Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Author Guest Post: Patricia McCormick

Today I am honored to be part of a blog tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the contemporary YA novel Cut by Patricia McCormick. I read Cut many years ago, when I was in high school, and was blown away by how maturely and relevantly it dealt with the sensitive and difficult subject of self-injury. The venerable Patricia McCormick, who is also the author of books such as Sold and Purple Heart, joins me on my blog today and answers some of my questions. Welcome, Patricia, to Steph Su Reads!

1. A 10th anniversary edition of Cut—congratulations! It’s still relatively rare for a YA book to still be in print 10 years after its initial publication. Why do you think so many people still respond to Cut?

I am surprised and humbled, really, by the book’s longevity. I have a theory about why it remains so well-read. Partly, it’s because Cut was the first book to really look at self-injury—a problem that goes on unabated, sad to say. (And I think that the continued popularity of tattooing, piercing, extreme dieting and plastic surgery blurs the lines about what’s healthy self-expression—and what’s self-injury in a more socially acceptable form.)

But I think the bigger reason is that it speaks to a more general experience that kids are having whether they self-injure or not. It addresses the feelings of confusion and loneliness that so many kids feel as they cope with all the pressures of trying to grow up. Without healthy outlets for that pressure, they turn to unhealthy behavior. This book looks at the most extreme form of self-destructive behavior, but I think it resonates with kids who are engaging in or are curious about less drastic behavior, too. (Drinking, drugging, sexual acting out, eating issues, and even getting lost in cyberspace.)

I also think the book gives voice to those feelings of confusion, anger, hurt, alienation—and then literally gives the main character a voice to express those feelings. It doesn’t show her “getting better”—it shows a stumbling, awkward, and very realistic process. But it illuminates the process of her dawning self-awareness and suggests that she and her parents are willing to take action to change.

2. Your books tend to be about global human issues that many find difficult to talk about: self-injury, sexual slavery, etc. What motivates you to write about such things?

My son says that when I want to come up with a new book idea, I Google the word “sad.” But the truth is I am naturally drawn to darker topics. (I’m not a dark person—although my son will also tell you that my jokes are not funny.) I am a former journalist, so I’m always drawn to news-worthy topics. But I also feel like a book can really shed light on those darker corners of human behavior. And if I’m going to spend 2-3 years on a book, I want it to really make a difference for someone. My books are definitely not to everyone’s taste, but the honest and heartfelt response I get from readers is so meaningful to me that that’s all the reinforcement I need.

3. What is your favorite thing to do to unwind after a long day?

Yoga. I also like to listen to NPR or cheesy disco music while I cook. I also like to watch John Stewart at the end of the day. There’s nothing like his brand of humor to put everything in perspective.

4. Who are some of your favorite YA authors?

Carolyn Coman, Rachel Cohn, Francine Prose, Libba Bray.

5. Lightning round!

Black or white?
     White. My apartment is nearly all white; we call it the Cloud.

Making music or listening to music?
     I played the flute in my grade school band—Sister Ellen George was a tyrant with a baton—but now I’ve started taking lessons again and am really enjoying it. Not sure my neighbors are enjoying it quite as much.

Winter or summer?
     Summer. I’m like a lizard; I love the heat.

Salty or sweet?
     Salty, then sweet, salty then sweet. Repeat as necessary.

Naughty or nice?
     People always say I’m nice, but I’m not so sure about that. I want my tombstone to say “She Never Claimed to Be Nice.”

Cake or ice cream?
     Ice cream. Cake can let you down, especially in the frosting department. Ice cream pretty much always delivers.


Thank you, Patricia! Check out Patricia's author website, as well as Scholastic's This Is Teen Facebook page. Help celebrate Cut's 10th anniversary by spreading the word about this powerful book, or by buying a copy for yourself. The next stop on the Cut blog tour is Thursday, June 9 at Stacked.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this book but what a timely interview with the recent WSJ article on realistic YA fiction and how "dark" it is. I've heard really excellent things about Cut and hope it has helped many teens.


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