Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Winter Warmers Event: Author Sara Grant interviews debut author Julia Karr

Winter Warmers Event
Guest Post by Sara Grant

Dystopian Hoosiers*

Thanks, Bungle & Sally, for inviting me to take part in your Winter Warmers event.

I always try to read as many debut authors as I can. It’s exciting to discover a new talent that I can enjoy for years to come. When you asked me to select one debut author, I knew immediately who I wanted to highlight – Julie Karr, author of XVI.

Early in 2011 I took part in a blogging event which featured eight young-adult dystopian novels. I researched the list and discovered that one of the debut writers grew up in Indiana less than 100 miles from where I was born and raised. What are the odds?

(I should probably explain that I now live in London, England. Finding someone here who can point to Indiana on a map is rare. I’ve also heard my beloved homeland called one of the ‘fly over’ states. So I continually feel compelled to stand up for those of us from the Midwestern United States. We Hoosiers should not be passed over.)

What did it mean that both of us write dark, dystopian novels? Was there something in the southern Indiana water? While growing up, we spent half the year on daylight savings time and the other half on central time. (Indiana was only one of two states that refused to ‘spring ahead’ and ‘fall behind’ each year.) Did this fact somehow twist our view of the future? Should Indiana be known for dystopian writers as well as corn?

I immediately read XVI. What I discovered was that we had more than geography and dystopia in common. Her feisty female protagonist is named Nina, mine Neva. Both are around 16 years old and live in a society where being a girl has sinister challenges. They both have mysterious and sexy love interests. Both Nina and Neva begin to uncover secrets that threaten their lives.

So I decided to use Midnight Reads’ Winter Warmer event to make you aware of a darn fine Hoosier writer and a thought-provoking and compelling book. But also I wanted to explore this connection between Julia and I. Julia was kind enough to respond to a few of my questions.

XVI (XVI, #1)

About XVI
“In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad.”
 My interview with Juila Karr

It's interesting that two debut dystopian writers grew up within a 100 miles of each other. How did growing up in a small southern Indiana town influence your writing?

When I was growing up in small-town Indiana, there was not a whole lot to do. There was no internet, with rabbit ears (or an outside antenna) you could get a grand total of three TV stations, and on those rainy days when you couldnt go out to play with your friends, you had to do something. For me, that something was reading lots and lots of reading. As a matter of fact, I started reading when I was three and by the time I reached fifth grade I'd read pretty much all of the books in the children's room of our local library and moved on to Zane Grey westerns and Agatha Christie mysteries!


Seymour postcard post card - Public library, Seymour, IN
The local library
 Although reading and the library were a huge influence on me and my love of the printed word, there were other influences at play. My maternal grandmother raised my older sister and I. Gram had a diverse mixture of friends - all ages and many walks of life - whose many quirks and traits have become a rich pool to draw from. Also, like Christie's Miss Marple notes, everything goes on in a small town, one just has to pay attention. And, I guess I was pretty good at paying attention.

One other thing about growing up in Seymour, when I became a teen, I wanted out. My mother lived in Chicago and I so much wanted to be there with her. When I was fifteen, I moved to Chicago and believe me, it was everything Seymour was not - and more! Not always in a good way, either. But, time, distance, and hindsight has filled my creative well and given me a wealth of memories to twist into futurescapes rife with the same humanity that exists everywhere.

Julia Karr

We also share rebellious female protagonist and futures where females have more obstacles than males. What was your creative spark for XVI and its vision of the future?

XVI started out with a mental vision of my main character, Nina. She popped into my head unbidden, complete with future setting and elements of media domination and complete disregard for homeless people. All of which was ultimately believable to me, and the beginnings of XVI.

What is your outlook for the future? Is it as bleak as the world youve created in XVI?

Oh boy - that's a loaded question! I would answer with Ebenezer Scrooges question to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,..."answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."

I can't say it any better… mankind needs to be paying attention.

What would you like readers to take away from XVI?

I'd like reader's to think about the fact that at any moment in time they have choices. They can choose to blindly follow society's leadings, to go along with the crowd, or they can look inside and see whats right, not just for themselves, but for others. Living with blinders on and allowing financially driven media to shape the course of ones life in the direction that benefits a corporation or a business, without consideration of moral, ethical, and personal standards, is wrong.

And, Id like teen girls to feel empowered to stand up for whats right and to own the power they possess.
What can we expect from TRUTH (the sequel to XVI available from January 19th)?

Without giving anything away… Nina finds out just how messed up things really are. And when she (along with an expanded group of friends) sets out to right them she realizes that exposing the truth and standing up for the right can have deadly consequences. (And, there's also a new guy, who may, or may not, be competing for her affections, because, Sal is still very much around!)


A special thanks to Julia for responding to my questions. I hope you check out her book and if you are a Hoosier writer or reader of dystopian fiction get in touch. I think we may need T-shirts, a slogan and a secret hand shake!

Sara Grant
Sara Grant


Sara Grant was born and raised in Washington, Indiana, a small town in the Midwestern United States. She graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, with degrees in journalism and psychology, and later she earned a master's degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Sara is senior commissioning editor for Working Partners, a London-based company creating series fiction for children. She has worked on ten different series and edited more than 75 books.

Dark Parties

Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.

We would like to say a very big thank you to both Sara and Julia for taking part in our Winter Warmers Event!



Julia Karr said...

Sara - thank you so much for having me on your blog! These were the best questions! And - yes - there is something about southern Indiana, isn't there?!

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