(Rebel Heart releases October 30th from Simon & Schuster)
I was recently asked to participate in a group phone interview with young adult author Moira Young in which we would all get to ask her our most pressing questions regarding her Dust Lands series. Now, I should mention that as honored as I was to be asked to join the interview, I was also insanely nervous. I don't do any kind of public speaking well, and while this was over the phone and therefore not really public at all, I was still talking to an author and four other bloggers and I was worried they'd get around to me, my mind would shut down, and they'd hear nothing but static and crickets from my end. Awesome.
Luckily, that didn't happen and I was able to form a few coherent sentences. The other participating bloggers asked some fantastic questions and Moira gave some really in-depth and truly fascinating answers, so I hope you all enjoy the interview!
*apparently I was only supposed to post the questions I posed rather than the entire interview as I posted last night. Well done me. Below is the revised interview*
Ms. Moira Young: Blood Red Road tells the story of Saba, an 18 year old girl living in the Dust Lands, a vast, dry, lawless place. It starts off with her search for her kidnapped brother and goes on from there.
And it's basically a hero's journey. A western set in the future, I think, I would describe it as, amongst other things.
Jenny: What's one thing writing Saba's character has taught you about yourself?
Ms. Moira Young: Oh, well, that’s a very good question. What's one thing? I don't know if I could point to any one thing. The thing that's been surprising to me that she's not apart from me. She is a part of me.
People ask in what way is the character like you or what parts of her are like you. I would say she is absolutely in me.
Of course, I'm not living in a damaged future world, and I'm not fighting in a cage, and my brother hasn't been kidnapped. But those feelings that she has in her situations are all feelings that I've found within myself because I feel like the book lives somewhere in my subconscious and I have to bring it up to the surface.
I've been surprised at the sort of ferocity of that part of myself that has ended up in Saba, that incredible determination. And I guess part of that comes out in the fact that it took me four and a half years to write this book, and I did have to struggle to write it.
All of that was channeled into that character, all of that came out in that character. The fact that all of these characters are parts of me, of my personality, even if I don't use that bit of me on a regular basis or even if I don't know that it exists, that's been a revelation to me, I have to say.
Jenny: And when you say it took four years, was that something that you did constantly, or you set it aside for great periods of time and came back?
Ms. Moira Young: Yes, I did have a period of setting it aside. When I started writing it, it was very different. It was in a very conventional third person narrative. In fact, it was a dual viewpoint.
The setting was completely different. It was in an ice bound world. There were very few elements of it that bear any resemblance to Blood Red Road as it is now. The only thing that remains the same is that there is a character called Saba.
I wrote perhaps 15,000 words of that book and then had to leave it because we had moved house. And when I came back to it a couple of months later, I realized that it was not a book that I believed in. So I started again.
I was also working part time, and so I was doing this on my days off. And I had no discipline as a writer. I didn't know how to structure a book, a long book particularly.
It was a very halting process. I got discouraged a lot. I left it for periods of time because I just didn't know what to do.
Quite often, writers do take a long time to write their first book, and then it's a terrible shock when you have to write to a deadline after that.
Jenny: Was there any one thing that surprised you as you were writing? Something that changed unexpectedly or came out different on paper than you had planned in notes or an outline?
Ms. Moira Young: First of all, I don't plan very much at all. I genuinely have no idea what's going to happen. I really don't, especially in Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart. I really truly had no idea what was going to happen, so I was constantly surprised.
One thing from Blood Red Road that I remember is that, when she was in the cage, and they had planned this escape and the Free Hawks were going to be in the crowd, and then I realized that it would be great to put another obstacle in their way, and I realized that the easiest thing–that the obvious thing and the most horrible thing anybody could do would be to change the gauntlet around so that they have to make their escape through the crowd.
But then I got completely stuck, and I thought how am I going to get out of this situation, I really have no idea. I sort of left it for about a week because I was so terrified that I had no idea how to get her out of this situation.
I've since learned that I really just need to ask my husband because he can always get characters out of trouble with no problem whatsoever.
All of a sudden, I just realized, oh, of course, she'll go through the top and Nero will help her.
And Nero has been fantastic in any number of situations, because he works in three dimensions so he can move into small spaces and he can go places. In an original version, I didn't have her with a crow companion. I had her with a dog. And I was constantly having to worry about what to do with the dog. The crow was a wonderful idea. That was also my husband's idea, to have a crow.
So that was one of the things that surprised me, just getting out of situations like that. And what else particularly surprised me?
I have to admit that I really am constantly surprised. Generally, I get hints that things are going to happen, and I can see them coming up on the horizon. And as I'm writing, I'm saying, oh no, what, what, you're going do what? And then, I just have to go ahead and write it. That seems to be how it happens.
Jenny: So, does that make writing a second and third book more difficult then, if you don't have a perfectly clear idea where it's going?
Ms. Moira Young: Well, it certainly made the second book agonizing, I must say. The second book was truly agonizing because I didn't know what the third book was going to be about. All I knew was that I would have to set up as much potential conflict as possible that I could draw on for the third book.
So, I knew that my characters were going to be suffering the fallout from book one, and I would have to set up masses of tension and fractures, I would have to fracture relationships and just leave it on a very uneasy note. That's what I realized would have to happen. I needed to leave the reader wondering.
That was really, really difficult. This book is occurring a little bit differently. I have a better idea of what's going on, but I still have no idea how it's going to end. I truly don't.
Jenny: Oh, goodness, that doesn't leave me with the warm fuzzies. That makes me really nervous.
Ms. Moira Young: Well, I'm quite nervous, too, actually, to be honest with you. I am quite nervous. I have no idea what's going to happen. I've done masses of reading around the various themes that have been emerging through the two books and that are the spine of it.
I've been reading around the themes and the ideas that I think I might be using in this third book. And I've been going back and really doing very detailed character studies of everybody just so I know exactly where everybody is, what they're feeling from the end of the second book and what their goals are–ultimately, what they're after. Everybody's going have a different agenda.
Heaven knows what's going to happen. It could be interesting.
A huge thank you to Moira for taking so much time to answer my questions!
Thanks to SimonTEEN I have an absolutely amazing giveaway for all of you today! One lucky winner will receive a Dust Lands prize pack including a custom t-shirt, water bottle, and copies of both Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart. *dies* To enter, please just leave a comment regarding the interview along with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway is open to US residents only and will run through midnight on Friday, November 2nd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!
As an added bonus, SimonTEEN is running a separate Rebel Heart giveaway HERE, so be sure and check it out for another chance to win these fabulous books (this giveaway ends October 31st)!
BLOOD RED ROAD
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.