Vivian Apple’s friends are a diverse bunch. What was your approach to writing race and sexuality into your world?
It was a very conscious decision from Day One not to write a totally white, straight world, and I think as a white, straight writer, it will always be a conscious decision. For this particular book, it felt like the obvious call, because the characters are really at war with an ideology that treats minorities (women, people of color like Vivian’s best friend Harp, gay men like Harp’s brother Raj, etc.) like something less than human. I wanted the ideology to hit Vivian and her friends personally, and that wouldn’t work as well if they were all white and straight. I do look at the book now and see ways I could have done better, and I hope to do better in the future. But for the most part, it’s pretty easy to catch yourself when you’re writing an all-white cast of characters. It’s pretty easy to stop doing that.
How has being part of the intense online feminist communities on social media affected your craft and process as a fiction writer?
I think the main thing I’ve gleaned from these communities is just a sense that a lot of people care about the same issues of representation that I do, and that if I write characters the way I want to write them (girls being funny and complex and badass), there will be an audience for it. Before I was as active on Tumblr, I don’t think I realized just how many people crave those kinds of stories — I was in college and then an MFA program, and I thought that the sort of writing that got you noticed was dour stories about adult men committing adultery.
But that’s really changed across the board, I think. My husband and I were just catching up on Agent Carter, the new Marvel show, and we talked about how that show feels like it’s kind of pandering — in a great way! — to Tumblr feminists. I think that very slowly people are starting to realize that there’s an entire subset of extremely vocal people clamoring for stories about vibrant, interesting women.
Any teasers about what we can expect in the sequel?
Ah! Well, the first book ends with Vivian learning a lot about herself, her family, and the world she lives in, and in the second book she has to kind of maneuver her way through this new understanding of things. Also there are action sequences and puns and kissing.