Friday, November 04, 2011

Author Interview with Caragh M. O'Brien

The title of the first book in the series, Birthmarked, is both literal and highly symbolic, is the meaning of Prized also so complex? Are there any hints you can give about its origin?

Let me first say, Zoe, you’re so nice to have me by for a visit during my blog tour. Thank you for such an interesting variety of questions. They’ve really encouraged me to ponder.

As for titles, I struggle with them, so I’m glad you think these work. The best titles invite someone to read the book and then take on resonance once the reader is further into the story. A member of the art team at Macmillan, Anne Diebel, came up with “Birthmarked” after I’d already suggested two hundred possibilities that didn’t work, like “The Baby Quota” and “The Freckle Code.” For “Prized,” I tried for a concept at the center of the novel, where girls are valued because of their scarcity. If you’re a girl, that might sound like a good thing, but there is a lot of unfairness when one group of people is prized over another, and the title matches how complicated things get for Gaia.

Did you always want to be a writer or was it something you discovered later in life?

This question is surprisingly difficult to answer because “be a writer” means two different things to me. I started keeping a journal in 7th grade and read everything I could get my hands on, so I was a writer in the real sense of the word long before it occurred to me that I could try to be a writer for my job. That discovery happened my senior year in college. Then life continued, you know. I’ve always written regardless of what other jobs I’ve had, and now with the Birthmarked trilogy, I’m a writer for my job, too.

How did teaching high school impact the kind of young adult book you decided to write?

Teaching undoubtedly helped my writing because I witnessed my students first-hand when they grappled with issues of injustice, so I knew they’d be drawn to complex moral stakes in a novel. I also gained a clear sense of how quickly readers can become bored, and how unforgiving they are once that happens, so I wanted to write a book that would be fun to read with a fast pace, adventure, and unexpected twists. Being with teens daily convinced me I never have to hold back in any way just because some of my readers are chronologically younger than I am. I hope Gaia captures a little of the bravery and resourcefulness I knew in so many of my students.

How would you describe Prized in ten words or less?

Ha! Here goes:
Gaia fights a matriarchy, guys, the environment, and her heart.

Any hints about what we can expect in Promised? (I had to ask!)

I’m deep into the 7th draft of Promised right now, and it goes to copy edits at the end of October, so it’s very much on my mind. You’re the first one who’s asked about it online, actually. I suppose the third book is what happens when the first two books collide. Yes. That’s what it is. It’s pretty intense, with some heartache and a bit of gore. My favorite things.

Prized Code #12: O

Caragh M. O'Brien is the author of BIRTHMARKED and PRIZED, two novels in a dystopia trilogy which will end in 2012 with 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! To learn more about her dystopia trilogy, stop by her website. To visit the rest of the stops on this book tour, click here.


  1. Awesome questions, Zoë! I loved getting to read Caragh's answers, too! It's so neat that you got to be involved in her blog tour, especially since you're such a big fan of this series! :D

    Thanks for sharing, Zoë!
    Ambur :)

  2. Thank you so much for introducing this series and lovely author to me today - definitely going on the wishlist :)


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