Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Caragh M. O'Brien Author Interview

Photo Credit: Tomy O’Brien 

Caragh M. O’Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS series, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O’Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA in the Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. Her young adult science fiction has been honored by the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Amelia Bloomer Award, the Junior Library Guild, and numerous state reading lists. A former high school English teacher, she now writes young adult novels full time from her home in rural Connecticut.

What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
First, Jean, let me say thanks for having me back to Jean Book Nerd! I’m so happy to be here again!

My first introduction to YA happened before I knew what YA literature was. I was a teen reading Anne of Green Gables, A Girl of the Limberlost, Captain Blood, Early Candlelight, Jane Eyre, The Call of the Wild, Pride and Prejudice, A Wrinkle in Time, The Once and Future King, Crime and Punishment, and everything else I could get my hands on, so my understanding of what young adults read was very fluid and broad. I ended up writing YA because I wrote the best book I possibly could, a futuristic story about a teenage midwife in a dystopian town. That novel, Birthmarked, launched my YA writing career, and I’ve been happily writing novels with teens in them ever since.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Readers might be surprised to learn that I’m okay with dogs now. I used to be afraid of them, but since my daughter adopted a rescue dog who is very gentle (and not too smelly), I’ve internalized that I do not need to go on high danger alert for all dogs. I named a dog in the Vault of Dreamers series Waffles in honor of my daughter’s dog.

Did you learn anything from writing THE KEEP OF AGES and what was it?
Writing The Keep of Ages taught me a bit more about how weird my mind can be. I often think of myself as this calm, sunny person who loves her family and works pretty hard. Yet this book imagines a very dark place and explores some cut-throat ideas about stealing the essence of people. It compelled me to face some of my murky uncertainties.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Berg?
There is a small moment in The Rule of Mirrors (The Vault of Dreamers 2) when Berg is overheard having a conversation with his daughter, and for some reason, it really resonates with me. He’s a great bad guy--truly evil--and it turns out he’s a disappointing father, as well. It might have been wise to balance out his character by showing he’s a good dad, but I went the other way with Berg, and not even his daughter likes him. I get a big kick out of that. To my surprise, I actually ended up with some sympathy for him. He feels real to me.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Now more than ever, stay strong and keep dreaming.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
I wrote a letter to my Aunt Nancy a few weeks ago. She and I correspond by regular mail and occasionally telephone each other because she doesn’t have a computer. She’s my bookish aunt and very special to me. In fact, I dedicated The Keep of Ages to her.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
This depends on the reader, but I’ll suppose you’re someone like me. A book that totally blew me away and still lingers with me ages later is Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Trying to make sense out of how she uses “we” is dazzling at first, and then it changes how you see yourself in the world.

Where can readers find you?
I have a regular blog on my website, and I usually pop by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads when I’m taking a break from writing. If readers write to me via email or regular mail, I always reply as soon as I can.

Twitter: @CaraghMOBrien
Facebook: Caragh M. O’Brien, Writer
Instagram: caraghmobrien
Goodreads: Caragh M O’Brien

Inky blackness presses against the windshield. It spreads, clinging, an ultra-blackness that blots out the stars, the road, and the headlights.

I realize exactly what’s at stake, but I’m not going to sacrifice myself for any cure.

I haven’t thought about my grandma in a long time. She let me sit on her lap and showed me the funnies. She would reach each bubble of words aloud as I pointed to it. Sometimes I would go backward, and she’d read the words in backward order. I loved that. It was like my finger magically controlled her voice.

“I do believe that is a blush I see at last,” Peggy says, her voice amused. “What did I tell you before? Smart boys like smart girls. It was only a matter of time.”

Apart from a lone cicada’s keening, the desert evening is quiet. I lean my shoulder against a boulder and aim my binoculars toward the boxcars, where the empty laundry line cuts through the heat of our backyard like a white slash.

“Why’d you really get hit in the eye that time?” she asks. “Just before you met Rosie.”
“That isn’t really when I met her,” he says.
“It was,” Dubbs says. “It was the day of the fifty cuts.”
“No, I met her before that, when she was moving in,” he says. “She just didn’t notice me.”

Without warning, all the sands of the beach down below appear to lift into the air. The grains line up in rows, sort themselves into a pattern of sizes, and then drop back exactly as they were. It’s a visual feat that defies all logic, and I’m no closer to understanding than I was before.

“She’s right, you know. What she said. It was the dragon that brought her,” Kiri says in her quiet voice. Sitting in a tall swivel chair by the operating table, she alone seems unruffled. “The dragon in the machine.”

Without turning on the light, I find my blankets and my pillow near the couch where Dubbs is still sleeping, and I settle in for the rest of the restless night.

The dreamers may be dead individually, but together, they’re something alive.

In the fast-paced, high-stakes conclusion to Caragh M. O'Brien's Vault of Dreamers trilogy, Rosie travels to a derelict theme park to shut down dream mining once and for all.

Driven by fear when Dean Berg kidnaps her family, Rosie Sinclair strikes out across the country to rescue them. When an elusive trail leads her to Grisly Valley, the contaminated ruin of a horror theme park, Rosie has to consider that Berg may once again be manipulating her every move to make her fearful, priming her for a final, lethal dream mining procedure. As Rosie struggles to outmaneuver Berg, she unearths the ultimate vault of dreamers and the hint of a consciousness more powerful and dangerous than any she's imagined before. Faced with unspeakable suffering and otherworldly beauty, Rosie must discover how to trust her mind, her friends, and reality itself.

Propulsive and deeply speculative, The Keep of Ages concludes the Vault of Dreamers trilogy with stirring possibilities for what it means to be alive.


“A sharp novel about the ways in which everyone can be manipulated, either through editing or one's own desire to go the easiest path.” ―BCCB

“Like O'Briens Birthmarked trilogy, this dystopian, sci-fi, psychological-thriller hybrid raises ethical and moral questions about science. This might have been a difficult story to pull off, given the environment, but with a likable narrator who is thoroughly unimpressed with herself, it works . . . this should have wide appeal.” ―Booklist

“Fans looking for a science fiction novel that is not heavy on the science fiction or who want something vaguely dystopian will enjoy this title.” ―VOYA

“A mixture of science fiction and contemporary fiction, this novel is an interesting addition to both genres.” ―School Library Journal

“A fast, satisfying psychological thriller . . . The sudden cliffhanger will polarize readers.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Like viewers of The Forge Show, readers will want to keep watching Rosie.” ―Publishers Weekly

You can purchase The Keep of Ages at the following Retailers: