Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Author Interview: Cori McCarthy

by Cordelia Jensen

Hi Cori!

Thanks for being with us here today to talk about your book The Color of Rain.

Something that is hard for me as a writer is putting my characters in danger. Um, this is NOT your problem. You are great at this. Your characters are in terrible, horrible situations all the time! Does this come naturally to you? Do you struggle with this as a writer? Help the rest of us who suffer from character protection disease, with some pointers. ;)

I admit that sometimes my problem is hurting my characters too much! I’m not quite sure where/how I came up with this…I only know that my favorite stories are the ones with the most earned loss. And my favorite characters—like Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins—are the ones who are devastated and yet keep going, keep trying to make a difference. I’ve always attached to resilience in stories, and I guess that can only happen if you march your characters up to the edge of a cliff, and then, push them off.

What came to you first when writing this story? Did you know she was always going to be a space prostitute?

Yes. From day one, this story was always about a space prostitute, but I didn’t write this character to be shocking or to bring up the (very real) cultural issue of teen prostitution. This story was always going to be about a girl who believed that she could use her body to get what she wanted…and that she would learn how wrong that assumption was. Though I’ve never (to my knowledge) met a teen prostitute, I knew far too many girls with Rain’s outlook in high school and college. I wrote this book for them.

Has your book been embraced at all by organizations working to fight against the sex slave trade? I know it takes place in a fictional world, but I think it does get at some real world issues.

I have been reached out to by bloggers who also talk about real world issues, i.e. human trafficking. I would love to be helpful, but I fear that the best I can do is hope that this book helps bring real social issues to light.

It also really gets right to the heart of the issues involved in an abusive relationship and you do an amazing job of showing one of the characters as both really horrible and, at times, attractive—or, at least, we can understand why he might be attractive. Was this hard to pull off or not so much?

The abusive relationship was an area where my amazing editor, Lisa Cheng, really engaged and helped me flesh out the nuances. I had to get to a place where I understood Johnny’s motivation. I had to let Rain understand him as well, which was a challenge. Ultimately, Johnny does whatever he can to get what he wants. And so does Rain. With that core in common, Johnny’s falls for Rain, and Rain, well, she begins to believe that she doesn’t deserve anyone better than Johnny. It’s not the recipe for a typical romance, but then, it is something that happens in the real world.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? What are you most proud of?

This whole book was hard. Writing it was like having heartburn for a solid year. I think, in the end, I’m most proud of Rain. She’s so strong, and yet she’s almost destroyed by her choices. Almost.

I noticed your recent book sale is not science fiction but, rather, dystopian. Correct? Did the process of world building in the two books feel similar? What can you tell us about your new book?

BREAKING SKY, my new YA, is not really dystopian, although it might get lumped in that category out of convenience. It’s near-futuristic, around 2049, and is an extension of current political tensions—a miserable future wherein America is locked in cold war with Asia. In that way, the world building wasn’t terribly difficult as I imagined things getting worse and worse from how they are right now.

I like to refer to BREAKING SKY as “Top Gun for teen girls,” although it’s different than the old cult classic. The main character, Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx,” is a fighter pilot at the junior Air Force academy tasked with flying a new kind of jet that could make an important difference to the world climate. That all sounds pretty serious, but unlike RAIN, this book has some playful fun in it. Promise.

And now for our regular “3 for 3” book-related questions:

1.     What were your 3 favorite books from childhood/teen years?
The Catcher in the Rye, The Lord of the Rings, and Leaves of Grass. I kept the last title in my leather bible case and snuck it in to church every Sunday.
2.     What are 3 books that you have read recently that surprised you?
Blaze by Laura Boyle Crompton, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
3.     What are 3 books influence/d your writing?
Jane Eyre, The Catcher in the Rye, Jellicoe Road

Cori McCarthy studied poetry and screenwriting before falling in love with writing for children at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut novel, The Color of Rain, is a space thriller out now from Running Press Teens. Her second novel, Breaking Sky, will be out at the end of 2014 from Sourcebooks Fire. Cori is a cohost on the YA vlog discussion series, The NerdBait Guide. Follow her adventures @CoriMcCarthy or @NerdBaitGuide, or check out her website www.CoriMcCarthy.com.
Cori lives in Michigan with her family and beloved jade trees.

Thanks for reading!!! If you're local to the area, please let the bookstore know if you would like to place a special order for The Color of Rain.  You can email orders to orders [at] bigbluemarblebooks [dot] com, call (215) 844-1870, or come see us at 551 Carpenter Lane, in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Look for Cordelia's upcoming December interview with Shawn K. Stout, author of the Penelope Crumb series! 

1 comment:

LinWash said...

Another great interview, Cordelia. I had to laugh though because I had the same reaction to Cori's excellent book: admiration for how much danger she placed her characters. I jumped every time she raised the stakes, which was quite often! I'm such a wimp when it comes to endangering my characters. I need to improve though.