Thursday, May 16, 2013

Golden Boy Blog Tour - Q & A with Abigail Tarttelin

Golden Boy is an wonderful written, intense novel that I fully enjoyed. If you missed my review be sure to check it out.

Today I have the author, Abigail Tarttelin, stopping by to answer some questions about her writing, and the novel.


1 Describe Golden Boy in three words.

Emotional, sweet, heartfelt.

2. What sort of research did you do prior to writing Golden Boy? Did you interview any intersex teenagers?

I came to Max’s story with my own thoughts on what it meant to live a life as one gender and what it might mean to live life as another. I also did a fair amount of research into intersexuality, but to be honest, the science of someone’s body can only lend so much truth to a character. It can make your way of life different; for instance the relative size of women to men might make a woman feel more vulnerable and be more cautious. Having or not having a recognized gender, however, isn’t the thing that make you human or makes you feel as you do; and although Max is intersex, this isn’t what defines him, or makes him a sentient being. With Max, as with most of my characters, I feel like they are already formed people and I need to find the key to writing their point of view. In researching Golden Boy, I was able to contact a new generation of bloggers and subculture teenage internet icons totally subverting the old ideas of gender identity. Their identity was informed by gender, but by an alternative gender – for instance pangender or genderqueer – that they had chosen. I followed these blogs and spoke to several intersex people about their experiences, but in the end, Max’s story isn’t supposed to represent the feelings or experiences of all intersex people. It is simply one story, and one voice.

3. The "abuse of trust" that Max experiences is devastating. As a reader, because that part was so well written, it is emotionally draining. Was it as emotional to write?

With every character I write, I try to be in that character’s body and mind with them, so it was an incredibly emotional scene to write. I felt very strongly however, that it should be depicted in the detail that it was, because I think where literature sometimes tries to make sexual assault less frightening for readers it often obscures how truly horrifying it is, and why it’s so important we try to prevent it and care for victims.

4. Who are some of the authors who have influenced your writing?

When I was sixteen or seventeen, my English teacher gave me a copy of The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, and I realised that I could write about anything, literally anything. Until then I had just read the classics, and although I love them, they didn’t show me that contemporary culture was an acceptable topic for a novel. Several books were a big influence on Golden Boy, but more than any other, The Women’s Room by Marilyn French made me focus on the theme of gender and led me to tell Max’s story. A book I wish I had read before Golden Boy, which is a stunning book in every way, is The Good Women Of China by Xinran.

5. Since this is your debut novel - what has most surprised you about the publishing process?

I’ve been so excited to be involved so much in the publishing process, from my notes on cover designs, to editing, to ideas about publicity and events. The thing that perhaps surprised me most was how much editing and proof reading work there in to do following the acquisition of the novel by publishers. We did one large edit, with notes from the two English language publishers, for which I handed in two manuscripts, one in the middle of editing to check we were headed in the right direction and one at the end. Then I did two separate proof reads of the 100,000 words manuscript for both publishers and then another read for each publisher for final checks on typos etc. Given that the book is so huge, this actually took me until the end of 2012, having sold the rights in April, but it was well worth it to get the book to the quality we hoped it could be, and I feel that I’m a much better editor and writer because of it.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for the chance to be part of the blog tour, and Abigail for answering the questions. Golden Boy is in stores on May 21st so be sure to check it out.

If you are in the Toronto area, be sure to stop by Golden Boy event that is taking place. It sounds like a fantastic night.

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