I’m delighted to be sharing a recent interview with YA writer extraordinaire, Mindy McGinnis, about her new novel, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES. She’s one of the most eclectic YA writers out there, moving between genres so fast it could make your head spin – and mastering all of them (and she also loves cats!) When I asked her about her new novel, here’s what she had to say …
KC: THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a very different book for you, although your novels to date have been somewhat eclectic in terms of genre (dystopian, historical fiction/horror, and now teen vigilante justice). In your author notes you say that you’d actually written a draft of this book 15 years ago and decided to dust it off now. What was the original inspiration for the book, what prompted you to dust it off now, and what were the main things that changed between the original version and the final published version?
MM: I was in college when I ran into the inspiration for SPECIES. I never had cable television growing up, so my freshman year in a dorm I was suddenly mainlining all kinds of things, but especially true crime. I watched a mini-doc about a girl who had been raped and murdered in a small town, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict. Even so, everyone knew who did it. I was watching this becoming more incensed, and realized, that if I were capable of it, I could easily find this town, find that mine, and take care of things myself. Then I thought it was probably time to turn off the TV.
KC: If I’m remembering correctly, this is the first book you’ve written from multiple/alternating points of view. Did you find writing the alternating characters’ viewpoints challenging or freeing, or a little of both?
MM: It was my first time for alternating POV’s, although I was also drafting a fantasy (GIVEN TO THE SEA) at the same time, which has four alternating POV’s, two male and two female. Even so, SPECIES came first, and more importantly than being my first POV dive, it was my first time writing a male MC, first person. So that was something I wanted to make sure I got right. I had various male readers and critique partners, so that I would know I was in the head of a teen boy, both for the good and the bad.
KC: This is also your first contemporary YA – your previous books have been set respectively in the future and the past. How did you find the worldbuilding aspects of creating a contemporary township for this book versus a dystopia (in your NOT A DROP TO DRINK duology) and a historically accurate past (in A MADNESS SO DISCREET)?
MM: Ha – this one was a breeze in that respect! I’ve worked in a high school for 15 years, so I know the voice, I know the small town environment, and I know the narrators. Once when I was writing MADNESS I had to stop and do 15 minutes of research just to figure out what policemen were called in 1890 Boston. Here … so much easier!
KC: One thing that has stayed with me very viscerally since reading the book is your depiction of the scene where the cop speaks at the high school assembly about drug and alcohol abuse and does so in a very different way to what the students (and probably readers) were expecting. What was the inspiration for Officer Nolan’s character and how did you come up with his approach to educating teens about alcohol and drugs?
MM: We had a task force come into the school to educate the staff about different drugs, their uses / effects and paraphernalia. The guy was amazing, because he made everything personal. But he also talked to us like adults (which we were), and I couldn’t help but think, Geez, I wish he could come in and talk to the kids like that. Whenever there’s an assembly that is about safety – drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever – it’s typically condescending and very antiseptic. They kids are bored and it has no impact. So I wrote what I thought would actually work.
KC: Do you have a plan for your next book that you can share with us?
MM: I do! My first fantasy, titled GIVEN TO THE SEA will be releasing from Penguin/Putnam on April 11, 2017. It is the first in a duology. I also have another contemporary coming from Harper in the Fall of 2017, titled THIS DARKNESS MINE.
Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Mindy! Write on!