Sweet Sixteener Darcy Woods recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Holly Bodger about her YA Dystopian half-verse novel, 5 TO 1 (May 12, 2016 from Knopf Books for Young Readers).
A long-time resident of Ottawa, Canada, Holly has been working in publishing since she graduated with an English degree from the University of Ottawa. 5 TO 1 is her debut novel.
In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife. Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.
Darcy: One of the (many, many!) things I loved about 5 to 1 is the unique way you handle the alternating POV. We have Kiran’s chapters told in prose, while Sudasa’s are told in verse. Did you know from the story’s inception you’d want to structure it this way? Or did your characters bosstalk you into it?
Holly: The original version of this novel was actually only from Sudasa’s POV. It wasn’t until I received feedback that the world building was not working in verse that I got the idea to add a second POV. Of course now I can’t even imagine the book without Kiran! It is as much his story as Sudasa’s and I really feel like we need both in order to see the whole picture.
Darcy: What was the most difficult part of writing this book (aka: your black moment) and how did you overcome it?
Holly: Hmmm. I’d probably have to go with the setting on this one. I originally thought I could set this book in a fictional country that sounded like India, but wasn’t actually India, but as time went on, it became more difficult to be vague. When I sold the book, my editor said she wanted more of India and I knew I had to bite the proverbial bullet and spend the next few months on research. Of course, that’s when I totally fell in love with India and had to almost stop myself from putting in too much.
Darcy: Okay, the publishing learning curve. As debuts, I think we’ve all learned a thing or sixty about the process. But if you could go back in time–from sale to now–what would you tell your newbie self?
Holly: I would tell my newbie self to do every possible thing I could think of MONTHS before release because SO MANY THINGS will come up in the weeks before, plus your brain will turn to overripe banana making almost all coherent thought impossible. Did that make sense? Wait, who am I again?
Darcy: What has been the most valuable tool(s) for you as an author that has taken your writing to the next level? CPs? Writing organizations? Fresh, oven-baked cookies?
While I have been known to overload on writing books, conferences and organizations, the thing that has taken me forward has definitely been my writing partners. It’s very hard to find ones you mesh with, but once you do, you honestly cannot live without them. I have a melange of partners who all help with very different things. They are seriously invaluable.
Lightning Round Questions:
Oddest job you’ve ever had?
I used to sell “tip sheets” for horse races.
Favorite writing snack?
What were you reading when you were sixteen?
Probably Cosmo, Glamour and Vogue. And a lot of Margaret Atwood.
Homebody or gypsy–what’s your favorite pocket of the world?
Homebody although I do adore Britain.
Music to write by? Or is silence sublime?
Usually, it’s absolute silence, however I do spend a large amount of time writing during my daughter’s dance classes so bagpipes would be the backup choice.
How many fascinators do you own?
Um… four? But I do have around twenty hats. Or more. I’ve lost count.
About the Interviewer:
Darcy Woods had three big loves in school: Reading, writing, and pizza day. Some things never change. She now lives in Michigan with her madly supportive husband, and two tuxedo cats who overdress for everything. Once upon a time, she was in an aviation unit in the US Army and threw live grenades. Now she throws words. She is represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management.
Darcy’s debut novel, SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS (Random House/Crown BFYR, Summer 2016) is a Young Adult Romance.