I grew up in the small town of Seymour, Indiana. Although I’ve lived as far east (and south) as St. Augustine, Florida, and as far west as Longmont, Colorado, I now live about fifty miles from my hometown.
I’ve been writing nearly all of my life. When I was young, I lived with my grandmother and my older sister, but my mother lived in Chicago. I spent a lot of time writing her long, newsy letters about what was happening in my life. She would sometimes correct my spelling by return mail! (I learned to love being edited! lol!)
I also loved to write poetry and draw. I would design greeting cards and send them to my friends and relatives.
When I was sixteen, I moved to Chicago to live with my mother. I fell in love with Chicago, and have never fallen out of it! There is nothing quite like the thrumming heartbeat of a big city!
I have two lovely daughters, who are grown. They both live within five miles of me, and I like that a lot! When they were little, I used to make up stories for them. That was when I first starting thinking about writing for children. But, it wasn’t until they were out of the house that I began to take my writing seriously.
I love writing young adult novels. XVI is dystopian fiction, but I am also working on some fantasy and some contemporary themes. Too many ideas, too little time!
From author's website.
How do you pronounce the title – “X-V-I” or “Sixteen”?
I actually do both. From the start, I called it Sixteen. My editor and the publishing house calls it X-V-I. Now I use both!
What was the first scene you wrote for this novel? How has it changed over the course of the publishing process?
The first scene I wrote was Nina meeting Sal. That ended up being moved back in the book - although the scene itself stayed pretty much the same throughout.
Nina is a very creative individual, and a talented artist. Do you have any hidden artistic talents outside of writing?
Well… I know my way around a sewing machine - I like to sketch - and I can play the piano (only for my own enjoyment.) I also tried my hand at woodworking - I really like that, too. But - writing is where it's at right now.
The XVI tattoos are a central symbol in the novel, and some characters have given them their own flair. Do you have any tattoos? If you were to get one, what would it be of?
I don't have any tattoos (yet!) My older daughter and her husband actually own a tattoo place and both of them are tattooed! See, the reason I don't have a tattoo is because I can't decide what I would want! I think I'm too fickle for something that permanent. :)
There is a very Space Age feel to the world of XVI. Why did you choose to envision the future this way? Do you think we’ll have settled Mars in 150 years?
My characters kind of envisioned the world for me - I dictated what they had to say. Well, not exactly - but… :) I'm not sure that settling any other planets will have happened in 150 years - but, I bet there will be more space stations & the moon… maybe a settlement there. Why not?
In XVI and many other dystopian novels, it is the female population who are the most oppressed or abused. Do you think patriarchy and misogyny are things our society will ever fully escape?
I certainly hope so! Honestly, it's going to take a lot of changing of the ways we raise our children. As long as gender-based roles are followed - patriarchy & misogyny will be around. Maybe women need to be a little more aggressive in raising their sons to respect their daughters?
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?
Being true to the story and not copping out on the hard stuff. Fortunately, I was not writing it with the goal of being published - I was writing the story that was there.
Nina’s little sister Dee is very important to her. Do you have a younger sister whom you drew on to create Dee and their sisterly bond?
Actually, just the opposite - I am the younger sister. My older sister was very protective of me. I think subconsciously I drew on that relationship in the Nina/Dee interactions.
Nina is understandably wary of romantic relationships. What male character from another YA novel do you think would be able to break down her walls if they were to meet?
I'm all about Jacob Black. :)
In one of the other event interviews, you mentioned that you were working on projects from a range of genres – fantasy, contemporary, historical – is there one genre that you enjoy writing more than others? Is there one that’s harder to write?
I think fantasy is hard. I love writing mysteries. I'd have to say that as long as the story is coming from my heart - I just love writing!
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Come back later today for my review of XVI!
Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.
Thanks to Julia for this great interview, and for participating in A Cornucopia of Dystopia!