Claudia Gray is a young adult author originally from Mississippi. Author of the Evernight Series and Spellcaster Series, she wraps up her whirlwind tour in the Philippines, where she was kind enough to answer these questions about her first book from the Firebird Series, entitled, A Thousand Pieces of You. Gray speaks about her influences, favorite books, and gives us a taste of her newest novel, available at Lemuria on November 4.
First of all, describe where you are from, where you live now, and how it influences your writing.
I’m from Marks, Mississippi—from Jackson, that’s about two-and-a-half hours north on I-55, then another 25 minutes west on Highway 6. These days I live in New Orleans, and I couldn’t ask to be in a more creative, original, or stimulating place.
You describe this book as Orphan Black meets Cloud Atlas in the first book of this epic dimension-bending trilogy about a girl who must chase her father’s killer through multiple dimensions. Describe the inspiration behind A Thousand Pieces of You.
The inspiration came to me while I was on a book tour, actually. Dan Wells, Lauren Oliver, and I went on a group tour of the United States together, and it was one of those tours that crisscrosses the country daily—mountains, then desert, Pacific Northwest, Miami, etc. After that, I left directly from Los Angeles to tour in Australia, where I went all over, accompanied only by my publicist. So the people traveling with me on each tour were my only constants in a rapidly shifting landscape. At some point, I began thinking about a story that would involve different worlds, but always the same people—and somehow the rest fell together.
In A Thousand Pieces of You, when Marguerite leaps into a new dimension, she leaps into another version of herself—another person she might have been. Sometimes the other dimensions are very similar to her own, but sometimes they’re radically different. She has to figure out immediately what this world is like, and who she is there. As the same people are often drawn together in many dimensions, Marguerite also encounters alternate versions of those she loves the most. I think we all wonder how much of our identity is essential and eternal, and how much is shaped by circumstance or chance. Would you be different if you’d grown up someplace else, in a time of war versus a time of peace, in a larger family, without your family? Marguerite actually gets to discover the answers.
There are parallels between your book and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. Both books have feisty heroines who travel through different dimensions in space, and both girls are trying to rescue or avenge their father from evil. Was L’Engle’s book influential?
Definitely. A Wrinkle In Time was a childhood favorite of mine, and the fact that both heroines have brilliant, eccentric scientist parents is no doubt linked. They’re not very similar past that—but I’m glad my love for L’Engle’s book shines through. It’s a story so wrapped up in the love of science and the infinite possibilities it offers.
Is dimension-travel the same as time-travel? If you move to another dimension, are you also traveling through time AND space? Maybe this is a question for Marguerite’s parents, the physicists.
No, it’s not the same. Technically, I don’t think it’s even traveling through space; your body remains in the dimension you left, albeit no longer observable. Your consciousness is the only thing that moves. At any rate, every place Marguerite goes, it’s the same year, month, day, and hour. However, not every dimension has developed at the exact same rate ours has. Marguerite visits some universes where technology has developed faster (making them feel futuristic) or slower (making them feel historical), but it’s not actual time travel.
(Undoubtedly Marguerite’s parents will get around to time travel next.)
Why did you make Marguerite an artist? She could have also been a scientific genius, like her parents, but I think making her an artist creates a nice counterpart to the scientists in the book.
In all honesty, the book is easier for me to write and easier for others to read if Marguerite isn’t a scientist; if she were, there would be pages and pages of math about parallel dimensions/quantum realities. Nobody wants that! Since Marguerite is an artist, she doesn’t dwell on the technical minutiae, and the story can move forward. That being said, it wound up being an interesting character element to play with. Marguerite is bright and creative, but tends to underestimate herself because she’s surrounded by people who represent a very different kind of intelligence and accomplishment. Since she has this very different perspective, she’s able to pick up on elements of what’s going on that the scientists missed…
When did you start writing?
I always wrote, even back when I was writing with crayons. But I didn’t get serious about pursuing publication until about ten years ago.
Favorite book when you were a child:
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. No villain is as evil as Miss Minchin.
Your top 5 authors:
Oh, this question is so impossible to answer! If you’re an avid reader—and I am—that’s kind of like being asked, “So, what is the best oxygen you ever breathed in?” So much of it is so vital. But I can break it down like this: The authors who have impressed me the most would be A.S. Byatt and Vladimir Nabokov. The authors who I would most like to emulate would be J. K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins. The authors I’ve been most moved by would be Margaret Atwood and C.S. Lewis. The authors I’ve been most entertained by would be Robertson Davies, Jacqueline Winspear, P.G. Wodehouse, Margaret Mitchell, and Robert Graves.
If you could be a character from a book, who would you be?
Hermione Granger, I think!
Favorite line from a book:
From “The Color Purple”, after Mister tells Celie she’ll walk out on him over his dead body: “It’s time to leave you and enter into the creation. And your dead body just the welcome mat I need.”