Friday, November 23, 2012

Caragh M. O'Brien Author Interview

Photo Content from Caragh O'Brien

Caragh M. O'Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O'Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She recently resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels. For more information, visit


What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
First, Jean, let me say how delighted I am that you invited me by Book Nerd to answer a few questions. It’s great talking with you.

I learned my most eye-opening, limit-breaking lesson after I failed my first physics exam in college. I had studied hard, and I couldn’t understand how I could have done so poorly, so I went to my professor to ask what I could do to study differently for the next test. He told me, “Know the material so well you could write the test.” At first, that simply seemed impossible, and then I glimpsed that an entirely different depth of comprehension existed. I think it helped that my professor looked a little like Yoda.

Is there such a thing as a formula for storytelling?
I’m intrigued by this idea. Don’t we wish, for ease of writing, that we could follow a recipe to produce a brilliant novel? As readers, however, we crave surprises and originality. The formula, if it exists, must be unique to each story. For my own books, I know that I go through a different discovery process with each one, and I’m guided loosely only by basic guidelines of fiction: make things worse, give characters terrible choices. I believe the most important thing is to amuse and fascinate ourselves while we’re writing.

What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
The worst common challenge is probably discouragement. Writers hope to see their work published, and it can be devastating to meet only rejection. Experienced authors face this, too, when later projects are turned down, and the stakes can feel even higher then. I’ve certainly been there. What worked for me is going to sound very pragmatic, and my advice wouldn’t work for everyone. I separated my writing from my finances and sense of self-worth by becoming a teacher, so I had a rewarding job. Then I could write on the side, during breaks, and with no ambition for publication anymore, I was able to be happy with my writing in a pure way. I write for my work now, but if I ever needed to, I’d go back to teaching in a heartbeat. I loved that life, too.

In your newest book, Promised (Birthmarked #3); can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
Sure. In Promised, teen midwife Gaia Stone returns to her homeland and faces the problems she left behind at the end of Birthmarked, only now she’s a leader of two thousand refugees and the problems are worse. Besides the cruelty of leaders in the Enclave, the dearth of water in the wasteland, and new experiments on vulnerable mothers from outside the wall, Gaia has to deal with personal strife when her boyfriend's rebel tactics backfire. I was interested in the different costs of rebellion and siege, and the book felt like a disaster to me. I had a great, gnarly time writing it.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Gaia?
I like this girl. Gaia is very strong and she tries to do what’s right. She’s also flawed and makes mistakes that have consequences. What surprised me was how she has inspired me to be more courageous in my own life. I admire the way she takes risks and the way she’s honest with people even when she doesn’t agree with them, and writing about her has led me into many thoughtful conversations that I would have avoided otherwise. When you write about a girl who overcomes horrible situations to become a leader, you can’t help wondering how you can be more like her.

Where can readers find you?
I post weekly on my website’s blog, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I love being part of the online community of readers and writers. Books are the best. Thanks again, Jean for having me by!

After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever. She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland. In Gaia's absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher. Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what--or whom--she loves most?

Praise for PROMISED 

“An interesting mixture of fantasy and science fiction.” ―VOYA

“…a satisfying finish to a strong series that deftly mixed romance and, of all things, genetics.” ―Booklist

“Readers […] will want to see Gaia succeed against the odds once again.” ―Kirkus

“Readers who relish romance, lots of action and drama that includes overthrowing an evil regime, and strong female characters will love this book.” ―School Library Journal

Caragh M. O’Brien’s closes out her epic story with Promised, the third book in the Birthmarked trilogy. Gaia Stone has gone through a heap of troubles to where she is now. Being able to endure the wasteland, confronting the callous Enclave, and toppling the unbending matriarchy of Sylum, she must now lead the people of Sylum back to a harsher Enclave and convince the Protectorat for sanctuary from the wasteland.

I have to admit that this book is best of the three. Gaia leading the people back to the Enclave puts the story in full circle. There are more issues being dealt here than the first. Gaia’s return to the Enclave is heavily focused as she faces all of her fragmentary business that have been dormant since the closing of book one. The writing style is simply amazing. The dystopian world that author Caragh has created is believable. With the third book giving a date, readers have a clear comprehension of why there are so many calamitous things and that the world of the Enclave is a scary probability. Leon, Peter, and Will are very well still a part of the story. All three had prominent roles in the finale book and readers will understand and appreciate each of them. Promised is the perfect ending to an incredible story. Although it was shocking and heartbreaking, it was all bittersweet at the end.

You can purchase Promised at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CARAGH M. O'BRIEN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien.


  1. Thanks so much for the giveaway! I've really been wanting to read your books!

  2. Thank you Caragh for your donation! I really want to read this book!

  3. Thanks Caragh for the chance to own your book, :)

  4. Thank to Caragh and Jean for this awesome giveaway!!

  5. Thank you so much for this donation Caragh! This has been on my wish list for some time now!!!

  6. Thank you so much for your donation! I feel in love with Birthmarked from the first page and just haven't been able to put the series down.

  7. Thanks, everybody! Jean's the best.