I recently met Helen at the Sourcebooks Fire Launch Party, but didn’t have nearly enough time to talk to her. Her book comes out the same month as mine – May – so, in spite of the warning in the title, I am very curious about it! Helen graciously agreed to an interview so that I could ask the questions I couldn’t ask at the party (because I couldn’t find her in the crowd).
DKS: The Turning: What Curiosity Kills is about an otherwise normal teenage girl from Manhattan who is slowly transforming into a cat. Why a cat — and why Manhattan?
HE: I decided to write what I know. I am a displaced Southerner living in New York City. And I live with a husband and two cats, Shoney and Big Boy (my husband is neither Shoney, nor Big Boy. He is Lex and 5’8″). But the whole shebang was spurred on by a dream. I dreamed I woke up and looked into my bathroom mirror and saw a face that was not my own. It was, you guessed it: a cat’s.
DKS: At the Sourcebooks Launch Party, you gave out cute little buttons that said “Domestic” or “Stray.” How does this tie in with the theme of your novel?
HE: Mary discovers that there is an underworld of “turns” in Manhattan. Domestics are kept in apartments. Strays live on the streets. With the collapse of the economy, the Upper East Side is truly turning into vacant lots. Strays want to take over the dom’s territory. Mary must decide what side she’ll be on.
DKS: What one character in your book (good guy, bad guy, or in-between) was the most fun to write about?
HE: YOON! Yoon is “on the fence”, which means he lives at home, but runs with the strays. He is a sexy bad boy, who tempts Mary to abandon her cushy life and live for the now. Turns only turn for five years, so he wants them to make the most of their sensory-soaked time.
DKS: What else would you like us to know about The Turning?
HE: The Turning is about embracing what you are and being brave at a young age. Believe me, for the rest of your life, you will feel like you are sixteen. It is better to dare early and keep that courage for the rest of your life, than to try and muster it as you get older and are more easily scared.
Thanks, Helen! I think that last line is a powerful statement, and something I’d like my daughters to understand.