Julianna Baggott's mega-deal for book and film rights to her post-apocalyptic YA Pure series paid off when the first novel Pure went on to became a bestseller. The movie version is also going forward, with writer-director James Ponsoldt, the director of Smashed and The Spectacular Now, on board. The
books postulate a world that "went from amusement parks, movie theaters,
birthday parties, fathers and mothers"¦to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns,
and fused, damaged bodies." Survivors are gang-pressed into militia or killed,
except for the Pures who escaped the apocalypse and live in domes.
Now that she's back with Fuse, the second book in the series. Omnivoracious caught up with her to ask about this fascinating if sometimes
grim vision of the future"”and whether any of the reactions to Pure surprised her.
"When setting out to write Pure," Baggott told Omni, she knew she "was
blurring genre boundaries in ways I didn't understand." The novel was a "huge
departure" for her: "a sixteen-year-old girl with a doll head fused to her fist
trapped in this ashen landscape." She had to "hole up and tear myself loose
from my own expectations as well as the expectations of others and try to build
this world. It was also my first really intricate thriller-esque plot and my
most psychologically twisted novel to date."
I was surprised when Publisher's Weekly
called it horror (in an appreciative way, thankfully). I had no idea what I'd
made really, and since I'd turned my back on critical voices, I was stunned
when the New York Times Book Review
reviewed it at all, much less generously, much less picking it as one of their
100 Notable Books of the Year. It was such a lonesome process in some ways that
it was strange just to lift my head up and find others had read it at all."
The challenges of returning to the same
place for Fuse included wanting to "widen
the landscape so I had to find a way to expand the world outside of the Dome
while getting more psychologically intimate inside the Dome. In Pure, the world itself was a character
that took a lot of time to establish on the page. In Fuse, I was freer to let the established characters really fly."
As for finding the right balance when
writing a dystopia, Baggott said, "It's all about the physical threats outside
of the Dome versus the emotional and psychological torture within it. My goal
is to find a kind of structural balance between them that gives the reader
different kinds of twists without easing up."
New settings in Fuse include a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC. "It was liberating
to finally get to play with places that are iconic and familiar and to make
them new, in my own way. And the characters travel pretty far beyond that too.
can also expect new elements including "a new kind of Dust, in particular, that
exists outside of the stark remains of an amusement park called Crazy
John-Johns. During this stretch of writing, I was happy that 'creature
creation' was part of my job description"”I found real joy in the making."
of interest: readers will find new, original nursery rhymes in Fuse, just like in Pure. "My husband and I make these up together. In Fuse, I've created characters called the
ghostly girls, who were 'boarding school girls who survived the blasts and
walked to the river singing their school anthem. Some of the girls were blind
because they'd been lying in the grass, staring up at the sky when the Detonations
lit it up"¦They huddled by the river. Some waded in. Water was good because it
soothed the burns"¦Their skins turned papery, peeling away from their arms,
curling like lace collars at their necks. In the end, people knew them by their
uniforms, what was left of them.'"
nursery rhyme for the ghostly girls is a good teaser for Fuse, available now"¦
ghostly-girls, the ghastly-girls, the ghostly-girls.
can save them from this world? From this world?
river's wide, the current curls, the current calls, the current curls.
wade in water to be healed, their wounds to be sealed, to be healed.
by drowning, their skin all peeled, their skin all pearled, their skin all
blind their voices singing, voices keening, voices singing.
hear them til our ears are ringing, ears are screaming, ears are ringing.
need a saint and savior, saint and sailor, saint and savior.
hunt and roam this shore forever, hunt and roam this shore forever.