Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interview with Cate Tiernan

This is a repost from the "School & Library Book Buzz" Enewsletter put out by Little, Brown.  It's an interview with author Cate Tiernan, author of the Immortal Beloved series.  I reviewed the second in the series, Darkness Falls and really enjoyed it.  She sounds all sorts of awesome.

Author of the Month

Michael Williams

Immortal Beloved cover

Cate Tiernan was born and raised in New Orleans. She is also the author of Penguin Speak's vastly successful Sweep series. She currently lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and children. Her website is www.catetiernan.org.

Cate in her own words...

I wrote my first book in 1989, and it was published by Henry Holt BYR in 1990. It was a middle-grade chapter book, and I blithely sailed into it though I'd never written anything longer than three pages.

My idea was: show a girl solving her own problem without relying on a male character. I'd been editing a lot of YA novels, and I kept being struck by what I felt were unhelpful, sexist situations—a girl throwing her car keys to her boyfriend so he could drive, though it was her car; a father telling a girl's boyfriend to "take care of her" when they go off to college. With the girl standing right there.

Books like that freaked me out because we were presenting them to YA readers as showing normal and acceptable behavior. We were offering them models, perhaps guiding readers as they formed their personalities and beliefs, and what we were offering was example after example of girls and young women willingly giving up their power so that a male character would feel better.

I didn't have children myself back then. I had grown up in the deep south, and I used to iron my dad's shirts and handkerchiefs. In my culture, men ran things and women made everyone's lives smoother. Though that had seemed fine, normal, as I grew up, once I was out of the south and on my own, I began to feel that, really, we women and girls had so much more potential.

My middle-grade novel, now long out of print, showed a girl who desperately wanted a pet but couldn't have one because her dad was allergic. She found a garter snake in the garage and plopped him into an aquarium, and by the end of the book her parents were impressed by her determination and responsibility in taking care of the snake, and they let her keep him.

I've written many books since then, but I'm still working with variations on that theme: don't give up your power, ladies. Find out who your authentic self is and then roll with it.

The first book of Immortal Beloved pubbed last September; the second one will come out in January of 2012 and the third in September of 2012. In it the main character realizes she's given away all her personal power and is now surrounded by people who are defining who she is and what she's comfortable with—and she's become unrecognizable even to herself. Her journey across the three books is to figure out who she is and what she believes, and every step of the journey must be made by her alone. The character, Nastasya, is 450 years old, and the flashbacks that tell her story show that until fairly recently, she had to rely on men for survival. A husband, an employer—in most of the world women couldn't own property, travel by themselves, control their own destinies. She mentions when women got the right to vote (different years for different countries), and how she often posed as a widow because more status and thus power was accorded to a married woman. It shows that she's responsible for herself, only for herself, and that to give away her power is to remove the point of living entirely.

We're in the year 2011, and women are still second-class citizens across most of the world.

My hope is that by having strong characters to model themselves on, and many examples of strong women determining their own fate, a new generation of girls will know that as the new normal, and the world will change.

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