Today, Olivia chatted with veteran YA author Caragh M. O’Brien, author of the upcoming trilogy finale THE KEEP OF AGES!
Check out the blurb below:
After discovering the dark secrets of the prestigious Forge School and having her consciousness split in two, Rosie Sinclair must face her most daunting task yet: saving her family from the sinister Dean Berg. Her journey leads her to defunct horror theme park Grisly Valley, where everything is not what it seems. Determined to rescue her parents and stop Berg once and for all, Rosie will uncover the final secret of the dreamers – if she can survive that long.
Well. I’m hyped. We reviewed her first book, BIRTHMARKED, way back when we were just a tinybabby podcast trying this out. (It is literally Episode 0.) Let’s see what Caragh’s up to now!
Olivia with Papercuts Podcast: Caragh, welcome to Papercuts Podcast! It’s so great to chat with you today about THE KEEP OF AGES, the highly anticipated final chapter of your Vault of Dreamers trilogy.
Caragh M. O’Brien: Thanks so much for having me!
Ollie: Let’s talk about Rosie Sinclair. What has her life been like up until now, for those readers jumping in?
Caragh: Rosie’s had a tough time, frankly. When she went to the Forge School of the Arts, which also doubles as a reality TV show, she thought she would be getting a great education to become a film director. Instead, she discovered that students were being mined for their dreams while they were asleep. She herself was mined to the point that her consciousness split in two, and part of her was transported into a second body, that of a pregnant girl. Along the way, she made some loyal friends, but also a hideous enemy. Now all Rosie wants to do is go home and reconnect with her family, but at the beginning of The Keep of Ages, we find that isn’t possible.
Ollie: Yikes! That sounds supremely rough. I’m seeing shades of CITY OF LOST CHILDREN with the dream-mining, too. Love it! So those are all pretty unique but, in your opinion, what is the most unique aspect of Rosie’s story?
Caragh: I’d say the mind-game element is pretty fascinating. The dreamers themselves are also very cool, in a haunting, disturbing way, and their effect on Rosie is unlike anything else. I’m excited to see how readers react to it.
Ollie: What are some books that you would say are similar to THE KEEP OF AGES, for readers who are on the fence about adding it to their TBR?
Caragh: With its layers of reality and its creepy, defunct theme park setting, my novel is perhaps a bit like Westworld, the HBO sci fi thriller. It’s also a little like A Wrinkle in Time with its far-reaching ideas and devotion to family. It’s both a psychological thriller and an adventure story about complex teen characters.
Ollie: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what are some of your favorite recent YA releases?
Caragh: When I was a teen, I liked Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and Gene Stratton-Porter’s A Girl of the Limberlost, both of which celebrate independence and imagination in their own ways. Lately, I’ve enjoyed David Levithan’s Another Day, and Cecil Castellucci’s Soupy Leaves Home.
Ollie: What is the story behind the title THE KEEP OF AGES?
Caragh: I started out wanting a title that suggested a play on words, just as “vault” (both an architectural feature and a leap) and “rule” (both a verb and a noun) did in the earlier titles of the series. When that didn’t really get me anywhere, I thought more closely about the physical landscape of the novel, and I soon realized the castle keep, which serves as the centerpiece of the theme park, also grounded many of the ideas of the novel. So, I named the book after the Keep of Ages, which suggests permanence even as it’s decaying.
Ollie: I like that a lot, evoking permanence around a building that is itself on its way out. So, this is your last outing with Rosie. What are you going to miss the most about writing for her and her world?
Caragh: This has been such an absorbing project for me, with so many discoveries along the way. I’m going to miss Rosie’s relationships with her friends most of all. I relish their interactions, even when they’re fraught.
Ollie: This story brings Rosie to a “defunct horror theme park”. I spent 13 seasons working at haunt parks, and I’m really excited for that setting. What was your research process like on bringing that to life? Did you get to visit old, decrepit, abandoned parks?
Caragh: Thirteen seasons! That’s very cool. I have spent so much time in my mind at Grisly Valley that I feel like I’ve lived in an abandoned theme park, but actually, I’ve only visited active, working amusement parks, like Disneyland, Six Flags, and Lake Compounce. I’ve also pored over photos of the amusement park in Pripyat, Ukraine, which was abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster. The photos juxtapose playfulness with decay in a chilling way that evokes the loss of the people who died. It’s very sad, and I think the hint of that truth gives my fictional park, which was also abandoned after a nuclear meltdown, a resonance it wouldn’t have otherwise.
Ollie: What’s up next for you? Any pet projects you can tease us about?
Caragh: I’ve recently started working on a new young adult novel that excites me. I’ve always been interested in how time, which usually seems so linear, also slows down and speeds up at different moments. I’m playing around with that idea, and I’ve also discovered several characters that fascinate me, so I’m seeing where they take me.
Ollie: Last one! If you could spend one day with Rosie, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to her?
Caragh: If I could connect up with Rosie, I’d like to meet her at her family home in Doli, Arizona, and hike around the desert with her. I think she’d have a chance to relax there, and for advice, I would urge her to believe in herself more. She’s stronger than she realizes, and she has a lot to share with the world.
Let me say thanks for having me on Papercuts Podcast!
Ollie: Aww! Thank you so much, Caragh! It was great to finally have a chance to chat. And again, from Papercuts Podcast, congratulations on the final installment in this trilogy!
THE KEEP OF AGES, published by Roaring Book Press, hits shelves on August 29th 2017 and is available for preorder at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!
Caragh M. O’Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS series, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O’Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA in the Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. Her young adult science fiction has been honored by the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Amelia Bloomer Award, the Junior Library Guild, and numerous state reading lists. A former high school English teacher, she now writes young adult novels full time from her home in rural Connecticut.
Author photo (c) Tom O’Brien 2014.
Olivia Hennis is a transplanted New England girl dropped by a tornado into the magical Land of Not Quite New Jersey. For more info, follow her on Twitter @OliviaHennis.
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