Friday, July 31, 2015

PPLYAFest Interview #3 with Mindy McGinnis

Rounding out my interviews from the PPLYAFest is Mindy McGinnis, who is seriously the most pleasant and enthusiastic person I have ever met. She was so delightful and has hooked me as a reader from sheer personality. Even if you find her writing only half as awesome as she is, you still won't be able to put her books down.

Interview with Mindy McGinnis

Raychelle: What were you doing when the inspiration to write Not a Drop to Drink struck? Was this your first idea for a book and if not, do you have any plans to revisit some of those ideas?

Mindy: I watched a documentary called Blue Gold. Its about how we are draining the world of water. There are too many people and not enough water, it's a very simple math equation. I was watching this documentary and thought that is terrible because that is something that all of us have to have. It doesn't take much for human beings to go straight to violence. I have a pond in my backyard and I had this really selfish thought right before I went to bed. I thought I have a pond, I will be ok, everyone else is screwed. My niece was fairly young at the time, and I dreamt that we were in my basement and I was teaching her how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I told her that she is going to have to kill to survive and I'm sorry but this is our life now. I woke up and thought that was terrible role modeling but it would make an awesome book. I thought of this little girl whose parent or role model was telling her that she had to kill to survive because she is more important than anything else. So I dreamt the characters and then grew the plot up around it.

R: Did the story stay pretty true to the first draft or did it change significantly along the way?

M: It got edited down a lot but it was true to my original concept. I don't necessarily have a lot of survival skills but I do live in the middle of nowhere. I can my own food, collect rain water, and can skin a deer. I'm not a survivalist, it's just a way of life. There were probably 50 more pages of just mother and Lynn and how they lived. There was a lot of stuff that was cut out that was practical knowledge that was cut for plot purposes. So it pretty much stayed true and it is what I wanted it to be.

R: Was this your first idea for a book and if not, do you have any plans to revisit some of those ideas?

M: Not a Drop to Drink was my fifth finished book and my first published. Interestingly enough, the first book I ever wrote, I wrote in college. The book was terrible, but the concept was great. I actually reread it recently and I didn't even finish it because it was so terrible. It was the first thing I ever wrote so it sucked. I spoke to my editor and he asked what else I had and that he wanted to see me write a contemporary. I told him that I didn't really have a lot, but I had this book I wrote in college. It's a vigilante justice, rape revenge story. I first wrote it about adults, but I was confident that I could make it into a YA. He was sold and told me to write it. So, it's kind of cool that the very first book I ever wrote is getting published, but it's not. The only thing that is the same is the title which is The Female of the Species and it will be out in 2016. The main character is the younger sister of a girl who was abducted and killed. Everyone pretty much knows who did it but there is no evidence to prove it and he walks. She takes justice into her own hands and gets away with it. It really messes with the social structure. The book is actually set three years later. She has been withdrawn and is starting to develop relationships. She is trying to redeem herself through working in an animal shelter even though she doesn't really realize that's why she is doing it.

R: How have your experiences in Ohio influenced your writing? 

M: Everything. All of my books are set in Ohio. A Madness So Discreet is set in Athens at the Insane Asylum at Ohio State. You write what you know. I want to write books for the kids that know what the wind sounds like blowing through a corn field.* 

*We had a great conversation about Riverview kids knowing all about it and living in the middle of nowhere. ;-)

R: You have a new book coming in October, A Madness So Discreet, which is a gothic historical thriller. What else can you tell us about it?

