It's day 8! Time for a Q&A with a debut author! :)
Holly Bodger is a long-time resident of Ottawa and has been working in publishing since graduating from the University of Ottawa. She is also a finalist for the 2013 RWA Golden Heart Award (YA category). Her first book, 5 to 1, comes out on May 12, 2015, is is published by Knopf (Penguin Random House). You can find her on her website or on Twitter at @HollyBodger. :)
A: The idea was sparked by a journal article I read about the consequences of son preference and sex-selective abortion in China and other Asian countries. This article was discussing what future life might be like for the boys who will not be able to marry or have children, and that got me thinking about how this might change the dynamics of gender relations. When I considered it, I realized that life might be a lot like it is for the girls of today but in complete reverse.
Q: As I read your book I tried to figure out who was in control. If it was the women of Koyanagar, who wrote the laws and decided on the Trials. If it was Sudasa, because she must make the final decision. If it was Kiran, because of his actions, his going against the norm during the Trials. Even now after finishing, I'm not sure. Is anyone ever in control, or is it all about the illusion of control, of acting like they're in power when no one is?
A: This book is primarily about what happens when you attempt to control someone else’s right to choose. There are many people trying to do this throughout the book, but in the end, the only real control is that which the characters have over their own destinies.
Q: Both Sudasa and Kiran have strong voices, they have hopes and dreams and fears. They yearn for something more than what the future holds for them. But with the world around them, the customs around them, the rules around them trapping them, I'm not sure if the book is more character-driven than plot-driven? Do you find it's more of one than the other, or was it being a little of both on purpose?
A: I chose a somewhat strict plot because I wanted to show the different outcomes produced by different characters in the same situation. I suppose this would make it plot-driven for the most part, although I believe the end is definitely character-driven.
Q: With Sudasa's voice in verse and Kiran telling his story in prose, was one easier or harder to write than the other? Or was it more than each point of view presented its own set of challenges?
A: I’d definitely say that each had its own challenges. Sudasa’s voice allowed me to float in the clouds and ponder the world in a very artistic manner, however she did not give me much room to lay out the hard facts of the world. Kiran’s voice allowed me to do exactly this, however I had to be very careful to always keep his feet firmly placed on the ground. I’ve always considered myself to have a little bit of both of these character traits so it wasn’t a challenge to write them, but it was a challenge to keep them separate.
Q: With the book being set in India, I can only imagine the amount of research you had to do. How much research did you have to do into India's culture and customs, their laws and values? With the ongoing push and support for diverse books in non-North American settings, how important was it to portray Sudasa, Kiran, and their country as accurately as possible?
A: The research was definitely the hardest part about writing this book. There were three main things required: 1) researching the country itself (everything from landscape to weather), 2) researching the people (this included religious customs, holidays, caste system, clothes, language, history and politics), and 3) creating a realistic new world from the two. Koyanagar is a fictional country with a history rooted in India, so it needed to maintain many of the elements of India, but it also needed to break off onto its own the way many newly-formed countries often do. There are many customs of Koyanagar that are intentionally different from India because the country was formed with the purpose of initiating change and thus I believed its leaders would want to discard those things that had caused India's problems. Unfortunately, I could not just say, "we're not going to have arranged marriages" without doing in-depth research first. All of this is to say that 95% of my many months of research did not end up on the page.
Thanks so much to Holly for answering my questions and to Random House Canada for sending me an ARC. 5 to 1 comes out on May 12! :)