An Interview With Julianna Baggot

This week sees the release of Pure by Julianna Baggot and as someone who gave an utterly glowing review, I can’t wait for you all to get your hands on the book. I am lucky enough to have Julianna stop by the blog for a brief interview and answer a few questions about Pure and the characters within.

Can you describe the plot of PURE for my readers in your own words?

Pressia is a girl who’s survived the detonations among the wretches, the survivors who are marked, scarred, and even fused. (Pressia’s fist is fused to a doll-head.) Partridge lives inside the Dome where he survived but is confined by the constraints of rigid order. He finds a hint that his martyred mother may be alive. Partridge and Pressia’s lives are entwined in ways that (hopefully) make the novel a thriller. Kirkus just published a review and the headline began, “Us 99 percenters will live outside the gates come the future, and it won’t be pretty…” Of course the term 99 percenters wasn’t iconic when I was writing the book, but I was writing about haves and have-nots.

What first inspired Pure and the subsequent parts in the trilogy?

I was working on short stories. One had a character who had a doll-head for a fist. The story wasn’t working — in a strict literary way. At the same time I wanted to write something big, ambitious, cinematic — a departure. I figured out that the girl with the doll-head fist belonged in that world I wanted to build. And the story started to take shape.

What made you want to write within a dystopian world?

It’s an opportunity to reinvent a world — our world. Dystopian fiction is often idea-driven, but ideas didn’t drive the work. The characters did — and while following them closely, the world just before the apocalypse took shape — our doom.

The novel can be, at times, a little disturbing what with the deformities in the “wretches”, were you concerned as to how readers would feel about that and did you enjoy writing such a dark story?

I did a good bit of research on Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the book. The brutality of the atomic bomb — the truth of it — isn’t something we should forget. Is it disturbing?

Yes. Did I create a skewed invented effect of bombings? Yes. But, I didn’t have the instinct to pull any punches for the audience — not with the reality of war. It was liberating

The UK cover highlights the sparse wasteland within the pages

in some ways as an artist to write about the subject of war. But, no. I was very relieved when my dreams were no longer set in the novel — very, very relieved.

How did you begin to think up the deformities that the characters carry with them? They are pretty original and shocking.

Many of them came from having children. When you have an infant especially — a nursing infant — the child does often feel part of your body. They’re called off-spring but

those early years, it doesn’t seem like they spring off much. So, the Mothers, yes. I had a series of those fused literary short stories, and after I’d used some of those characters, I let my mind conger the most compelling images of fusings I could.

The novel has a rather uplifting feel to it, if you look beneath the grime, was that your intention?

I wanted to answer questions like — after the apocalypse, what endures? Beauty? Faith? Love? And Pressia is always looking through the wreckage and finding beauty.

Who was your favourite character to write, and why?

I enjoyed all of them for different reasons, but I have to say that El Capitan surprised me — his tenderness. And Lyda, I had no idea she had so much to bring to bear.

I mention in my review that there are moments of lyricism within the prose of PURE; do you find your experience writing poetry helps with descriptive passages of fiction?

I think poetry can help a fiction writer create a solitary image — and let it stand without the need to explain it or sentimentalize it — or that’s my hope.

The US cover highlights the image of butterflies that appear in Pressia's story

What can readers look forward to in FUSE, the second part of the trilogy?

Some of the characters travel far. The two romances take hold. The plot becomes even more intricate.

How do you feel about PURE being adapted into a film by Fox 2000? Are you nervous to see what appears on screen? (Will you have much say as to what goes into the film?)

I don’t think I’ll have much to say. I’m collaborative and look forward to the director’s vision.

What is more important for you as a writer, the characters or the world and the situation they find themselves in?

Interesting because this takes me back to your second question — the character can truly exist sometimes only once the world exists. And, too, place can be a character in and of itself.

For aspiring writers, what is the ONE piece of advice you would give?

You have to love the process. Develop your relationship with the page — as critical reader and writer — and protect that relationship. Don’t rush into the business. Commit to the craft.

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