introducing readers to writers since 1995

June 23, 2005

Author2Author: Martha O'Connor & Colleen Curran, pt. 3

by Ron Hogan

Yesterday, Martha revealed the story behind her novel's creation. Today, Colleen zeros in on certain stylistic choices she made during her writing process...

Martha O'Connor: You use a lot of avant-garde fiction techniques in Whores on the Hill, from the demerits to the quiz to the interviews. In a lot of ways this choice reminds me of how teenagers' brains really work, jumping from one topic to the next. It works really well, I think. Was this something you wanted to do all along, or did it just spring organically from the teen subject matter?

whoreshill.gifColleen Curran: It all started with the demerit slip. My boyfriend at the time (now husband-to-be) recommended I put a demerit slip in there. He's a high school English teacher. So I did that and liked it.

Then I started buying teen magazines while I was working on Whores. Seventeen and Teen. All those articles about hair and makeup and how to interpret "guy signs." I found what I really loved in the magazine were the things that I had loved in high school: the quizzes and the dating disaster stories, etc. When I was in high school, I loved taking quizzes in teen magazines. I would do them all, all the time, obsessively, and answer differently, trying on different personalities.

I started thinking how funny it would be to write a quiz: "What Kind of Whore on the Hill Are You?" Where my characters, Astrid, Juli and Thisbe would write their own quiz. But they'd redefine it and to be a Whore on the Hill would be to be the best kind of girl: smart and funny and quick thinking. So I wrote the Quiz fast one morning and had so much fun with it, I felt like I could do more. After that, I started adding in the "First Kisses" section and the "Dating Disasters" and the Q&A sections.

I love style. I love experimental fiction. These sections were definitely my favorite. And they were easy to write. Originally, my editor suggested that I cut these experimental sections from the novel. I resisted making that change and kept them in. What I like about these sections is that they still move the plot forward. The Quiz shows that Thisbe, the narrator, is coming to terms with that dark nickname, "whores on the hill," and that's she's starting to own it, like Astrid and Juli do. Or the First Kisses section gets across that Thisbe has had a first kiss with Devin, her main love interest in the book, and it gets the information across in a new way.

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