Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Julianna Baggott to the blog to answer a few questions about her young adult novel Pure which just released this week. Pure features a beautifully strange, dark, and disturbing world that's truly the stuff of dreams and nightmares, staying burned in my memory long after reading:) Hope you enjoy the interview!
Let’s say that right this minute the same detonations that decimated Pressia’s world and changed it forever hit us. What, at this exact moment, would you fuse with? Can you describe your post-detonation self?
Well, as I read it, my hand was curved to the mouse – so that would embed. To my right, there’s a glass lantern, and the blue light of the printer, and a 1950s-era desk fan – the brand is called Eskimo. That aged fan could get blown into me, and I’d have a shoulder of caged fan blades.
Everyone who dies inside the dome (and some family members outside of it) have a small box of mementos kept in storage that survivors can visit. If you could choose what went in your box, what couple of items would you put in to share with your loved ones?
This is hard. I’m not an object person, per se. I’d include photographs – ones that mean something – ones that say: this is who you come from. I have one of my great grandmother who ran a house of prostitution during the Great Depression. Most photos of the era are tidy and stern, but she’s wearing a paper-dress she made herself, her kinky hair is loose down her back, and she’s glaring at the camera – she’s maybe 15. I have one of my grandfather (not my biological grandfather but the man I knew as my grandfather) – a double amputee and WWII vet. He’s in a wheelchair, holding my grandmother in his arms and she’s kicking up her legs. That. That’s what I’d keep in a box to hand down.
What aspect of Pressia—either physically or personality-wise—first popped into your head when you were conceptualizing Pure?
The doll-head fist existed in a failed story. Once Pressia was there – in the ashen cabinet – the doll appeared and words came – They will come for you if … a litany. And so it began.
If you were to play “I Remember” with the people in Pressia’s world, what memory would you most want to share with them?
You’re SO damn good at this!
Okay. I remember checking on my children asleep in their beds. The humidifier kicking out puffs of steam. Their legs kicking the covers. Their purring snores. Their heads a little damp with sweat. I remember walking downstairs after and telling my husband that they’re all fine and fast asleep, and patting the dogs curled on their pillows. Night. Calm night.
Pure has a hugely imaginative and awe-inspiring world. Is there a specific world from another piece of fiction that you’ve been completely absorbed by when reading?
I literally read parts of Cider House Rules while in early labor. (I tend to labor for days. There’s time to read, sadly.) That’s a very strange and engrossing read – I mean, if you can read while in labor, that’s a real testament to the writer. John Irving is that good.
If you could spend a day with one of your characters and they could ask you one question about how you created them or how you wrote their story, who would it be and what might they ask?
I think of El Capitan. He turned on me, you know. He was supposed to be so hardened and really he’s got this endless tenderness. He’d want to know what he’s supposed to do, how he’s supposed to exist in this world – being both of those things, hard and tender. His father left him. His mother’s gone. Both before the Detonations. He was alone in charge of his little brother. In some ways, he’s the one who needs the most mothering. I don’t know how to answer the question though. I don’t know how to be both hard and tender in our own world, yet alone theirs.
How do you think you’d fair against one of the Beasts or Dusts?
While shooting the film Norma Rae, the actress Sally Field was going to be hauled off by two cops and put into the back of a cop car. The director told her to fight with everything she had, everything. Sally Field has to be just a little over five feet if that and thin. She fought so hard, she broke the ribs of one of the actors in the role of a cop.
I’d fight. I don’t think I’d win in the end, but I’d break some ribs along the way.
If pre-detonation Pressia could leave post-detonation Pressia a note in one of the memento boxes in the dome, what would she tell her future self?
Beauty endures. Faith endures. Love endures.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Julianna! More information on Julianna and her books can be found here:
We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.
Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.