The Compulsive Reader: Interview with Marianna Baer!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Interview with Marianna Baer!

Today, I have Marianna Baer, author of Frost, here to answer a few questions! I first met Marianna back in May at BEA when she was signing copies of Frost, and even though the encounter was brief, she was so nice! I started Frost on the subway that evening, and nearly missed my stop, I was so engrossed! It just came out last week, so check out my review and pick up a copy!

TCR: Your author bio says that you lived in a Frost House at boarding school. What was your Frost House like?

MB: Physically, the real Frost House was a lot like it's described in the book -- a small white clapboard with black shutters and a wide porch, on the edge of campus near some playing fields. My roommate and I lived on the first floor, in the back, just like Leena and Celeste. And our room did have windows on three sides, so it was incredibly sunny, and we did have our own bathroom with a claw-foot tub (which I accidentally turned a shade of green by dyeing clothes in it.) The house was pretty dilapidated, but I loved it. When my roommates and I went back years later and saw that it had been torn down, I was surprisingly sad. It was old and beautiful and quirky, and held over a century of stories in its walls. All gone now.

TCR: What inspired you to write a creepy novel centered around a different sort of Frost House?

MB: I've always loved ghost stories and stories set at boarding school, so combining the two was a very natural choice for me. As to why I wanted to write about girls living in such a small dorm, the experience of living with so few people was entirely different from living in a big dorm. It really was almost like living on my own with my close friends, an intense experience when you're 17. I thought the intensity of that social situation, combined with the creepy aspects, would provide great fodder for the drama. I kept the house physically the same as the real Frost House and gave it the real name because it lent itself so well to the story I wanted to write. I'd have been open to changing the name/architecture if my editor felt it didn't work; I didn't use it for sentimental reasons.

TCR: What was the hardest part about writing Frost? The easiest?

MB: Hmm... There were a couple of big challenges. The biggest one was that while I wanted the book to be creepy, the obviously scary stuff isn't actually happening to the narrator. She loves living in the house and feels safe there. So I needed to find a way to make Leena's feeling of safety become creepy in its own way. It would have been more conventional to have Celeste be the narrator, as she's the one who experiences the more obvious effects of the house. But I didn't want conventional or obvious. So the question was, how to make the book eerie, when the narrator isn't feeling that way about it?

The easiest part about the writing experience was probably working with my editor, Kristin Rens. She asked all the right questions and really helped me see that I hadn't yet gotten the story that was in my mind on the page.

TCR: Can we expect more books like Frost from you in the future?

MB: I'm working on a book called IMMACULATE, which will also be published by Balzer+Bray. It's the story of a 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn who finds herself pregnant, but insists that she's never even come close to having sex. It's quite different from FROST in the basic plot, but it shares with it an ambiguity about what's really going on, and characters confronting the possibility of a scientifically impossible happening.

TCR: What have you read and loved recently?

MB: Ooh, I love this question! I'm a huge reader (huge in quantity of books I read, that is. I'm actually quite small -- 5' 2" on a good day.) I recently read and loved MILES FROM ORDINARY by Carol Lynch Williams, and ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE, by Gabrielle Zevin. I also loved TIGHTER by Adele Griffin, and reread one of my favorites, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford.

Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog, Tirzah!

TCR: Thank you, Marianna!

Read my review of Frost here! Or better yet, go get your own copy now!


The book girl said...

I was reading this book on the bus the other day and did miss my stop! It's a completely engrossing read, and I enjoyed learning a little more about the author!

Mary @ BookSwarm said...

I just got this in the mail yesterday from my Amazon order and squeed! Can't wait to read it. I do love a good, creepy novel. And I'm excited to hear that she's working on another one. Great interview!

Rachael Stein said...

Great interview! I simply adore Marianna!!

Liss Martz said...

Sounds like an intriguing story. And Marianna caught me with those few words of Immaculate. I'll be waiting anxiously for it!