Pam Bachorz’s debut novel, Candor (my review, because it’s been a couple of months), has arrived with a bit of a splash. I haven’t read a single bad review of it (I swear), and it made the short list for this year’s Cybils Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction. It’s my pleasure to have her as a guest on my blog today, talking about Candor, writing, and reading. You can find out more about Pam at her website and on her blog.
MF: Candor — to me — was a very creepy place — from the basic housing development all the way through to the brainwashing. Where did you get the idea?
PB: Candor, Florida was in part inspired by my born paranoia. Brainwashing has freaked me out since I first heard kids at school talking about hidden messages that you could hear when you played a record backwards. Then we moved to a small planned community in Central Florida, and I was surrounded by perfection: white plastic picket fences, lush flower beds, pretty houses and smiling people. There was a truck that drove around every night, spraying mosquito repellent from the back, and one night it passed me as I was walking the dog. I wondered what was really in that mosquito spray–what if it was Prozac? Maybe that was what made everybody so happy… and willing to mow their lawn every three or four days! From there it wasn’t a big jump to thinking about brainwashing. Candor, Florida was born.
MF: Planned communities gone awry? Not too far-fetched…. Music plays an important role in the town, as well as in Oscar’s business… is there some reason that you chose music as a vehicle for the brainwashing, or was it just convenient? (I don’t suppose you’ve toyed with the idea of a playlist?)
PB: I played with lots of ideas, but I wanted to pick a brainwashing method that wouldn’t be illegal. You can’t BROADCAST hidden messages but there’s nothing to stop you from slipping it into publicly-played music (I think… I’m no lawyer, but that’s what I discovered with my research). I liked using music because it’s something that can pervade every moment of your life–and the town I lived in actually had these disguised outdoor speakers that played background music in the downtown area.
I actually DO have a short playlist on my website.
MF: While we’re on the subject… why brainwashing as a tool for control?
PB: Well, first and foremost, it is just plain creepy. It overwhelms and leaves little room for doubt or weakness. You don’t have to remember to take it, like you would with a pill, and you also can’t resist it… unless you plug your ears 24/7. Or unless you’re CANDOR’s main character Oscar..
MF: My oldest — who also loved the book — saw some parallels to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Do you consider this book to be dystopian/science fiction? Why/why not?
PB: I am so flattered by comparisons to THE GIVER. I do think both books share a fear that people would give up their own free will, and their children’s free will, in exchange for perceived perfection. And that, to me, is definitely dystopian.
MF: I didn’t find many of the characters to be sympathetic, though Oscar grew on me by the end of the book. Do you have a favorite character or scene?
PB: I’m a mother and I love all my characters like I birthed them. Even when they’re very, very bad I can’t help but to love them. Oscar is my favorite, if I have to choose one, and in fact he STILL shows up in my imagination to tell me things! I like the flashback scene with Oscar and his parents christening the bricks with applejuice–I like seeing what Oscar lost when his mother was gone.
MF: You’ve created a whole faux website for Candor, which I simultaneously found amusing and not a little scary. What prompted you to do this?
PB: Glad you enjoyed it and also glad it freaked you out! I thought it would be a fun way to extend the reader’s experience with CANDOR and it might also attract a few new readers. I also thought it would be a cool way to get people thinking about how easy it is to deceive. But mostly, I did it because it was fun.
MF: Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing Candor? How long did it take, how much did it change from your initial idea…?
PB: Hoo boy this one took awhile. Start to finish, it took 5 years–but in that time I also had a kid, wrote two other (forever shelved) books, and moved to a new state. When I started writing the book, it was told from Nia’s point of view and Oscar was the janitor’s son! So it saw a ton of change before the finished product. Once Oscar announced to me that A. I had him all wrong and B. this was HIS story, it flew… probably 9 months from starting the rewrite to selling the book.
MF: Who, or what, influences your writing?
PB: Anything and everything. I am very inspired by dramatic, energetic music–my fingers fly when I listen to the Fratellis, Evanescence or Lady Gaga! I read YA constantly, everything from historical romance to sci fi to realistic fiction. But probably my biggest, most lasting influences are the authors I obsessed over as a teen and pre-teen: Lois Duncan and L.M. Montgomery. No wonder I like a combination of creepy and star-crossed romance.
MF: Are there five books that you think everyone should read?
PB: Well, I think there’s no one universal book that’s perfect for every reader. And thank goodness for that; how boring things would be if there was one universal taste. I do think most everyone would love these three: THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY, by Adam Rex, because it makes me laugh; CROSSING STONES, by Helen Frost, because it is simply beautiful and it made me cry; and DEADLINE by Chris Crutcher because the characters leap off the page and yes, again, it made me cry. And then there is ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, by LM Montgomery (sentimental and spunky perfection) and the creeeeepy DOWN A DARK HALL, by Lois Duncan. I swear to you, I think about DOWN A DARK HALL every single day. I think I read it ten times one summer.
MF: I’ve not, aside from Anne, that I’ve read any of those. They all sound excellent. Last question: If you don’t mind telling us, what can we expect next from you?
PB: I am in complete rewrite mode on my next release, DROUGHT, schedule for Winter 2011 publication with Egmont USA. It’s another dark, twisty tale but in a very different setting. This time the main character is a girl! A girl with a Very Big Problem… and a Very Big Gift.
MF: Thanks, Pam, for your time!
PB: Thanks again for featuring me!