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This blog was featured on 05/30/2018
Baby Teeth Author Zoje Stage Dishes About Her 'Bad Seed' Book
Written by
She Writes
May 2018
Written by
She Writes
May 2018

One of the most anticipated reads of summer 2018 is Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage and She Writes had the opportunity to chat up this can't-miss debut author. The novel, due out July 17th, has been turning the heads of critics and early readers alike. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen....a twisty, delirious read that will constantly question your sympathies for the two characters as their bond continues to crumble.” ―Entertainment Weekly

Perhaps what we love most about Zoje though, is her commitment to writing a female-driven thriller that makes no apologies for characters you'll love to hate. Get to know Zoje's writing process, her take on the current state of women in literature and how her "first" novel is actually her sixth. 

SW: What inspired you to write Baby Teeth?

ZS: Baby Teeth started out several years ago as a screenplay, though the novel only superficially resembles that project. The script was more about a woman who started to become overwhelmed and horrified by her domestic life (and her difficult child made things worse). When I revisited the concept as a novel, the project changed radically once I decided to write it in dual POV with the young daughter and mother having equal roles. By fleshing out Suzette's experience with motherhood simultaneous to delving into Hanna's perspective, I was able to make them each the protagonist of their own story and the antagonist of the other's story. I was also very much inspired by witnessing how mothers are the most constantly—and unfairly—judged members of society, and my own memories of feeling misunderstood as a child.

SW: Describe your writing routine. 

ZS: I call myself a "directional pantser" which means that while I never use an outline, I always know the approximate ending of the story so I can write towards that. For a first draft, I write almost every day and usually end up with a short, imperfect first draft after about three months. Ideally, I then like to set the project aside for a couple of months and return for revisions with a fresh perspective.

SW: Baby Teeth covers some dark material with an even darker POV... how did it feel writing the character of Hanna?

ZS: I actually really enjoyed writing Hanna's character—really, it was the most fun I've had as a writer. She has a very unique view of the world, and I loved the challenge of writing within the limitations of both what she knows (via her own experience) and what she understands (which is often a little askew from how the world actually works). I know she is a character that people "love to hate" but I genuinely love her and feel for how awry her life has gone because of so many misunderstandings.

SW: What advice do you have for authors interested in writing a "bad seed" book?

ZS: The same advice I would have for any author writing in any genre: be invested in your characters. Let them tell their story and don’t impose too much on them; trust in what they want to say. No matter what your genre is, your characters are unique people that should function with full autonomy within their own worlds.

SW: What has surprised you about the process of writing your first book?

ZS: Fortunately, though BABY TEETH is my first published book, it's actually the sixth novel I've written. I say fortunately because I learned so much from the writing of my previous books that I was "ready" to not "mess up" BABY TEETH.

SW: For a long time, female characters were represented in a sweeter, more docile frame, but lately we're seeing the rise of the "bad girl." Why is it important to write stories about both heroines and "bad girls?"

ZS: Men have benefited from patriarchy in both overt and subtle ways, and have enjoyed the luxury of being depicted—and accepted—as complex beings across literature and film. Women are still struggling in their real lives to be fully respected. There are still a lot of limiting ideas about what girls and women "should be" and we are still fighting for fundamental autonomy over our own bodies. I think as a society we are starting to reach a more egalitarian understanding of a common human experience, whereby we recognize our underlying similarities while still championing an individual's unique traits—or at least I hope so! It is vital that books—and films—have free reign to explore all of the intricate possibilities of being a human woman because that is what white men have had as a "given" and it's something every non-white male deserves.

(Photo Credit: Gabrianna Dacko, design by She Writes)

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