CONGRATS TO LIBBY FOR WINNING A COPY OF TRANSPARENT! Thanks to all for reading and commenting!
Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.
An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.
After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.
Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.
It is such a pleasure to welcome debut author and artist Natalie Whipple to the Enchanted Inkpot. Natalie and I have known each other online since before either of us were published, and had the pleasure of finally meeting this year. I'm excited to discuss her fantastic debut TRANSPARENT as well as give away a copy of her book!
Cindy: Natalie, your debut is such a fun mix of mutant powers, the mob, and just a girl who wants to be ordinary. In writing this story, which came to you first--was it Fiona, our invisible heroine, or something else?
Natalie: Fiona was really the star from the beginning. As a teen I struggled with feeling like nobody saw or understood me (Heck, I still feel like that sometimes!), and one day while I was thinking back on those emotions I started to wonder what it might be like to be really invisible. And not the traditional superhero invisibility where you can turn it on and off, but permanently invisible.
That's where Fiona's voice showed up, in those moments. For awhile I tried to ignore the idea, because I thought writing an invisible main character would be a big challenge (turned out it was—I rewrote the entire book). But she would not be ignored, and here we are!
Cindy: I like that your invisible heroine could not be ignored. I also really enjoyed the settings being Las Vegas and then small town Arizona. What prompted you to choose these places for your story?
Natalie: You know, it made the most sense. At least to me. I suppose Chicago or New York would be more traditional settings for mob-like stories, but this posed a big technical issue, because Fiona has to be naked to be invisible and it gets cold in the northeast. Las Vegas was the natural choice, because of its desert location and, of course, the same goes for Arizona. The southwest in particular was alluring to me because of its ties to secret government testing sites like Area 51. It felt like a place where Radiasure (the drug that caused mutations) could have been developed.
Cindy: I never even considered the no clothing and weather thing. The challenges we give ourselves as writers! You wrote a very powerful blog post about "passing" this year on your website. (please provide link? =) From speaking with you, and seeing your inclusion of Mexican-American characters in your debut, it's clear that diversity matters to you in your writing. It can be such a challenge to tackle, and I hear over and over from writers that they are so afraid to get it wrong. Could you talk a little bit about your thoughts on being more inclusive in your own writing?
Natalie: Blog Post: When You Don't Look "Right."
I'm glad you enjoyed that post! It was very scary to write, and I worried people would take it poorly. But everyone was so kind and understanding about it—this has given me courage to be more open about it and my feelings on diversity. Because it is an important issue to me.
I have written outside my race many times over the 15 or so novels I've drafted, and at this point I feel pretty comfortable with it because I've done a lot of research and have a lot of personal experience and now a lot of practice. But there was a time I was very scared about it, in particular when I was writing my first non-white main character, Toshiro. He was a 1st generation Japanese-American living in San Francisco. He also happened to be a ninja.
I was terrified to do it "wrong," first and foremost. But I was also scared to be confronted about it, because why did I, as a white female, feel qualified to right outside my race/gender? (And I actually was confronted about this and asked that very question quite aggressively, but that is a story for another time.) Well, I didn't exactly feel qualified, honestly, but I ultimately came to a very personal conclusion: I would rather TRY to be inclusive and get accused of doing it wrong, than to be accused of not including diversity at all. That was my decision, and I've done my best to stand by it since then.
Along with having my own experiences being surrounded by diversity (grew up in Bay Area) and technically being Polynesian (though not-so-much in appearance), I have done a butt load of research. And I will openly admit to being more comfortable with races I have more experience with. Of all the diversity I write, I tend to write the most Asian, Latino, Indian, and Pacific Islander characters. I have not only grown up around these cultures, but I have also studied the most about them. Even with all of my knowledge, I still double check myself by asking people from the culture I am representing to read my work. Because I really do care about representing as properly as I can.
People often ask me how I approach writing a character outside my race, and the answer is this: I approach all characters the same way—as human beings first and foremost. All humans, no matter the culture, want to be happy, to be loved, to feel connected, to be successful. I start here when I build characters, because this is the core. Then I build out—motivation, interests, beliefs, goals, family, gender, orientation, race, etc. When you see your characters as human first, it's much easier to avoid stereotype, I believe.
And...now I will stop because that was a very long answer, heh.
Cindy: As an author who does care greatly about bringing more diversity and inclusiveness into young adult books, I really appreciate your adding to the dialogue as well as writing the characters. You're a wonderful artist. How does this creative interest differ from writing? Do you find it complements your prose somehow?
Natalie: Originally, writing and drawing differed very little for me. They were both hobbies, both creative outlets that made me happy. Now that writing has become my job, I feel like there are some differences. Drawing is now a pleasure and relaxation activity that I guard fiercely. Many people have told me I should sell my art, but selling my words has taken a lot of the, er, enjoyment out of writing. Well, I'm not sure that's the right way to explain it. I still love to write, but because it's my profession I take it very seriously. Whereas art I do purely as enjoyment and I don't worry about how it'll be received—it's just for fun.
That said, I do feel like my drawing and writing compliment each other! I've been doing both since I was a kid, and even now as I write I often picture my characters as cartoons instead of real people. That's why it's hard to "cast" my books because I don't see actors. I see anime! Haha. I think my immersion in anime and cartooning in general has impacted my writing a lot; my style tends to be "episodic" as if you were watching a show, complete with commercial breaks.
Cindy: I know exactly what you mean about keeping our art just art--rather than turning it into a business. Tell us about what you're working on and what we can see from you, book wise, in the future!Natalie: I just finished the first big edit on TRANSPARENT's sequel! It's called BLINDSIDED, and it's out January 2014. I also have another novel out April 15th, 2014 called HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW. Now that all my contracted work is almost finished, I'm hoping to go on submission with a contemporary novel soon, and I'm on the writing team for an amazing cRPG called Torment: Tides Of Numenera, out 2015.
So I'm keeping myself busy.
Cindy: I can't wait to read them both! And last but not least, what is your favorite pastry?
Cindy: I'm hungry now! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us at the Enchanted Inkpot, Natalie!
To find out more about Natalie and her books, visit her website: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/
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Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Her first published short story is featured in Diverse Energies, a multicultural YA dystopian anthology from Tu Books (October 2012). Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at www.cindypon.com.