Jackson Pearce (author of As You Wish, the Fairytale Retellings and Purity) has been the talk of the internet lately with her well spoken Youtube videos (See her channel). Today I will be sharing with you an interview I had the pleasure to hold with her about different subject matter, controversial in its own right. Her newest novel, Purity, deals with a young girl as she struggles to keep the promises she made to her dying mother, which proves difficult while trying to escape from pledging her virginity to her father at a purity pall. I hope you enjoy! You can also check out my review of Purity here.
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I heard you mention before that the Purity you set out to write and the Purity that is now in the hands of readers are almost two different books entirely. Can you explain the evolution from one idea to the next?
I love this cover!
-Originally, I expected PURITY to be a very light, easy beach read, where my main character is trying to lose her virginity because she wants to, not because she feels like she has to. When I started writing though, I realized my protagonist needed deeper, more personal motivation. I've always been fascinated by Purity Balls and what they mean from both a feminist, spiritual, and personal perspective. Once I added the Princess Ball, I tapped into some recent losses of my own and created Shelby's mother...and suddenly my light novel wasn't so light!
One thing that I noticed when reading Purity, is that the voice of the writing was very different from the voice of the writing in your fairytale retellings. Do you find yourself writing differently between contemporary and fantasy novels? Or do you think it is the nature of the genres themselves that changes how your voice comes off?
-I don't think it's the nature of the genres so much as the nature of the characters and the world they exist in. The fairytale worlds read like...well, fairytales. PURITY is written in something much closer to my own voice, since it's set in a world much like the one I live in and the characters are much more like me (I rarely hunt werewolves these days).
I have read a lot of Young Adult novels when sex is portrayed as the biggest life changing moment ever. In most of these novels, the character either decided to wait or ends up with life changing consequences like a pregnancy or STD. I really appreciated how in Purity sex is portrayed as a milestone, yes, but not the be-all end-all of a teenager’s life. Why was it important for you to portray this “new” view in YA?
-This was important to me because I think adults instill a lot of both fear and reverence of sex in teens. Truthfully, sex is nothing to worship or be terrified of. I'm not saying it isn't important--it is, and it can have some pretty big consequences both good and bad-- but in and of itself it isn't so powerful that it a) renders you useless if you have it b) renders you awesome if you have it or c) renders you desperate if you don't have it. I don't really try to "teach" in my novels, but I will say that if there's an overall lesson about sexuality to be learned from PURITY, it's that your sexuality if yours, and no one else's, and only you get to decide what to do with it.
The Princess Ball… You must have done some research on purity balls to create it. Did you come across anything you found to be interesting (or ridiculous)?
-I've been interested in Purity Balls for AGES-- they just amaze me. Honestly, I really like the idea of a father/daughter dance and of father's vowing to be involved in their daughter's lives (which is the agenda the ball organizers like to wave around). Overall, however, I find them pretty ridiculous for a lot of reasons. For starters, I think it's pretty crazy that they make girls who are too young to know what sex is promise to abstain from sex-- there's something pretty squickable about thinking of a five year old's sexual future. But also, I'm very bothered by the idea of a huge, giant dance for your virginity and what it means for those girls who lose it; how does it affect their self-worth after they've lost something deemed SO valuable? The focus of these things seems to be on making the parents feel warm and fuzzy, not raising strong, independent young women who own their own bodies.
There isn't a single ball-related detail in PURITY that's made up-- every event, every suggestion, every detail is something I found happening at a real Purity Ball in the US. The craziest, in my opinion, is the one where the dads hold up swords for their daughters to walk under.
I loved the list Shelby keeps of the things she wants to get done in order to keep her promise of living without restraint. Were did you get all the items on the list? Are some of them on your own personal list? (PS: My best friend and I already decided we are going to put a flower on every grave in town for Memorial Day 2013).
-I actually don't have a complete list for Shelby-- I'd sit down to make one, but never quite finished it! Which makes sense, really, since Shelby has been working on hers for YEARS. Most of them I just got by asking friends what was on their bucket list, but oddly, the flowers on the grave one was something I made up entirely. Maybe I should do it too! :)
BRITTA IS THE TEENAGE BLOGGER BEHIND I LIKE THESE BOOKS. WHEN SHE'S NOT READING OR BLOGGING, SHE SPENDS HER TIME BAKING AND BABYSITTING. IT'S TRUE, SHE'S WAY TOO DOMESTIC FOR A TEENAGER. EDITORIAL INTERN AT SPENCER HILL PRESS.