Interview: Erica O'Rourke

NRR: Can you share with us how you got started into writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing – I spent a lot of time in school writing short stories when I was supposed to be listening to a lecture or conjugating verbs – but I didn’t get serious about it until I was home with my kids. You can only play Barbies or read Curious George so many times before you start making up stories in your head just to stay awake. 

NRR: How were you inspired to write Torn?

It’s terribly clichéd, but I really was in the shower one morning, thinking about Buffy and Harry Potter. I was trying to figure out what would happen if Buffy died (and stayed dead) and Xander had to take over her role? Or if Voldemort killed Harry and Ron had to step up and save everyone? 
There are tons of books about girls who discover they have magical powers and must learn to use them in order to save the world. I LOVE those books. But since I don’t actually have any magical powers, and neither do most people I know,  I couldn’t help wondering…what would happen if the Chosen One died, and the most ordinary member of the group had to stop the Big Bad? It would be the end of the world, right? Boom -- I had my first line,
“I woke up to the smell of Lysol and the end of the world.” And I had Mo, who had plenty of real-world baggage to deal with even before Verity died. After that, the rest of the story fell into place.

NRR: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read. Everything. Read in your genre, read out of your genre, read books that are critically acclaimed and books that are wildly popular. Read books about the craft of writing. The trick is that you can’t just snarf down stories like a bag of kettle corn. You have to slow down and look at them critically – what scenes are so good, you read them out loud to your friends? Which parts drag enough that you will wander off mid-chapter in search of a snack? Is there a plot twist you didn’t see coming? Go back and find the hints that author dropped along the way. Determine how good books are crafted, and try to apply those lessons to your story.

I’m not saying you should never read strictly for pleasure, just like I would never suggest one give up kettle corn entirely. But for my money, reading like a writer is the best way to improve your own work.

NRR: What is your guilty pleasure?

I love napping in a really cold room with a bunch of heavy blankets on me, but we tend to not run the A/C very much. On the rare occasion that I’m home alone and not swamped with work, I love to crank the air conditioning to arctic, curl up on the couch with a down comforter, and sleep for three hours. I’m sure that every time I do, a polar bear cries.

NRR: What made you decide to write in the young adult genre?

I love reading YA lit. When I was teaching, I tried to make sure I had a wide variety of YA titles available to my students, and chatting with them about what they were reading was my favorite part of the job. I think the themes I’m most interested in – identity and free will and falling in love – are a natural fit for the genre. And I find characters in YA to be some of the most complex, interesting people around, simply because the world is so new and challenging to them.

NRR: What was the most challenging part of writing Torn?

Luc and Colin’s backstories. The reader doesn’t see a whole lot of either guy’s history in Torn, but I needed to have it very clear in my mind, because it influenced so much of their personalities and actions. And for both guys, their pasts were much, much darker than I’d anticipated. Necessary, though.

NRR: What is in your to be read pile?

My TBR pile is embarrassingly large. I read a lot of YA year- round: I’m currently on Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine, which is so gorgeous I periodically have to set it down and remember to breathe. Then I’ve got A Touch Mortal, by Leah Clifford, and XVI by Julia Karr. I can’t wait to read Elana Johnson’s Possession. I recently finished Divergent by Veronica Roth, and it was so amazing that I can’t stop thinking about it, so I will read it again. But my other reading tends to be seasonal, and summer is for mysteries. Laura Lippman, Jacqueline Winspear, and Michael Harvey all have new titles out, and I’ll probably reread some Sherlock Holmes in anticipation of  the return of BBC’s Sherlock. Maybe some Agatha Christie, too. I can’t get enough of Dame Agatha.

NRR: Can you share with us the storyline of Torn?

Mo Fitzgerald wants to escape Chicago and her family’s shady reputation. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she abandons her other plans and swears she’ll avenge Verity’s death. Her search throws her into two very dangerous worlds – a magical society based in New Orleans, and a mob war in Chicago. Along the way, she meets two guys: Luc, who knows more about Verity than he’s telling, and Colin, who knows more about Mo than she’d like. Ultimately she has to decide between justice for her friend or the future she’s always dreamed of.

NRR: What is next in the works for you?

I’ve completed the sequel to Torn, Tangled, which will be released in February of 2012, and I’m working on the third book, Bound, which is due out in the fall of 2012, I think. After that, I have a new project I’m super-anxious to get started on. It’s titled, “The New Book You’re Not Allowed To Work On Yet So Stop Thinking About It.”

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