow her on Twitter: @jcbaggot
ThirstforFiction: For those who haven’t read Pure, tell us a little about it.
Julianna Baggott: Pressia is a 16-year-old living with her grandfather in the back of a demolished barber shop, having survived the detonations and existing in a post-apocalyptic world that’s scarcely populated with those scarred, burned, fused and warped — a strange, ashen, otherworldly world. Pressia is a girl who has to hid in a cabinet — a girl with a doll-head fused to her fist.
Partridge is a Pure. He lives in the Dome with his powerful father. He finds out that his mother may still be alive — on the outside — and as he escapes the Dome to find her, his life and Pressia’s collide. Steven Schneider (producer of Paranormal Activity) calls it “a post-apocalyptic thrill ride,” and Robert Olen Butler (Pulitzer Prize winner) calls it “the most extraordinary coming-of-age story” he’s ever read. I hope both are true for readers.
T4F: Dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction is getting more popular in YA. Where you aware of this when you started writing Pure?
Of course, I knew about The Hunger Games early on, but I didn’t have any idea that it was a solid and growing genre. These characters appeared many years ago in very different forms and even genres — they kept coming back and expanding until the novel turned into world-building.
T4F: The ‘dome’ subject has been used a lot of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic novels. Although Pure is entirely different to any other novel I’ve read with the ‘dome’ concept, wasn’t it a little risky using an established idea?
Honestly, I come from the magical realism branch of literature — not sci-fi/fantasy, and so the Dome concept didn’t strike me as risky. The idea of having a character with birds embedded in his back? That was very Marquez-inspired and felt more dangerous. Basically, I’ve ended up braiding a lot of traditions, not being rigorously true to the rules of any one of them in particular. I felt may way into the world with my hands out in front of me, into the dark.
T4F: You’ve written several adult novels under pen-names. Why do you use these pen-names?
I’m prolific. The pen names allow me to keep writing and to move through genres and build audiences.
T4F: Pure is your first Young Adult novel. Are there any things your consciously change in your writing to cater for younger audiences?
Technically, it’s YA-adult crossover and went out to both adult and YA editors. In the end, I chose an editor at an adult publishing house because I thought she was the right match for the trilogy — creatively. I wasn’t thinking about markets and branding and what part of the bookstore I might find a shelf. I did, however, write the novel for my daughter — now sixteen — and so, yes, I was aware of her while writing this, urgently so.
T4F: Pure is filled with a great deal of fantastic characters. How do you go about creating new characters, and do you ever base any off of yourself or people around you?
I only have the world around me mixed with my imagination and so, yes, I take small elements of people I know, relationships I have, and those things churn in my subconscious. They never come out the same.
T4F: I know authors hate this question- but what inspired you to write Pure? I haven’t read any of your previous novels but it sounds very different.
It is wholly and completely different, but every word I’ve ever written led me to PURE. I had these characters floating in my mind. I wrote a few pages one day — a girl who has to sleep in a cabinet, a girl with a doll-head fist … I read them to my daughter. She’s a hostile reader. She told me that it was the best thing I’d ever written and that I had to write the book. She kept pushing me back to it. So, yes. She inspired me to start and keep going.
T4F: Did your childhood shape you as a writer?
Absolutely. I was odd and imaginative and lived in my head a lot. My parents took me to a lot of plays — good and bad. I soaked it in. I’m still writing the things that have haunted me from the very beginning. Also, my father was a double-amputee from WWII. He lives a few blocks away. The grandfather in this book exists because he was a huge part of my childhood and my early notions on the effects of war.
T4F: Do you enjoy writing or is it something you are compelled to do? What is a typical writing day like?
I’m compelled. I love certain aspects of the craft. I loathe others. But I can’t imagine not having those other worlds to dwell in. Writing other characters is the daily practice of empathy. I hope that it’s made me a better human being.