introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 21, 2005

Author2Author: Martha O'Connor & Colleen Curran, pt. 1

by Ron Hogan

When Whores on the Hill and The Bitch Posse, two novels that both feature teen girl trios getting into big trouble, showed up in my mailbox on consecutive days, I figured the gods of parcel delivery were trying to send me a signal about how I should be scheduling my website. So I sent word out to Colleen Curran and Martha O'Connor, and once the three of us had sorted through everybody's tour schedules--well, okay, I'm not on tour yet--the conversation got underway...

oconnor.jpgMartha O'Connor: The teenaged girls in both The Bitch Posse and Whores on the Hill cultivate badass, take-on-the-world images, but scratch the surface and one finds heartbreaking vulnerabilities. In your novel, Astrid seems the toughest of all. What about that image draws Juli and Thisbe to her? What's really going on beneath Astrid's tough outer shell? And finally, in your opinion, how does toughness relate to vulnerability, not just in Astrid but in all three "Whores on the Hill"?

curran.jpgColleen Curran: I grew up in the Midwest during the late 1980s and early '90s. Growing up, all the super cool girls were badasses. At least, in my estimation. These were the girls who listened to the Violent Femmes, the Smiths, the Cure, the Cramps, PiL, the Dead Kennedys, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc. My friends and I thought it was truly the coolest thing in the world to be a badass girl. These were the girls who wore mohawks or had asymmetrical hairstyles or cut checkerboards into the backs of their hair and wore long underwear under their skirts with big black boots. For me and my friends, to be a badass meant that you were smarter than everybody else and you understood the world and you had a worldly wisdom about you and you were a true individual.

Now, looking back of course, I know this is all a pose. That just because a girl looks tough on the outside, doesn't mean she's tough at all on the inside. And that copping a certain style of dress or hairstyle doesn't make you a better or bigger person; it might just mean you've got cool hair. But in high school, teenagers are struggling so hard to find a sense of identity. And clothes, hair, music--these exterior symbols signify identity. Teenagers value them so much because it's the clothes and hair and music that gives them a sense of self.

In Whores on the Hill, Astrid, Juli and Thisbe want to be strong women. They want to be tough and indestructible and independent. But they really have no idea how to do that. So they turn to the only strong female role model that they have. Deb Scott is a legend at their high school, the baddest of bad girls, the girl who wouldn't take shit from anybody, the true original. Astrid, Juli and Thisbe try to model themselves after the myth of Deb Scott, but they find it incredibly hard to live up to the legend--because really, that's all she is--a story, an ideal that is impossible to live up to. And I think that's a universal issue for all women (and men); how do we live up to the ideal versions of ourselves or who we want to be?

Mostly, I wrote about girls like Astrid, Juli and Thisbe because I didn't see any other books out there where young women are grappling with sex and drugs and identity. Books like The Bitch Posse, actually, but of course I didn't know about it at the time.

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