I'm extremely lucky to have the opportunity to interview Caragh, which is supremely humbling as I have a feeling she'll become famous famous famous for Birthmarked real soon (if we can do anything about that). Anyway, without further ado...
Interview with Caragh O'Brien
Let me first say thank you for inviting me by to ponder a few questions. When I saw how a drought in the U.S. was creating a southern wasteland in the winter of 2008, it frightened me with its implications. For Birthmarked, I extended today’s climate change problems and the social justice related to them out into the future.
2. The code that Gaia has to solve in the book is delightfully complex, though with actually rather simple foundations. What is the extent and history of your interest in codes?
I’ve loved codes since I taught myself the manual alphabet from the back of a book about Helen Keller in fourth grade. My father was a cryptologist for the army and he often invented little playful, loving codes for me to decipher. I’m fascinated by how we use code for so many different things, like genes and music and secrets.
For sure I’d get the tattoo from the book. I tried it with a marker once already.
4. Very nice. :) Describe a day in the life of "Caragh O'Brien, soon-to-be bestselling dystopian author."
That “bestselling” bit is ridiculous, of course. Since I’m on leave from teaching right now to write Book 2, I get up, check my email (like now), write, eat some breakfast, write, notice I’ve forgotten lunch, eat it, write, take a walk, have dinner with my family, write, and check my email again.
5. Glad to find out I'm not the only one who can forget to eat lunch due to writing! I also beg to differ on the "bestselling" bit--not if I can have anything to do with it. What kind of research went into the writing of Birthmarked?
I did some research on hemophilia, basic genetics, and human inbreeding, and then I asked my husband how I could have a cure for some of the problems in the book. He’s a professor of physiology and neurobiology, and he told me about suppressor genes. I did some research on midwifery and herbs, too, and then late one night, I picked the brain of a friend who is a midwife. It was really helpful to have experts to talk to.
I do like dystopian lit. I find dystopias in the most wonderful places, like The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Ayn Rand’s Anthem is by far my favorite because of that whole “we” thing. I read The Hunger Games after I wrote Birthmarked and thought it was great. It disturbed me a lot, actually.
7. What's a book you've tried to read but couldn't make yourself finish?
I forget such books, so I’m drawing a blank.
8. What do you do to get yourself out of a writing funk?
I give myself permission to write badly and I keep writing. It’s painful, believe me. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.
I think it will be hotter in 100 years and we’ll all be wearing gorgeous hats and fashions to stay covered up. I’d want to explore what’s become of my children’s children.
10. Anything else you'd like to add for readers?
I’d just like to add that I’m thankful, Steph, that you’ve been so supportive of my novel, what with your nice review and inviting me by for an interview. It’s a little strange to write a story in private, and care about it deeply, and then realize strangers are off reading it somewhere, hopefully with chocolate. Knowing Gaia’s story worked for you gives me hope that others might like it, too.
And thank you, Caragh, for your interesting answers, and for giving us this glimpse into your thoughts! And I'm being completely non-facetious when I say that if you could only read one book in the next month, her book should be it. Do consider picking up a copy of Birthmarked the next time you're in a bookstore; there's a 99% chance you won't regret it!
And HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, CARAGH AND BIRTHMARKED!