Today we are thrilled to be a part of Julianna Baggott’s blog tour, celebrating the release of her new novel. Pure is the much-buzzed about post-apocalyptic coming of age novel that has garnered praise from the varied likes of Justin Cronin (The Passage), Robert Olen Butler (Pulitzer Prize winner), and Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse).
Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Julianna Baggott!
The Book Smugglers: Pure is a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel with shades of the horror and thriller genres. Though it isn’t positioned as a YA title, heroine Pressia is sixteen years old and Pure has strong crossover audience appeal. How did you approach this melange of genres? Did you envision Pure as a crossover, genre-bending novel since conception, or did it evolve organically?
Julianna: I knew it was a huge departure from my other books. And I knew that I wanted to kind of storm the gates of “genre fiction,” but I wasn’t thinking clearly about where I’d go once I’d gotten through the gates. In some ways, genre as well as the appropriate age-level of a book is something that booksellers and publicists and librarians have to sort out. I write it, but it doesn’t mean I know what IT is — or how many different categories it might slip under. I will say this — in many ways, I wrote the novel for my daughter, who is now the age of Pressia. She made a bird of wire — the one you’ll find in the book made by Lyda (and there’s a free app for this too). I read her early pages and she told me that I had to write this book. She’d never really liked much of anything I’d written before so it meant a lot. The book is for her — so if she were a category in a bookstore, that’s where you’d put it — though some of my biggest fans so far are my age and up. Go figure.
Dystopian novels, especially those of the post-apocalyptic persuasion, are an increasingly popular subgenre of fiction. Are you a fan of the genre? What inspired you to write your own dystopia following the “Detonations”? I write a lot of genres and read in a lot of genres. I’m a buckshot reader. I read as much poetry as prose and because I’m usually researching for a novel, I read a lot of nonfiction. I think it’s quite natural — on a deeply psychological level — for both writers and readers to be drawn to dystopian worlds at this point in history. And I think that the teen years are always tinged with dystopia — or, at least, I should speak for myself here. In some ways, dystopian novels can feel the most realistic.
The Book Smugglers: As a “Wretch” that has survived the Detonations and has a doll’s head fused to her arm in the place of a hand, Pressia is a visually striking and memorable character. Can you tell us about this image of a girl with a doll’s head for a hand, and what, if anything, it symbolizes to you?
Julianna: I’d written some literary fabulist short stories, one with a character who had a doll-head fist. But the character was older and it wasn’t as psychologically resonant. I also wanted to do something ambitious, cinematic, world-building. Once I realized the two belonged together, the world started to take shape.
The Book Smugglers: Conversely, Partridge is a “Pure” that survived the Detonations unmarred by the fusings or radiation, thanks to the protective safety of The Dome. The juxtaposition of the Pures and the Wretches makes for a fascinating society in a ravaged post-apocalyptic world. How did you approach worldbuilding and the creation of this dystopian society for Pure?
Julianna: My husband worked in a boarding school for a few years when we were younger. I based much of the Academy within the Dome on this boarding school. I dream about this place often; it’s burrowed into my skull in some very essential way. So I revisited it for the novel.
The Book Smugglers: Pure is the first book in a planned trilogy and has already been optioned for film by Fox2000. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming film (we are very excited), and what readers can expect in Fuse (book 2)?
Julianna: I have no idea what’s going on film-wise. I wish I did. If you hear rumors, let me know.
Now, Fuse, well, I’m deep into edits now so I can tell you that they don’t stay confined to the landscapes I established in Pure and the twists and turns of the Dome take over and the relationships go deeper.
The Book Smugglers: What are your top five recommended apocalyptic and/or dystopian novels?
Julianna: I’m not good at this kind of thing and always tap dance around the answer.
[Insert tap-dancing here.]
The Book Smugglers: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read – hence, we have resorted to ’smuggling books’ home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
Julianna: My husband has, actually. He came with me on tour in London for my first novel back in 2001 or so. We walked into a publishing house and while I was interviewed they told Dave to take any books that caught his eye. When I was done, he walked toward me with as many books as he could carry. I blushed. We left and then proceeded to figure out a way to jam every last one into our suitcases to get them back home.
Critically acclaimed, bestselling author, Julianna Baggott — who also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher (The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted) and N.E. Bode (The Anybodies) — has published 17 books, including novels for adults, younger readers, and collections of poetry. Her latest novel, PURE, is the first of a trilogy; film rights have sold to Fox2000 — www.pure-book.com. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Best American Poetry, Best Creative Nonfiction, Real Simple, on NPR.org, as well as read on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” and “Here and Now.” Her novels have been book-pick selections by People Magazine’s summer reading, Washington Post book-of-the-week, a Booksense selection, a Boston Herald Book Club selection, and a Kirkus Best Books of the Year list. Her novels have been published in over 50 overseas editions. She’s a professor in the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University and the founder of the nonprofit Kids in Need – Books in Deed. For more, visit www.juliannabaggott.com.
We are giving away ONE copy of Pure! The contest is open to addresses in the US only, and will run until Saturday February 11 at 11:59 (PST). In order to enter, leave a comment here letting us know what your favorite post-apocalyptic novel is. Only one entry per person, please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Good luck!