1) What are your thoughts on the literary heroines that the current youth generation is being exposed to? Do you think the most popular fiction series of today offer young girls positive female role models?
It seems like at least once a week I go off on a longwinded speech about how we are currently experiencing what I have dubbed the Golden Age of Young Adult Fiction. I’ll try not to bore you with the details, but the short answer is that I think YA fiction has never been better, and you don’t get such amazing books without some equally amazing characters. Are there exceptions? Of course. But I think what’s truly special about what we’re seeing in YA is the fact that almost all types of girls are represented on YA shelves.
Girls are exposed to so many different types of role models, and I think it’s important that we all remember that strong female characters are not limited to just strength in the physical sense. I think it’s great that today we have smart, powerful fighters like Katniss in HUNGER GAMES as well as savvy masterminds like Frankie in E. Lockhart’s THE DISTREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS. There are gutsy rebels like Bryn in Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s RAISED BY WOLVES and powerfully compassionate friends like Annabeth in the Percy Jackson series.
For every character that critics might chastise for being too boy-crazy and passive I can point to five who are strong and passionate and are just as strong (if not stronger) than the female characters shelved in the adult sections of your local bookstore.
2) How can parents cultivate a love for reading in their children at a young age? How can they do so amid so many other distractions in the entertainment world?
I’m certainly no expert on the psychology of reading or what “makes” readers, but I do think that step one is to make sure that books and reading are a regular part of your children’s lives. If a child never sees anyone read, then the odds of them taking up that pastime on their own become much longer. If the child is never taken to the library or the bookstore, then no one can expect books to magically appear in their hands.
I’m also a big proponent of making sure children understand that it’s okay not to like a book. It’s okay not to like an entire genre. I have made no secret of the fact that I myself am a “reluctant reader.” As a kid, I thought that meant that I was a bad reader because, of the books I tried, I loved so few. It was only when I gave myself permission to set aside books I didn’t like that I really started to like reading. Even today I finish maybe—at most—half of the books that I start. But that’s the only way I can bring myself to start new ones. Otherwise, I’d still be struggling to get through that one book I bought three years ago based on a glowing Kirkus review and could only stomach about three pages at a time.
3) What books or series inspired you to write Gallagher Girls?
I’ve always loved adventure stories with high stakes and interesting characters. I also love stories of girls doing things that society thinks they probably shouldn’t be able to pull off. The idea for the Gallagher Academy actually occurred to me while I was watching the TV show Alias one night. It was a flashback episode of when one of the characters was a young girl and I mistakenly thought she had attended a boarding school for spies. Of course, I was wrong (the episode actually featured her childhood in an orphanage) but by that point the idea of a boarding school for girl spies had taken root inside my head and I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. I had to write this story.
4) How have the characters in the Gallagher Girls series matured by this 4th book?
One of the most fulfilling things about writing a series, I think, is getting to grow up with the characters. When we first meet the Gallagher Girls in I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KIILL YOU, they are just starting their sophomore year. They’re studying Covert Operations for the first time and, even though they’ve been at the Gallagher Academy for several years, they’re just starting to get exposed to the most dangerous aspects of life in the clandestine services. That felt like the natural place to begin the story, but I also knew that we couldn’t stay there. Cammie and her friends are on an incredibly intense and dangerous career path, and the books eventually had to reflect that. It’s my job as the author to throw as much conflict at my characters as they can handle. I’m very proud that Cammie and company are now capable of handling quite a lot. And, for future reference, it’s not going to get any easier. The Gallagher Girls are hardly out of the woods.
5) What are you reading this summer?
I was fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at the second book in Holly Black’s amazing Curseworkers Series, RED GLOVE. I’m absolutely crazy about the world that Holly has created, and I highly recommend everyone go pick up book one, WHITE CAT, right away! Like almost everyone I know I’m holding my breath, waiting for MOCKINGJAY (the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy). I am hugely addicted to Daniel Silva’s series about assassin Gabriel Allon. I absolutely loved Sarah Rees Brennan’s first two books, THE DEMON’S LEXICON and THE DEMON’S COVENANT. And I can never get enough of anything written by the incomparable E. Lockhart.