A Q&A Between Justin Cronin and Julianna Baggott
Justin Cronin is the author of The Passage.
Justin Cronin: As Pure opens up we meet a girl named Pressia, who has a doll-head fused to one hand and a crescent-shaped burn around one eye. Where did this image and character come from?
Julianna Baggott: The doll-head fist first appeared in a series of strange, otherworldly short stories. At the same time, I wanted to write something really ambitious, large in scope with cinematic world-building. Not thinking of either of these things, I sat down one day and started writing a dreamy stream of consciousness from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl, hiding in an ashen cabinet in the back of a burnt-out barbershop. I then realized that this girl had a doll-head fused to her fist and that the landscape outside of this barbershop was that ambitious cinematic landscape I'd been longing to write. The two things knit together, and Pressia found her true home.
Justin Cronin: Pure presents a dystopian future after the "Detonations." What is it about post-apocalyptic fiction that attracted you as a writer and strikes a particular chord with readers today?
Julianna Baggott: Pressia is someone who finds small moments of beauty even amid all of the destruction of this post-apocalyptic world. That was one of the challenges--creating a character who's capable of seeing beauty, who's resilient and tough, and still has hope. I think that our world right now feels precarious--economically and politically--and therefore readers might be drawn to fiction that reflects the necessary toughness that so many people are relying on to survive. But, too, readers might be drawn Pure because the teen years can feel post-apocalyptic, and, on that level, Pure reflects a kind of emotional honesty that feels real.
Justin Cronin: In the world of Pure, who are the Pures and who are the Wretches?
Julianna Baggott: The novel opens with Pressia who has survived the Detonations and is therefore a Wretch. But we also get the perspective of Partridge who's survived the Detonations inside of a protective Dome; he's a Pure. He's always believed that his mother died a saint while trying to save people during the Detonations. When he finds that this might not be true, he escapes the Dome to find her. The two characters' lives are set on a collision course and become entwined in many twisted ways that make this book a thriller.
Justin Cronin: The cover of Pure includes a striking image of a blue butterfly. What does the butterfly symbolize?
Julianna Baggott: The novel will hopefully force readers to think about what it means to be truly pure--pure of heart. The blue butterfly can represent the Pures who, like Partridge, live in the protective Dome, much like the bell jar on the cover. But it can also represent a more personal purity--like that of Pressia and some of the wretches who struggle to live with their dignity and humanity intact. In the second book in the trilogy, the blue butterfly takes on a more literal meaning as well. Also, check out the back cover of the book. There you'll find a mechanical butterfly created by the artist Mike Libby, well known in steampunk circles. The mechanical butterfly exists in Pure as one of Pressia's creations.
Justin Cronin: What can you tell us about what's coming next for Pressia, Bradwell, and Partridge in the next installment, Fuse?
Julianna Baggott: I broaden the ravaged landscape. Some of the characters travel great distances. There are new creatures to contend with, as well as plot twists and turns within the Dome. (I absolutely love the new characters that we meet within the Dome--as well as the development of characters that readers only met briefly in Pure.) In addition to a new mystery to be unraveled and power struggles, there are two love stories in Fuse that really take hold, go deep, and become much more complex.
"What lifts PURE from the glut of blood-spattered young adult fiction is not the story Baggott tells but the exquisite precision of her prose...discomfiting and unforgettable."—The New York Times Sunday Book Review
"Baggott's highly anticipated postapocalyptic horror novel...is a fascinating mix of stark, oppressive authoritarianism and grotesque anarchy...Baggott mixes brutality, occasional wry humor, and strong dialogue into an exemplar of the subgenre."—Publisher's Weekly (STARRED review)
"A great gorgeous whirlwind of a novel, boundless in its imagination. You will be swept away."—Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage
"A boiling and roiling glorious mosh-pit of a book, full of wonderful weirdness, tenderness, and wild suspense. If Katniss could jump out of her own book and pick a great friend, I think she'd find an excellent candidate in Pressia."—Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
"PURE is a dark adventure that is both startling and addictive at once. Pressia Belze is one part manga heroine and one part post-apocalyptic Alice...Breathtaking and frightening. I couldn't stop reading PURE."—Danielle Trussoni, bestselling author of Angelology
is not just the most extraordinary coming-of-age novel I've ever read, it is also a beautiful and savage metaphorical assessment of how all of us live in this present age. This is an important book."—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
It's nearly impossible to stop reading as Baggott delves fearlessly into a grotesque and fascinating future populated by strangely endearing victims (and perpetrators) of a wholly unique apocalypse. And trust me, PURE packs one hell of an apocalypse."—Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse