|check out the full tour schedule at the MacKids blog|
I have been a huge fan of the Birthmarked trilogy by Caragh M. O'Brien from the very beginning, so it's no wonder that I was thrilled when I was asked to be part of the blog tour for Prized, the final book in this great trilogy. For the inaugural stop on the tour, I asked Caragh to reflect on how things have changed for her over the course of writing and the publication of all three Birthmarked books. Here's what she had to say.
First, Rachael, let me thank you for inviting me to kick off my blog tour for Promised with you! It's great that you gave me such a sweeping, open topic, and I'm glad I've had a chance to ponder my reply.
Over the span of writing the Birthmarked series, I’ve learned so much about writing and the publishing process. It’s a bit mind boggling to think of how much my expectations have changed, and how my perspective beyond my writing has changed, too.
One thing I didn’t see coming is the way my relationship with Gaia, the main character of the series, has made me braver. When I started writing Birthmarked, I wrote because I wanted to, for the fun of it, with no real expectation of getting the novel published. While I was adventurous at heart and lived deeply, relishing each day, I wasn’t looking for change. I was a lot like Gaia, actually: accepting and curious. I was responsible and worked hard, but I didn’t see myself as a leader or spend much time questioning my role in society.
Then Birthmarked sold, with two more books thrown in, and all the sudden I was facing a creative challenge bigger than anything I’d encountered before. Within a year, I was forced to decide if I could give up my teaching, which I loved, to write full-time. The choice had huge financial, emotional, and professional consequences, and I was scared. After I weighed all the pros and cons, I had a sort of epiphany: I was writing about someone I admired, someone brave, so why shouldn’t I try to be like Gaia? She would seize a chance full of new possibilities. She wouldn’t let fear hold her back.
So I resigned from teaching to write, and began a second life. I have become much, much braver than I used to be, and this has helped me explore Gaia’s changes, too, though her challenges have been far more dire. Could I have written torture scenes four years ago? Or love squares? Could I have written about abortion or surrogacy?
My expectations on the publishing front are different now, too. I’ve had four years of work closely with my editor and the team at Roaring Brook. I know a ton more about the nitty-gritty of that whole process, with its quirky pace and juggling, and I’ve watched the marketing support increase for each book, too. I still can hardly believe I’m going on the Fierce Reads tour this fall. I didn’t see that coming.
Here’s sort of a funny thing. At first, my editor Nancy Mercado was so careful of me, so encouraging and gentle with her questions and feedback. I thought, can she really be this nice? It turned out she really is that nice. She’s been unfailingly supportive this entire time, but I think it’s also fair to say we’ve come up with some short-hand ways of dealing with each other. She doesn’t gush quite so much about the strengths of my work now, but rather gets quickly into the tangles. We trust each other with the editing/revising process more. It used to be I’d secretly keep revising a draft while I waited for her feedback, trying to nudge it along on my own. Now I just park a manuscript once I send it to her because I know when she gets back to me, she’s going to razor in on exactly what most needs exploring. She never, ever settles for good enough, and I’m grateful for that.
The last really important, unexpected thing for me has been the way Gaia’s story has brought me closer to people. I’ve really been stunned by the number of readers who have written to me about Gaia and Leon, and by others I’ve met in book groups. Though our exchanges are relatively brief, they are heartfelt and genuine in a way I never could have predicted, and I feel like I’m part of a community of caring people. The novels have also deepened my relationships with friends and family who were already in my life before publication. Prized, especially, has prompted difficult conversations about women’s issues that we had avoided before, and this searching toward understanding each other is incredibly valuable to me.
This is probably more of an answer than you were looking for, Rachael, so I won’t go any further. But it’s an engaging prompt, this question of what changes for a writer over the span of a series. My own changes have focused around writing Gaia’s story, but I can’t help wondering, if you thought back over the last four years of your own life, if you’d find a similar pattern to follow, threads that hold it all together for you. Chances are, we’re all growing braver.
At least, I hope so.
And now, it's the moment you've all been waiting for: your chance to win all 3 books in the Birthmarked trilogy!
(1) lucky winner will receive Birthmarked, Prized, and Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien
courtesy of Macmillan
To enter this contest, please fill out this form:
- US/Canadian mailing addresses only.
- Contest ends 10/07/12, at 9 p.m. PST.
And finally, before you go, don't forget:
Caragh's website: http://www.caraghobrien.com/
Caragh on twitter: @CaraghMOBrien.
Tortured, a bridge story between Birthmarked & Prized:
Ruled, a bridge story between Prized & Promised: