How would you describe Promised in ten words or less?
Let me first say thanks, Zoë, for having me by to answer a few questions. It was just about a year ago that you interviewed me for Prized, and it’s nice to be chatting with you again.
≤10 words about Promised: Gaia returns home to fight, suffer, love, and lead.
You recently released a short story, Ruled, that takes place between Prized and Promised, told in Leon's perspective, much like Tortured was between Birthmarked and Prized. What made you decide to tell some of the Birthmarked story in Leon's voice and how was it different from writing Gaia?
The stories posed a unique challenge. They were supposed to deliver something about the Birthmarked world without containing spoilers for the subsequent novels, and also I wanted them to matter. Setting the stories between the novels and jumping to Leon’s head made sense, especially since I’d heard from readers by then that Leon was a favorite character. Writing from his perspective was more difficult than writing from Gaia’s mainly because I didn’t know him as well, but also because he’s a very guarded, private character. It was interesting for me to play around with conveying how he felt when he rarely expressed it openly. I liked that. I especially liked in “Ruled” how he felt something, couldn’t express it, then Gaia figured him out anyway, and he knew she knew. Incomplete communication was an element of their relationship that I always found satisfying to explore.
Now that the final book in the Birthmarked Trilogy, Promised has been published, do you think the story is complete? Or can readers hold out hope that another Birthmarked short story may be published in the future?
The narrative truly ends with the last chapter of Promised, and I gave considerable thought to what conclusion would resonate best for the series. That said, I do find that certain characters keep knocking, as it were, and there are some poignant possibilities that tug at me especially. I don’t think I’d have enough to turn into a novel, though, and a short story would feel too flimsy. So that’s it. Thanks for asking, but the project is finished. We just have to imagine what comes next.
How was writing Promised easier or harder than the previous books in the trilogy?
Promised was easier in that I had so much more to work from already, and I’d been thinking about its problems in the back of my mind for a long time before I started writing, so I didn’t agonize as much over the first draft as I did with, say, Prized. It was harder in that I had essentially two casts of characters to combine, one from each of the preceding books, and it was difficult to let some favorite characters shift to the background. Worst of all was letting some truly awful things happen to characters I care about. That still bugs me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Sure. Be sure you’re writing to fascinate yourself.
Are there any authors that have especially inspired you? This could be during your journey writing the Birthmarked Trilogy, or as a writer in general.
I’m inspired all the time, usually by whatever I’m reading at the moment. David Levithan’s Every Day sucked me in a few weeks ago and I’m still pondering it. I like books that take risks, like his does, and I like when it’s clear that the writer is having a ball writing. Kate Burak’s Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things is also delightful and strange and intense. It feels very personal, somehow.
After having spent years immersed in the dystopian societies of Birthmarked, do you see yourself continuing in the genre in the future?
I enjoy writing about the future, which puts me squarely in sci fi, and I’m definitely sticking with YA.
The question I have to ask...now that the Birthmarked Trilogy is finished, can you share anything about what you have planned next?
I have not figured out a coherent way to talk about what I’m writing next, but I have started another futuristic, YA project, and I’m working with the same editor and team at Roaring Brook. I’m so happy to be on board there.
Thank you so much, Zoë, for having me by. I love that your questions are so thoughtfully focused on the books. You always make me think, and that makes me happy!
Caragh M. O'Brien is the author of the dystopia Birthmarked trilogy that includes BIRTHMARKED and PRIZED and PROMISED. Born in St.
Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O'Brien was educated at Williams College and
earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She has resigned from
teaching high school English in order to write full-time.
Thanks so much to Caragh for stopping by In The Next Room again! To learn more about her dystopia trilogy, stop by her website. To read the In The Next Review of Birthmarked click here, for Tortured click here, for Prized click here, and for Promised click here. To read last year's interview with Caragh, click here.