Rory Power grew up in New England and went on to earn an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. She now works as an editor of crime fiction and story consultant for TV, and is the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down.
BURN OUR BODIES DOWN is one of the best books I have read this year. For those who have not yet read your books – what is the similarity between Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down?
Thank you so much! Wilder Girls and Burn Our Bodies Down are both about isolated girls doing their best to discover the truth about their situation, and both books feature some element of our world gone wrong in a strange, speculative way.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do a lot of research before I begin, but I try to keep it all pretty broad, like reading a general Wikipedia article or the abstract of a paper, until I get further into the book and am able to identify exactly what it is I need to know, at which point I can get more specific with my sources. The kind of research changes for each book. For Wilder Girls, I read a lot of articles from scientific journals about evolutionary biology, and for Burn Our Bodies Down I spent a lot of time on the USDA website reading about genetic crop modifications. And for any book, I use Google Maps street view to get a good visual of the location.
Reading BURN OUR BODIES DOWN I had many theories, but it turned out that none of them were true. How did you manage not to reveal any secrets until the end?
With a mystery it all depends on what the main character knows, and Margot is particular in that she both wants to know the truth about her family and wants to stay ignorant, because she’s aware that any new piece of information will ruin her chance at having a real family. So that mindset was helpful in managing the reveals, but I had to be careful not to wait too long and frustrate the reader too badly
Which part of the book gave you the most trouble writing?
The whole thing, really! It went through three major rewrites, and then a lot of smaller revisions. By the final version, only a couple scenes were still the same from the initial draft – most of them either disappeared or were recast with a new setup or plot point.
Margot is a great character. How similar is she to you?
We’re similar in that her experience mirrors my own growing up on an emotional level, but I think outwardly we’re fairly different. Margot is a little more prickly with people than I tend to be, but I think she’s also more resilient.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book? And how hard it was to write it?
It’s hard to describe without spoiling the book too much, but there’s a scene where Margot is taken up to the attic by her grandmother and forced to put on a particular dress, the meaning of which is upsetting to her. That scene itself was pretty easy to write in that Margot’s emotions were really close to the surface at that point, but I did almost have to cut the scene in revisions a number of times. Luckily it made it into the book.
How much influence does Stephen King, Twilight Zone and Black Mirror have on your writing?
Not much, actually! I’ve never read any King, and I’ve never seen Twilight Zone. I think Black Mirror can be great, and I’ve really enjoyed it, but it tends more toward technology in its subject than I do, so I don’t find myself looking to it as a source of inspiration.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I try not to. Of course some reach me anyway – I’ll see a line or two in my notifications on Instagram, for instance – but in general it’s my preference to avoid that kind of thing. When I do catch one, I’ll give myself fifteen minutes to feel whatever response the review has inspired, and then put it out of my head.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I loved the Redwall books! My favorites were Martin the Warrior and Mossflower – I was absolutely obsessed with them.
Do you Google yourself?
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I would probably still be in publishing somehow – I used to work as an editor – or I’d love to be in something with music, maybe as a composer or music supervisor.
Interview : YA SH3LF