1. We’ve always appreciated your commentary on the complicated balance between honesty, reviewing, and being a writer. How does it feel to read your first reviews? Have any of your views changed? And what do you think about a catchy line "Jews in Space" that we've seen people use to describe Starglass?
It's been fascinating! While I don't agree with all the reviews (though honestly, who agrees with every perspective of any work of art?), I have found them, generally, to be insightful, hilarious, and incisive. My readers are just SO smart--it's what's kept me reading my reviews.
As for "Jews in Space"? Hilarious. I've long been a Mel Brooks fan, and my own Jewish mother made a "Jews in Space" crack LONG ago. Of course, the Asherah isn't shaped like a star of David; it's important that new readers don't take it too literally. But I'm glad to contribute to cultural diversity in YA sci-fi, and if the promise of Jews in Space gets people reading? Sounds good to me!
2. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept of a Bashert? Where does the word originate, and does the meaning differ from what we think of as a soul mate?
"Bashert" is a Yiddish word that means "destiny." The idea is that God selected your spouse for you before you were ever born, someone who will complement you perfectly in every way. Since your spouse is considered selected for you by God, any husband or wife is considered a bashert--whether the relationship is ultimately successful or not. I find that aspect of the concept fascinating, and was eager to explore it in a setting where one's matrimonial choices are severely limited.
The traditional view is perhaps both more overtly religious than our own concept of a soul mate and more marriage-focused. Of course, belief in soul mates depends on some sort of belief in a soul, doesn't it? They're very similar concepts, and if readers understand them as equivalent terms, I don't particularly think they're missing much.
3. We love that you showed how easy it was aboard the ship for the people to become complacent to their basic rights and liberties disappearing in favor of the greater "good." Do you draw any parallels between the society aboard the ship and the world we live in now?
I think to a certain degree any society depends upon consensus between citizens that a certain degree of compromise in liberty is necessary for us to get along. Not every society is as strict as that of the Asherah, but there exist contemporary societies on Earth where one's choice of spouse or vocation is limited due to factors beyond an individual's control. What distinguishes one society from another is where we draw those lines. Life on the Asherah must, by definition, be more controlled than it would be in many real societies but it doesn't mean that the choices the Council makes are necessarily right for all its citizens. Instead, those choices arise out of a motley quilt of quasi-religious values, necessity, the ruling party's desire for power, and a need to avoid chaos. Which is, I believe, how many real societies are structured. Ours, too, for better or for worse.
4. Is it weird that the character we found ourselves relating to the most was Terra's best friend Rachel?
Not at all! I love Rachel, and think she's a fascinating girl. In many ways, she's more sympathetic than Terra. And I've certainly had that reaction to characters before. When I read Uglies, for example, I LOVED Shay, but was not really all that into Tally.
Terra's been through a unique and uniquely traumatizing experience, and so I understand if it's a bit odd for some readers to get inside her head. It was certainly a difficult place for me to be, sometimes. But I also think that stories about girls like Terra--who have been through trauma and abuse--remain worth telling. For one thing, empathy is important. Terra might be difficult and sometimes unlikeable, but I hope she remains understandable. For another, I truly believe that kids who have grown up in the shadow of alcoholism and grief desperately need narratives about heroism and healing. They deserve to see heroes like them, too.
5. During the editing process, was there anything you cut out that you were sad to see go? Outtakes?
This might sound silly, but at various points in its gestation, Starglass opened with a glossary. We decided to get rid of it (as most of the Yiddish and Hebrew used can be divined by context clues), but I've seen a few readers stumble over these phrases and sometimes, I wish I'd kept it.
Otherwise, the novel mostly grew--over 25,000 words during the editing process. Nothing was removed that wasn't replaced with something better.
6. Once the Starglass duology is complete and the second book is published in 2014, will you continue writing YA science fiction or you are ready to explore other genres (maybe even adult fiction, though we know you’ve said probably no to that particular question in other interviews?) Are you working on any projects right now?
I can't imagine writing something that wasn't speculative--whether science fiction or fantasy. I'm such a sucker for magic and aliens and dragons and unicorns and especially space unicorns.
Perhaps one day I'll write an adult novel, but my mind just doesn't bend that way, naturally. I find narratives about childhood and adolescence much more interesting. My current itch is to write and publish some middle grade. Twelve is such a fascinating age.
7. Have you ever thought about how we are all essentially hurtling through space on a very large-scale mostly closed system? We are all trapped here, with our limited resources and space, and we have to survive with each other and what we have. Did we just blow your mind? No?
Starglass will be available on July 23, 2013
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