An Interview with Alex Award winner emily m. danforth, author of Plain Bad Heroines

Each year, the Alex Award committee works to select ten titles published for adult readers that might have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. One of the 2021 selections is Plain Bad Heroines by emily m. danforth.

Plain Bad Heroines is a stunning piece of fiction. Like the finest of pastries, each layer is carefully crafted and just as delightful to bite into. The story centers around Brookhants School for Girls, and the narrative oscillates between the turn of the twentieth century and the present day. In 1902, the world was abuzz around young Mary MacLane and her memoir The Story of Mary MacLane, which unabashedly addressed MacLane’s sexuality and feminism. The story focuses on what happens when the girls (and their teachers) at Brookhants take up MacLane’s book, and the tragic events behind Brookhants’ closing. It also spins around the present day story of another young writer, Merritt Emmons, who has retold the Brookhants story, and it tracks the happenings surrounding the movie being made of Merritt’s book. Everything is haunted, everyone is in love and queer, and everything about this book will surprise and impress you.

Author emily m. danforth graciously agreed to share some thoughts, and we are so grateful for her time and for her work.

THE HUB: The Alex Award is a longtime favorite because it recognizes the transitional or fluid quality of both young adult readers and also of literature. What has it meant to you that your book was highlighted in this way? What do you think makes your book attractive to teen readers?

DANFORTH: It’s such an honor! I feel really lucky and proud to have Plain Bad Heroines recognized in such excellent company. I always try look for the Alex Award winners, every year—in part because I’ve enjoyed so many of the novels recognized by this award in the past.

I think maybe the blending of genre with the contemporary queer Hollywood/celesbian storyline about twenty-somethings might be of particular appeal to teenage readers. Also, possibly the tongue-in-cheek narration, illustrations, and nested plot. There are a number of disparate elements in this novel that speak to many kinds of readers: fans of Gothic Fiction and horror; fans of Sapphic romance; readers of metafiction and historical fiction.

Continue reading An Interview with Alex Award winner emily m. danforth, author of Plain Bad Heroines