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Caragh O'Brien: Interview

Recently I read and reviewed Birthmarked, which you must read if you haven't already. I had the good fortune to be able to interview the author. Everyone, let's welcome Caragh O'Brien!

1. What was your inspiration for Birthmarked?

Let me say first how delighted I am that you invited me by, Izzy. I feel so honored! My inspiration for Birthmarked came first when I saw the drought in the southern states in the winter of 2008. We were driving across the country, and when I saw the empty lakes in state after state, the landscape struck me as a wasteland and I started imagining how we would adapt socially and politically to climate change. I was also inspired by my students and my own kids, especially when I imagined Gaia and how strong she was.

2. You have some wonderful codes in the novel. How did you come up with these?

Thank you! I love codes. I think they’re fun. When I was a kid, my brothers and sisters and I routinely wrote messages to each other in code. My father, a veteran cryptanalyst for the army, wrote codes in his letters to me. I thought this was typical. When I needed codes for the book, I tinkered with ones I remembered from my childhood.

3. What's the hardest part of writing for you, and how do you tackle it?

First drafts are hard for me because there are so many possibilities and the wrong directions seem just as enticing as the right ones. I give myself permission to make huge mistakes (as in 50-page-long mistakes) just to get anything down. Then I trust I can do better once I’m revising. Revising is the part I like.
4. On your website, you mentioned that Birthmarked is the first book of a trilogy. Can you tell us anything about the second book?

Sure. Book 2 (like the catchy title?) picks up a couple weeks after Birthmarked ends, and Gaia encounters another dystopian society which is also based in a stressed environment. In this case, women rule the men who vastly outnumber them, and Gaia suffers with a strict social code and intense injustice against people she loves. Speaking of revising, I’m starting my 8th draft and the story is shaping up.

5. You've been stranded on a desert island. You can request one book, one album, and one movie from an awesome genie. Assuming the desert island is equipped with a CD player and DVD player, what would you choose?

Ha! The music and movie are easy: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, and American Beauty. The book is impossible to choose. I suppose I’d take along Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale because I’m rereading it now and I want to get to the end. 

Thanks again, Izzy, for having me by. I enjoy your site, and your “How To Be A Great Writer” post especially made me laugh. Good luck with your own writing!

Thanks so much for doing the interview and answering all my questions!


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