Teens’ Top Ten: Five Questions for Gennifer Albin
Over 32,000 teen readers cast their vote for the 2013 Teens’ Top Ten, and The Hub is celebrating their choices! Today we feature Gennifer Albin, whose book Crewel is #7 on this year’s Teen’s Top Ten list.
Sixteen-year-old Adelice can “manipulate” reality – weaving it like threads in a tapestry – a remarkable gift that only Spinsters possess. When her ability is discovered by the all-powerful Guild, she is torn from her family and thrust into a pampered and privileged but tightly controlled new life. She finds herself caught in a web of lies and intrigue and isn’t sure who she can trust.
There are a lot of similar dystopian books being published but yours stands out for its unique plot and setting. What inspired you to write Crewel?
The idea for the novel stems from a painting by Remedios Varo where girls sit in a tower and embroider the world. I built on that by adding more traditionally female arts like weaving and spinning. It’s been tricky to create a woven world, and even trickier to get the idea out of my head and onto the page, but I’m finding that there’s a lot of room for expansion on the concept. In book two, we’ll meet characters with different powerful skills that can affect the fabric of reality.
I think that what makes Crewel stand out from dystopians is that it’s not so much a dystopian novel. It contains some of the elements, but it’s more science fiction and fantasy with lots of what could be called supernatural elements.
Adelice’s outspokenness and sassiness get her in a lot of trouble throughout Crewel. How important is it to you to portray strong, independent females in your books?
That’s tricky. I personally love empowered female leads and you’re always going to get a confident female in my books, but I think empowerment comes in a lot of forms: intelligence, courage, curiosity, etc. My goal is always to give you a real character with problems and flaws and strengths. It’s funny because in a way Adelice’s sassiness is one of her biggest weaknesses, too, even though it makes her independent. I never want to write a blank slate character, but I imagine I’ll write a girl who is searching for empowerment someday. The most important thing is to write a character that a reader can relate to, because often through her choices it reminds us that we can be empowered too.
Do you have a writing ritual? (Or writing routine?)
I wish I did. I am not a creature of habit. The most habitual thing I do is brush my teeth everyday. II do try to write or read everyday, and I certainly think about writing all the time. I’m always jotting things down in notebooks or on napkins. One of my goals for the new writing year is to develop more of a routine, but we’ll see how that goes.
What books or authors have inspired you as a writer?
I’ve always found J.K. Rowling inspiring. Not only because her books are amazing and amongst my favorites ever written, but also because she had to fight for her writing career.
I studied English lit in college and grad school, so I feel fortunate to have read so many amazing authors, particularly early female novelists like Eliza Haywood and Mary Wollstonecraft. I find inspiration in too many genres to catalogue.
What was the strangest thing a teen said to you about your book?
A lot of readers inform me that I spelled Crewel incorrectly, which is funny for a couple of reasons. 1) Because it’s a real word that refers to a style of needlework. 2) Because it’s fiction, so I feel like I could make up a word if I wanted to. 3) Because I hope my publisher or agent would have said something to me if I meant to spell cruel and messed it up.
I wanted to add a big thank you to the YALSA groups for reading Crewel and sending in reviews. I can’t really express how much it’s meant to me.
-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Far Far Away by Tom McNeal