, Baggott’s first horror novel, divides future humans into two classes: those cataclysmically merged with animals, toys, and other people, and the dome-dwelling, authoritarian “Pures.”
How did you develop the setting?
I was writing a series of strange, fabulist short stories with characters fused to objects that represented their obsessions. Editors didn’t quite know what to make of them. One of the characters in particular, a young woman with a doll’s head fused to her fist, kept coming back to me. At the same time, I wanted to try my hand at world-building, to create big strange cinematic landscapes. It took a while before I realized that the characters in my literary fabulist short stories belonged in these worlds.
Did present-day class and political strife influence the stratified future you developed?
I’m not the kind of writer who’s able to block out the world around me. I’m mindful of our own haves and have-nots, how our culture often blames and punishes the have-nots. I worry about our precarious economic and political climate. I’m a writer of faith who worries about the intolerance of religion. I look at the past and fear we haven’t learned from it. I believe that humanity is capable of evil as well as great acts of courage and goodness. I have hope. Deep down, I believe in the human spirit, although sometimes that belief is shaken.
With a crossover book like Pure or your previous YA books, do you use your children as sounding boards at all?
Pure exists in large part because my oldest, now 16, kept urging me for new pages. I wrote it, in many ways, for her. It’s not that I bounce ideas off of my children as much as it is that having children has had a profound effect on the way I see the world. They have mined my soul. They’ve made me a better person and therefore a more empathetic writer. I’m not commenting about writers who don’t have children. I think that each of our experiences in the world mine us in different ways. It’s simply easy for me to see how my own children have shaped me, as a writer and as a person.
As a reader and a writer, how do you relate to different genres and themes?
I write across genres so I see them, more often, as complementary instead of separated by boundaries. When writing Pure, I wasn’t thinking about categories. I was creating intimate, personal lives for my characters—lives that were set on a collision course. I don’t think of the novel as sci-fi, although my research led me to some interesting science. My own background is rooted in magical realism, and within Pure, you’ll find terrifying children’s songs and warped fairy tales. For the element of horror, I researched the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; there you will find true horror, undeniable realism. Mainly, I was interested in what endures, and love can’t be stripped away.