Today I have an interview with the very unique author Dia Reeves. Dia is a debut author who wrote Bleeding Violet, a book that I raved about. Go buy it NOW. It's fantastically bizarre.
I'm trying something new with my interviews. I looked at Dia's previous interviews and based my questions off of those. Also there are no questions about her WiP or the inspiration behind Bleeding Violet. For those answers check out her F.A.Q page or the Women Writers of Color post at Color Online.
1) I read in another interview that you are all about the un: unconventional, unapologetic, uninhibited, underwriting I would also add your writing is unique. Why do you think that is? What's up with the un?
I think the "un" happens because I write to please myself, and I'm not what people think of when they picture a YA reader--because of my tastes, because of my race, because of my age. Being an atypical reader makes me an atypical writer, I suppose. Since I write for myself, I don't think about (or care about) how other people might internalize my work and there's freedom in that. I can just be honest about so-called virtues that really bug me or sad beautiful people I wanna be like or creepy gorefests that make me giggle. The best part about really going there in my work is that I always come across people who get it and me, and finding out that you're not alone in the world makes being unusual totally worth it.
2) Why did you decide to make Hanna half-Finnish?
Irving apparently has a large population of Finns, a factoid that was told to me when I was applying for work, which was also around the time that I wrote BV, so Finland was very much on my mind.
3) In a previous interview you make the point that multicultural applies to white people as well. I've never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. Care to elaborate further?
Well, you know how you read stories about these generic white people doing generic things, and I always think, why can't the writer tell what kind of white person it is? Greek? Italian? Romanian? Latvian? South African? White people come in many different flavors, and a person's culture often influences his or her behavior. But that's just me, I guess.
4) I can understand why some people would be upset by the gore, but the sex?! It was mentioned casually, but you don't get graphic. Jeez. Honestly, people are kidding themselves if they don't think teens act that way.
When people write about all the "graphic sex" in BV, I just have to wonder what the hell they were reading. "And then they had sex" is not graphic, not by anybody's standards. The characters talk about sex, but people SHOULD talk about sex. Knowledge is power, man. People are just...I don't even know what to call it. *Sort-of SPOILER* Someone even got upset because Hanna and Rosalee were naked in one scene and torturing a boy. Not upset because the boy is being tortured but upset that they were NAKED. *End Sorta Spoiler* How uptight does a person have to be to not want to read (read, mind you) that someone is nude? Oy, don't get me started.
5) In Bleeding Violet Hanna wants to re-connect with her mother. It's rare to see a single father raising his daughter. Why did you decide to make an absentee mom?
Maybe because it usually *is* the father who's absent. But being the mother doesn't automatically make someone above reproach. Mothers can be lousy parents too. Not mine of course (Hi, Ma!). Mine is awesome. ;)
6) Hanna is manic depressive. Did you research the various types of mental illnesses and their symptoms to make sure Hanna's was authentic? What made you decide to make her mentally ill (something not seen too often in YA)?
The first thing I knew about Hanna, even before I knew her name, was that she hallucinated. So then it became an issue of researching which mental illnesses caused hallucinations. So, yes a lot of research was involved. And yeah I guess there aren't a lot of mentally-ill main characters in YA. Usually it's the main character's parent or friend who's the crazy one. But I think readers can relate to a bit of first-hand craziness. Like Norman Bates said, "We all go a little mad sometimes."
7) What would you like to see more of in YA? Personally, I'd love to see more books like yours; POC in fantasy, sex not being a big deal and mental illness.
I'd like to see more books like mine too. ^_^ But that's why I write; nobody writes what I really want to read, so I have to do it. More POC battling monsters, more girls having sex and ENJOYING it *gasp* (that's the main thing that upsets people, but you're never going to convince me that funhappytime sex is a bad thing, not as long as you're using protection). I don't know that I'm going to write about another mentally-ill character anytime soon, but I've got this idea for a spooky story featuring two lesbians that I'm super-excited about. So yeah, more diversity, sex, and monsters, but not necessarily in that order.
(RiC: Sounds good to me, regardless of the order!)
8) Why do you think there is a lack of fantasy with POC main characters?
Dude, I have no idea. Maybe because there just aren't a lot of POC authors in general. And the few POC authors out there usually write realistic fiction about what it's like to be POC. My thing is, when I was growing up, the last thing I wanted to read was a story about a black girl growing up in the ghetto and facing hardships and blah blah blah. That was my life! I so did not need to read a book about all that when I could just look out my window. So for me it was all about fantasy and escape and people leaving through doors. I could read about kids fighting evil monsters and just wish that social evils, like poverty and drug addiction and crime, were as easy to conquer. So fantasy is definitely my thing. Maybe other POC authors are just better able to deal with reality than I am.
(RiC: We all deal with reality in our own way and I'm glad you handle it your way because you are a talented new voice for the YA world)
9) Many POC face the sting of being told that we are "not black/Latino/Asian/Native American enough", we are called oreos, apples and coconuts. Based on things I've read on your blog, especially your music tastes, I've seen that you don't fit in the stereotype people hold of African American (i.e. besides listening to R&B, you also listen to alternative and rock). Did you face being told you weren't "black enough" growing up? If so, how did you deal with that?
Apples and coconuts? WTH? That's new to me. ^_^ But I know what you mean. This is what I meant when I wrote about not fitting the image of an average YA reader. I guess I don't fit any type, really. And I have no idea why. You'd think that with my background I'd be Miss Ghetto Fabulous 2010, but...nope. Didn't get pregnant, didn't do drugs, went to college, went to frigging graduate school, became a bestselling author (okay not yet, but just you wait). People did (and do, thank you very much, family) ride me about "talking like a white girl", and it used to bug me (educated speech does not equal white, people!), but I just shrug it off these days. As far as I'm concerned, I'm the perfect amount of black, and if other people disagree, they can suck it. And Polysics RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(RiC: Apples is what Native Americans are called when they 'act white', coconuts is the same thing but for East Asians)
10) Any advice to those of us who want to be paid to be weird? Any advice for those of us in high school?
Don't try to fake it. If you're normal, embrace it. Cuz there's nothing sadder than an average, boring person pretending to be a weirdo. If you're in high school, don't panic--it'll be over soon, and seriously, if you can survive being weird in high school, you will have earned the right to be weird anywhere, especially in anything you write.
11) I know you like to embellish your biography. Please share two truths and a lie about yourself (don't tell which is which)
1. I once had a sliver of wood lodged in my eyeball.
2. I almost got blown away by a tornado.
3. I crossed the Santa Fe river with one leap.
All of these sound awesome and I have no idea which is true and which is a lie. What do you guys think?
To read which one is the lie, highlight this: #1! Dia says that actually happened to her aunt.
Thanks so much for this interview Dia!