Today we have 2011 debut author Erica O’Rourke on Bibliophilic Monologues. She has graciously agreed to answer some questions pertaining to writing, life and books. Her novel, the first in a trilogy, comes out June 28th (just under 7 days!). Preorder your copy today!
1. I read on your website that you “hate fish” but like sushi. How does that work? Do you mean that you hate fish as a species and are glad to eat them or do you just prefer California rolls (like I do)?
I am TERRIFIED of fish. Chicago has a really nice aquarium – the Shedd – that all the kids visit on school trips. Just past the entry is a giant shark tank, and as a child, I used to have a recurring nightmare that the shark tank would break, and all the fish would escape and eat me alive. Which is a little weird, now that I think about it.
Regardless, I loathe fish. They’re slimy and they have beady eyes, and I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about them. Sushi is tasty and good for you, but the best thing about it is that if I am eating the fish, and not the other way around…I WIN.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Torn? Did Mo pop up in your head one day and demand that her story be told or was it a gradual accumulation of bits and pieces coalescing into the finished product?
I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and also Harry Potter. And I was reading a lot of paranormals about strong girls who discover they have magical powers and proceed to save the world. And I really love those books, because I love reading about strong female characters. But if you don’t actually have magical powers, it’s a bit of a bummer. So, I was in the shower one morning, pondering what would happen if Buffy died (and stayed dead) and Xander had to stop the vamps on his own. Or if Voldemort killed Harry and Ron had to step up and save everyone? What happened if the Chosen One died and the sidekick had to defeat the Big Bad? Was that even possible, or would it just be the end of the world?
And there was my first line: “I woke up to the smell of Lysol and the end of the world.” By the time I’d finished my shower, Mo’s character was pretty fully formed. The rest of the story came from there, pretty organically.
3. Do you have any particular song that you listen to while writing? I know some authors have music lists according to their moods and others prefer the sound of silence. What about you?
I have to have music when I’m writing, and it has to be the right music – something that fits both the characters and the scene. I had a playlist of about 30 songs for Torn, compiled gradually as I wrote the book. Three of the earliest picks were Bonnie Brae, by the Twilight Singers; Stronger, by Kanye West; and Look After You, by The Fray.
4. Is there any book that was recently released that you wish you had written? And why?
There are a ton of books I’ve loved recently – Veronica Roth’s Divergent springs to mind, and Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine. But I think what makes a book really compelling is how much of herself an author puts into a story. It’s like Shakespeare; you can see Hamlet performed by three different actors, and each will bring something different to the role – so that you end up with three Hamlets, despite reading the same lines. Books are no different – what makes Divergent so amazing isn’t just the plot, or even the ethical questions it raises. It’s how Veronica tells the story, and how she illuminates her answers. The Vespertine is beautiful and richly textured because that’s how Saundra Mitchell sees the world. I would look at the same scene and arrive at a far different story – it would no longer be The Vespertine.
I DO wish I had a tenth of Maggie Stiefvater’s artistic ability, though. She’s amazing. I can’t draw a decent stick figure.
5. Do you have any memories of reading as a child? This question is also known as, what was your favourite book when you were a child?
The family legend is that my first word was book, and I have a really clear memory of looking down at a story – Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever – and watching the marks on the page resolve into words.
As for my favorite book…I really liked Bunnicula, by James Howe, and all sorts of vintage kids’ mysteries, like Cherry Ames. (I still collect those, in fact.) The Long Winter was my favorite of the Little House books. And as soon as I discovered sci-fi and fantasy novels, it was all over. I started on a Wrinkle in Time, moved on to The Dark is Rising, found Piers Anthony and Robert Heinlein, and never looked back.
6. What is the best thing about being a writer? Apart from getting to create wonderful stories, that is.
I am only a little bit joking when I say that I get to wear pajama pants at work. The best part is getting to talk to people about books as much as I want. Not necessarily my books, mind you, but books in general. If you hang out with a group of writers, the talk is going to turn to what people are reading and writing, and nobody ever gets tired of it. I love that.
7. Who is your favourite character in Torn? And on the flip side, which character did you have the most trouble writing? (And why?)
My favorite is probably Mo. For someone who says she has only one goal, she’s a pretty complicated person, and that gave me a lot to play with. Also, because I knew her so well, it was easy to figure out her behavior in any given situation.
The hardest character to write was Mo’s mom. She’s not a horrible person, after all. She’s trying to hold things together as best she can. She’s desperate to keep Mo safe, because what else does she have? But she’s not terribly sympathetic, either, because she’s so busy making everything okay, she fails to notice that Mo is in increasingly greater danger – both magical and mundane. Striking the balance between likeable and flawed was a challenge.
8. In the synopsis of the book, I noticed that there is a love triangle. Did you have trouble deciding on who Mo ends up with?
Nope. I’ve always known how the triangle resolves. Luc and Colin are both incredibly appealing guys – and I’m still not sure who I, personally, prefer. Both of them are good for Mo. But only one of them is right for her.