Lorie Ann Grover talks with us about her inspirations for Firstborn, as well as her passion for working with organizations aiming to eradicate gendercide.
Firstborn is the story of Tiadone, a declared male who must live her life as an outcast, barely accepted by her fellow villagers. As a firstborn female, her parents chose to declare her a male rather than have her taken away to be left for dead. Although she got to keep her life, everything else was torn from her. Read our review.
Interview with Lorie Ann Grover
Tell us five interesting facts about yourself!
a. Well, I’m 5’11, 3/4”.
b. I was a member of the Miami Ballet Company.
c. I enjoy studying weapons tai chi.
d. After 17 years, I just moved to a new house which overlooks a valley and Mt. Rainier.
e. I have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s.
What inspired you to write this story?
Really, it was an article I read in 2004 about gendercide. I had no idea the practice continues in 45 countries today. There are difficult cultural and historical reasons, but nothing makes the practice right. My anger found expression in a fictional work. My hope is to draw attention to gendercide and encourage people to support organizations working to eradicate the practice, groups like All Girls Allowed and The Global Gendercide Advocacy and Awareness Project.
Did you draw on any specific religions or cultures when creating the Madronians and the R’tan, or their beliefs?
I did think of monotheistic belief systems without imagery and contrasted them with those which either practice polytheism or incorporate visual representations. I also wanted to explore the concept of martyrdom versus flight under religious persecution.
The Spartans used to send their seven-year-old sons to harsh military training camps. That was definitely the idea behind Tiadone’s service at Perimeter, although she is older. And my vacations in the Southwest U.S. provided fodder for cliff dwelling and high desert scenery. My daughter’s recent trip to Masada gave great final details.
What was the hardest part about writing Firstborn?
I originally wrote the work in verse, as a verse novelist. Coming to terms that I needed the room the prose format offered was hard. I had to study and read, read, read to make the switch, line by line.
What was your favorite chapter or scene to write?
Tiadone’s search for her sister was the first scene I wrote. It was the initial vision I had for the book so I’m partial to it. Although, I really enjoyed writing the three birth scenes. There’s great opportunity for emotion and sensory details.
Can we expect a sequel? If so, can you give us any hints at what is to come?
I don’t know. Right now, I have outlines for a second and third installment, but we’ll have to see if there is an opportunity to develop them. Tia will reach the C’shah and continue her self-discovery in a society that highly values females, the exact opposite of what she’s experienced in life so far.
What project(s) are you working on now?
I’m in final edits for my next YA contemporary novel, Hit, which releases in October from Blink. Then I’m converting a manuscript from verse to prose about a sheltered teen girl visiting her mother in the army in South Korea in the eighties. She’s confronting student unrest, communist threat, and legal prostitution.
What is the most difficult to write, the first line or the last line?
I think there’s usually a search for that first line. Where does the story actually begin? While the last line often seems to write itself.
What is one YA novel you wish you had as a teenager?
I think Feed would have really challenged me to think about society and my place inside of it.
Which authors are some of your biggest inspirations?
Margo Lanagan, John Green, Markus Zusak, Justina Chen, Beth Kephart, Deb Caletti, and Laurie Halse Anderson.
About Lorie Ann Grover
Lorie Ann Grover is a young adult novelist and board book author. She has received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and was a 2003 Washington State Book Award Finalist. Her works have been further honored by VOYA, Bank Street College, the New York Public Library, Parents Magazine, and Girls Life magazine. Lorie Ann is a co-founder of readergirlz, an advocate for teen literacy awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize. She also co-founded readertotz, a board book blog to celebrate the best works for the youngest readers.