Thursday, May 22, 2008

SBBT: Mary Pearson

Ask me what my three favorite books of 2008 are so far, and I'll tell you, in no particular order, they are Paper Towns by John Green, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox by today's SBBT interviewee, the awesome Mary Pearson.

Carlie: Your latest book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, is a big departure from your previous work, A ROOM ON LORELEI STREET. What inspired you to create Jenna
and her futuristic world?

Mary: I think all of my books are a departure from the previous ones, but this one did actually make a time jump to about fifty years in the future so I guess that does make it a bit unique from all the others. A couple of questions were the motivating sparks for this story: How far will medicine advance fifty years from now, and also, how far would a parent go to save their child?

I asked myself both of these questions several years ago when my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer. After I got over the initial shock of her diagnosis, I quickly became grateful that there was such good treatment available for the type of cancer she had because just fifty years earlier she probably would have died from it. And that led me to wonder what treatments might be available in another fifty years. And then while she underwent treatment at the hospital I saw a lot of children who were going through even more intense and longer treatments, and not just what these kids were going through but what their parents were going through too. Again, it made me wonder how much a parent would be willing to put their child through in order to save their life. How far would I be willing to go?

These were just wonderings--not ideas for a book--but I think the questions that niggle at our hearts have a way of surfacing in our work. And a few years later exploring these questions through another family and a different situation gave me the safe distance that I needed. Of course, Jenna's family and situation were unique and the story took on a life of its own with new
questions and themes emerging as the story unfolded. I think many of these questions are timeless ones that we all revisit throughout our lives. What makes us human? What makes me, me? How am I different? Do I fit in? Am I enough? The particulars of this story also gave me a lot of opportunity to explore the gray areas of science and ethics, spirituality, morality, and choices. I think we all imagine what choices we would make in an impossible situation,
but until we are actually facing it, I am not sure we can ever really be sure of the paths we will take.

Carlie: Wow, that was incredibly informative! Thank you for sharing that with us. What are your plans for future books?

Mary: I have a finished manuscript that I recently sent off to my editor that I will probably begin revisions on in June for publication in Fall '09. It's a larger than life type of story about four teens who take off on an unauthorized road trip. It's fun and outrageous, and again, a departure from my other books. After the intensity of my last two I think I needed something like that.

Carlie: Now for some fun: Finish this sentence: People might be surprised if they knew I was good at...

Mary: Roof repairs. Actually, I'm the handy person around the house. I grew up with a dad who could fix anything and never met a tool he didn't like, so taking my dad's lead I will attempt almost anything. I remember when a tree branch fell through our roof and when I went to Home Depot for supplies the sales guy took one look at me and said, "you'll never be able to fix it." Ha!
That was the wrong thing to say to me. After that I think I would have fixed it myself if I had to cut each shingle with my teeth.

Thank you for your wonderful answers, Mary! We'll all be looking forward to your next book.


Marissa said...

Thanks so much for the interview, Carlie and Mary! Clicking over to the book's site, I loved seeing teen reader responses, too. I'm absolutely fascinated by the questions Mary's asking in AoJF. Questioning what makes us who we are and where our lives will take us, especially in our "formative years," are such staple themes in YA lit, it's really great to see Mary translating them into universality while analyzing them through such a speculative, yet familiar vehicle. Very much enjoying the read!

tanita✿davis said...

I really can't wait to read this book -- it's a really interesting premise, and now that I know that the woman can bust out and fix a roof? I'm SO there!! (Go Mary! Go Mary!) What a great interview and interviewee!

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Me, too, TadMack. I still haven't read this one. Sounds so intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for having me on your SBBT! And if you ever have any leaks in your roof, you know who to call . . .