Since THE TURNAWAY GIRLS is just over three months from release (somebody hold me!) I thought it would be fun to chat about some of the books that inspired it. After three years of writing and revising, TTG is finally done—it’s growing wings and getting ready to fly off into the world! Here are some of the books that subtly (and not-so-subtly) influenced its themes, style, tone and subject matter:
THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
I read THE HANDMAID’S TALE for the first time in 2011 or 2012—so, at least three years before I started drafting TTG—but when the TV series came out, I couldn’t help but spot the similarities they have in theme. THE HANDMAID’S TALE is unapologetic in its feminism, and so is TTG. THE HANDMAID’S TALE deals with the idea that women’s bodies are nothing more than literal vessels for something that others want/need. In TTG, the turnaway girls allow music to run through their bones in order to turn it into gold. They are not valued; the gold they make is. They make gold, but it'll never belong to them. In terms of theme, I like to think of TTG as a kind of middle grade HANDMAID’S TALE. (Sans the very adult themes, of course!)
MUSICOPHILIA by Oliver Sacks
This is an interesting one. I first read this book in 2008. It’s all about the relationship between music and the brain, and it is FASCINATING. There are stories in it about people who have amnesia, but who can remember how to play the piano perfectly; people who are struck by lightning and have a sudden, inescapable desire to learn a musical instrument; and people who can taste different keys/notes when they hear them. (Like I said, it’s fascinating!) I think what MUSICOPHILIA did was help me to think about music in magical terms. (Ironic, because it's a highly scientific book!) But the more I thought about it, music was a kind of real-life magic. I think it really influenced TTG in that way. (I highly recommend this book if you’ve never read it!)
THE FOLK KEEPER by Franny Billingsley
Discovering Franny Billingsley’s work had a huge influence on me as a writer. I love how beautiful her prose is, how she doesn’t shy away from very challenging and dark subjects in children’s books, how her protagonists have such distinctive voices. (Plus, her world building is amazing!) Reading THE FOLK KEEPER gave me permission, in a way, to write a dark, strange book for young people. Or, at least, it made me want to write one very badly! THE FOLK KEEPER is the kind of book you read and then put breathlessly down, thinking, I want to make something that makes a reader feel like this! In THE FOLK KEEPER, time is marked by the celebration of festivals, and that gave me the idea of having every day be a different festival on the island of Blightsend.
JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë
I first read JANE EYRE at university in 2009, long before I started trying to write a novel. And it completely captivated me. This is one of those really interesting instances where I didn’t think at all about JANE EYRE while drafting TTG and revising it, and then, when I was reading over my second pass pages, I kept seeing it everywhere. The strange, old, rambling house, the institutionalised girls, the punishment of disobedient women, and the imagery ("I am no bird; and no net ensnares me…”) somehow found their way into TTG in a completely magical, subconscious way.
CORALINE by Neil Gaiman
I have no doubt that CORALINE has inspired countless MG writers. It’s so dark and original and strange. I think it pushes the envelope of what a middle grade book can be. And I loved that the story was told in such a succinct way. CORALINE influenced me in the sense that it showed me that a children’s book could be very strange and very horrifying, and still hopeful. It also has a masterful structure, and even though I am The Actual Worst at Structure, it made me want to be better.
So there are five books that influenced TTG!
What books have influenced you on your writing journey?
I’d love to know!
PS. If this post in any way made you want to read THE TURNAWAY GIRLS, please preorder it! (Preordering really helps authors.) Thank you so much for reading!