Monday, May 09, 2005

Last summer, I had the chance to read a remarkable novel while it was still in manuscript form. The Bitch Posse by Martha O'Connor rocked my world—it was one of the most disturbing and exhilarating novels I had read in a long, long time. I have been telling everyone I know about the book, and am so excited that it is finally out in the world and people can get their hands on it.

Here is the dustjacket summary:

These are the confessions of The Bitch Posse. Cherry, Rennie, and Amy were outcasts, rebels, and dreamers. And their friendship was so all-encompassing that some would call it dangerous. This is the story of three women-as seniors in high school and as women in their mid-thirties-who formed a bond in order to survive the pitfalls and perils of their lives. In the present day, one of them is a wife and mother-to-be, trying to live a "normal" life. One of them is a writer who engages in a number of self-destructive relationships. And one of them is in a mental hospital-and has been ever since that one fateful night fifteen years ago, when a heart-wrenching betrayal and the unraveling of relationships led them to a point of no return, where their actions triggered unimaginable consequences. These secrets have torn them apart, while inextricably binding them to one another. What happened to them? And can they survive their shared history, even today? The Bitch Posse is an anthem for friendships that defy society's approval or disapproval. It's a novel of secrets, courage, sacrifice,and hope against the odds. It is both a journey back to being a girl on the verge of adulthood, and a journey forward, showing how the events of our past can unearth the best in us today. Dare to jump in.

I double dare you! I am proud to say that I had the chance to write a blurb for the back of the book. Here it is: "This is a novel that gets under the skin, a novel that cuts deep.Martha O'Connor has crafted a trio of unforgettable characters, young women so heart-wrenchingly alive, they burst from the page. The Bitch Posse has all the makings of a modern-day classic; it left me shaken, moved, and deeply grateful for the journey."

The novel has been racking up all sorts of fabulous endorsements and reviews. British bookseller Mark Farley calls it "Stuck up middle finger punk fiction", which I think is right on (an interesting note—in the UK and Australia, the novel is known as The Bitch Goddess Notebook). The novel is also up for the Henry Miller Award for best literary sex scene at this month--vote early and vote often! I'm so happy Martha was able to join us for an interview as part of her GCC tour. Here is our conversation:

--What was the initial seed of inspiration for The Bitch Posse?

This story had to have been inside me a long time, because when I sat down to write it, it just flowed out of me. There was no writer's block or anything like that at all. So it's not like I sat down and planned it. The three girls simply snuck up behind me, knocked me to the ground and wouldn't let me up until I had told their story. That has never happened to me with a book before.

--You write about living in a woman's body in such an honest way; your bookhas a fabulous, authentic physicality to it. Could you share your thoughts about writing from/about the body?

Writing about the body requires absolute honesty. You have to turn off all the censors. All of them. If you're going to write about sex in an authentic way, you have to look closely at each piece of the sexual experience. Then you go, oh hey. That's tremendously interesting! I don't mean titillating. I mean INTERESTING. Some of those moments show heartbreaking vulnerability. Some are laugh out loud funny. And some are hideous in a really visceral way! The whole "fade the sex scene to black" attitude isn't really for me. There are a lot of fascinating moments relating to sex that if you stop to study them, are incredibly revealing of the human condition. And to write about sex I think you have to accept and acknowledge your own body, and put yourself in your character's body, and feel and experience each of those moments with the character. Smash the censors, turn on all of your five senses and just be there.

--You have 8 year old twins; how do you balance writing and motherhood?

I write when the twins are in school and after they've gone to bed. Because both aspects of my life are so demanding, I try to keep them really separate. Usually I'm successful but sometimes my brain has been known to drift off, at the park or whatever... into my work. And sometimes I have trouble concentrating on my writing as a call comes from school with a high or low blood sugar (my son has Type 1 Diabetes) and I have to disengage and go into Mom Mode.

--I know you have some early novels tucked away (as do I.) Do you think you'll ever return to them and try to get them out into the world, or do you plan to just keep moving forward from here? What are you working on now?

Nope. I learned from them and I'm done with them. Right now I'm working on a new novel, but I'm superstitious about talking about unfinished projects!

--Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Sit your butt in the chair and do it. Most people who say they want to write a novel, never do. So if you write one, you're ahead of 90% of the competition. The second thing would be don't be afraid of rejection. Every writer I know has a roomful of rejection notices. Know when it's time to move on to a new project. Grow from every project. Turn off the censors and write your heart out. And, check all agents and publishers with the Preditors and Editors website to verify whether they are legitimate.

--Since this is a Fruitful interview...What, in your opinion, is thebitchiest (or the bitchin'-est) fruit, and why?

Blueberries are the bitchin'est fruit because they are nature's #1 most concentrated source of antioxidants. They also improve your memory. They are tiny globes of greatness that empower you to kick any ass that needs kicking. I'm eating some right now, so watch out world!

Woo hoo! Thanks so much, Martha! I hope our paths will cross again soon.

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