I loved interviewing Rory Power last year about her debut novel, WILDER GIRLS. Her second novel, BURN OUR BODIES DOWN debuted yesterday, July 7, 2020 and it promises a gritty and haunting read:
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
In our last interview, you described BURN OUR BODIES DOWN as follows: “In general there’s a lot of corn, a lot of family drama, and, like WILDER GIRLS, some weird science thrown in for fun.” Without giving away spoilers, what, if anything, has changed with the story since then?
BURN OUR BODIES DOWN is much the same in its final form as it was then, at the core! The structure of it has changed, and many times – at one point I added a whole second point of view character, who was then removed – but the heart of the book is still a family drama, focused on three generations of women in one family and the damage they do to each other.
Interesting about that second point of view character! I’m also intrigued by Margot’s relationship with her mother. What helped you make this relationship the most authentic it could possibly be?
Margot’s relationship with her mother is complicated and fraught, and to build it, I drew from my own personal experience. I’m very close with my own mother now, but growing up for me looked a lot like it does for Margot (sans the corn). It was important to me to use that experience to make Margot’s story as fully developed as possible, but to not be so wedded to my own story that I couldn’t change whatever I needed to in order to make Margot’s relationship work for the book.
Sounds like a great way to harness character development. We’ve also discussed voice in relation to rhythm. What are some indicators that help you determine whether the pacing is right or not?
I think pacing is different for every book, so it’s hard for me to pick out identifiers that work across projects, but the thing that’s usually consistent for me on a larger scale is looking at the halfway mark and seeing what events in the book are falling there. That’s a point at which I want things to be changing drastically for the main character. On a scene level, I try not to think about it too hard, and just trust my gut, for better or worse.
That’s probably better! What are three other books, besides yours, that your readers would enjoy and why?
CATHERINE HOUSE, by Elisabeth Thomas, has a beautifully dreamy atmosphere that I adored. ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING by Evie Wyld is a mystery with an incredible voice and a slow, creeping sense of dread that leaves you unsettled to the end. And I also loved this year’s THE DECK OF OMENS by Christine Lynn Herman, the sequel to last year’s THE DEVOURING GRAY, which features a remarkably well crafted teen cast grappling with their family legacy.