M: It's about a girl who is pregnant because her father is molesting her. If you were inconveniently pregnant in that time period, it was pretty common for the family to send her to the Insane Asylum to have her baby and tell everyone that she is on her "European Tour." Then when she has the baby and slims back down, the family will bring her back. She is from a good quality Boston family, a political family. It is really inconvenient because 1)her father is the one molesting her and 2)the girls from those families are not supposed to be pregnant. Grace Mae knows that is what is going to happen to her and she doesn't want that. She sees a doctor performing lobotomies and the people that are walking out of there. She decides that she wants one. She has a very keen eye for detail and can remember everything that happened and she doesn't want to remember. She is angry at her family, including her mother who knew what was going on and she knows that they will have to face the truth if she gets a lobotomy. She asks the doctor to perform one and he says no because it would be immoral. The doctor, who is somewhat of a Holmes-ian character, looks at her, knows her story and sees that she has that keen eye. He tells her that he has a new job in Ohio studying Criminal Psychology, which was a really new science back then but was basically criminal profiling. He will tell everyone that he lobotomized her and she will go with him as his assistant and stand at the crime scenes holding his bags. Although In reality, she will actually be memorizing the crime scene. So she agrees and they end up in Ohio on the case of a serial killer. She has a younger sister in Boston and she gets the feeling that the abuse is going tot transfer to her soon and she knows that she can't let that happen.

R: What were some of the influences that inspired you to write and particularly to write A Madness So Discreet?

M: I just know a lot about lobotomies. I know that's weird, but I'm interested in brains and the science of the brain. We still know very little about our brains. I'm fascinated by how the brain works. I'm fascinated by Criminal Psychology, especially early Criminal Psychology because I'm amazed they ever caught anyone. Also, the medical treatments of the time and the advancement of women, which were treated horribly. There were just so many things that combined to make this book.

R: What do you think is the most memorable line in A Madness so Discreet? Do you have a favorite?

M: There is a character named Falsteed, who you never actually get to see because they are in the dark. He talks to Grace and he keeps her alive just by talking to her when she ends up down there after assaulting the Asylum director. Falsteed is a doctor and he believes that he can smell cancer. Back then they were familiar with inoculations, and Falsteed is terrified of cancer, so he thought he could inoculate himself of cancer by eating peoples tumors. So he would operate on his patients and then eat their tumors. He has this perfect logic. If you put small pox in someone, they won't get small pox, so if I eat cancer, I won't get cancer. It makes sense to him. He tells her that she and he are the most sane people in this place and they put them in the basement in order for the insane people above them to build a strong foundation for their own sanity.*

*Actual quote from the book below, courtesy of Mindy. 
"But that’s neither here nor there in the darkness. This particular darkness, anyway, the one you and I find ourselves denizens of. We are here because we’re the sanest people in this establishment, so they put us down here as the bedrock on which to gain a foothold for the wanderings of their own minds. They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human."

R: Tell me a little bit about your writing process…

M: I love being outdoors so I have to write when it is dark or snowing. 

R: What book would you recommend, regardless of preferred genre?

M: It depends on the person, but the one that I always recommend is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. Everyone likes Speak and it is a good book, but Twisted in underrated. It is a really good book for everyone. 

R: Give me one unique fact about yourself…

M: I have really, really fat thumb pads*. 

*Guys, this is so incredible that I had to take a picture. See below.

R: Is there a character that speaks to you the most? What do they tend to say?

M: It is always the supporting characters. In Drink, it was Stubbs and in Dust, it was Fletcher. For Madness, it was Nell and in Female it is Pee Kay, who is the Preacher's Kid. The main characters are tougher. With Lynn, she wouldn't give me anything. I had to fight her.

R: Do you tend to focus more on the development of the storyline or the dialogue first?

M: Dialogue and characters because it doesn't matter how great your plot is if people don't care about the characters. You have to make people care about things that happen to people that don't exist. It is harder to make someone laugh. I can make people cry and be proud of that but if I make someone laugh that is awesome.

More about Mindy

Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.
Learn more about Mindy on her blogwebsite, or twitter

More about Not A Drop to Drink

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

You can buy Not a Drop to Drink on IndieBound | BN | Amazon | BookDepository

More about A Madness So Discreet

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

You can buy A Madness So Discreet on IndieBound | BN | Amazon | BookDepository

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