Today, as the school holidays are now in full swing, we wanted to post something a little different on the blog, an interview with a Catholic author of young adult fiction.
Whether it’s Harry Potter or Twilight, Divergent or The Hunger Games, magic spells, romance or frightening futures, recent times have proved the popularity of the adventure novel for young people. Corinna Turner’s dystopia I Am Margaret, is crucially different however, in that one of the key elements of the story and of the heroine Margo’s life, is her Catholic Faith.
She’s part of the underground network of Believers trying to live out their Catholic Faith and that carries the death penalty. At aged 18 everybody goes through sorting, a test that determines your future. If you fail you are literally recycled and Margo is going to…
CTS Compass: How did the idea for writing this come about?
Corinna: It started with a growing dissatisfaction with mainstream fiction. The mainstream fiction I was reading – and writing – seemed to have to obey an unwritten rule, ‘we don’t do God’. Especially ‘we don’t do Christianity’. As someone whose faith is central to their life, this was making mainstream fiction increasingly unsatisfying, to say nothing of it feeling very unrealistic. When the idea for ‘I Am Margaret’ stormed into my head in a dream during a retreat I decided I would go right ahead and write it just as I would write a mainstream novel – but with a Catholic heroine whose faith was integral to the story.
‘I Am Margaret’ has a certain thematic and stylistic similarity to mainstream novels such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’, but it takes a very different attitude to morality and faith plays an integral role in the book. The tone and pace of a mainstream Young Adult novel are combined with a totally Catholic attitude to life and to the challenges the characters face.”
CTS Compass: What are your hopes for the book?
Corinna: “I hope this novel will allow ‘churched’ teenagers who are reading (often spiritually and morally unwholesome) mainstream novels due to the lack of compelling Catholic alternatives to enjoy a gripping, page-turning read that actually reflects their world view rather than that of the secular world, and thus to nourish their faith whilst entertaining them to the same – if not greater! – degree.”
CTS Compass: Do you think your title will appeal to wider audiences too?
Corinna: “From the feedback I’ve had from non-Christian readers, I think those who find any mention of faith uncomfortable are never going to enjoy it, but I have had very positive feedback from people who are open to faith and to other people’s world views. So there definitely seems to be a wider appeal.”
CTS Compass: Tell us a little about how you came to the Catholic Faith and what it has meant for your writing?
Corinna: “I was raised in the Methodist church, confirmed as a teenager in the Anglican church and finally received into full communion with the Catholic Church just over four years ago. In the years leading up to my reception (and since then) I had tremendous growth in my spiritual life and began to develop a genuine relationship with God for the first time in my life. This had a direct influence on my reading and writing habits. The lack of faith in mainstream fiction began to really trouble and frustrate me, and I also became much pickier about what I read (or watched) – I’m now much less prepared to put up with gratuitous violence and offensive material. However, Richard Atkins from BBC Radio Gloucestershire remarked in a recent interview that ‘Christian Fiction can be rather twee… but there’s not a twee-ness about ‘I Am Margaret’, is there?’ – and there are certainly a number of scenes in ‘I Am Margaret’ that readers find quite challenging. Because personally, I don’t think people find ‘twee’ satisfying or stimulating – but the scenes are not excessively graphic. A scene can be gritty without being gory!”
CTS Compass: In Margaret’s world why is it so important to be Catholic?
Corinna: “For the same reason that it is so important to be a Catholic today. Because God loved us so much he died for us – Jesus is the way to God, the truth about everything and the life eternal! In the future world of ‘I Am Margaret’ the ‘Underground’ (the network of religious believers) does essentially have a monopoly on non-violent opposition to the status quo, but I don’t think many people would join them just for this reason because the punishments are too severe.”
To find out more about the I Am Margaret series, or read the first chapter of I Am Margaret click here.