Today, we are delighted to bring you an interview with Meg Rosoff, author of several novels including award winning How I Live Now and Just in Case. Her new book – which Ana LOVED (review here) – There is no Dog releases in the UK this week and to celebrate it, we invited the author for a chat.
Ladies and gents, please give it up for Meg Rosoff!
The Book Smugglers: In There Is Not Dog, the world has been created by Bob, a nineteen-year-old-looking whose mother won the position of Earth’s God in a poker game. Bob created the world in six days – which connects this story with the beliefs of Christianity. At the same time, Bob’s history of dealing with ladies he falls in love for example, it is reminiscent of Greek Mythology’s Zeus. Could you tell us a little bit more about the different mythologies and ideas that inspired this book?
Meg Rosoff: I’ve never been much of a believer in religion of any sort, and I think some of the constructs (including the Greek gods and the Christian God) are a bit absurd. On the other hand, I loved reading Greek myths as a child, and I’m fascinated by religious belief. I always think Richard Dawson has missed a trick by shouting about atheism. I’m an atheist, but am fascinated by the fact that millions and millions of people throughout history have believed in one god or another. Perhaps it’s hardwired into the human brain. In any case, I wanted to create a plausible explanation for why the world is such a mess, and a smattering of all different beliefs (including some brand new ones) ended up in the pot. If you look at planet earth, it’s hard to imagine it was created by a God of kindness and wisdom, that’s for sure.
The Book Smugglers: The book is quite funny in a surreal and whimsical way, but underneath all of that there are definitely some serious topics being addressed: the state of the world, how messy and hard life can be. And yet your story still manages to be filled with hope and moments of quiet beauty. How difficult is it, for you as a writer, to find this balance?
Meg Rosoff: How difficult? Well, if the process of writing this book is anything to go on, quite difficult indeed! Perhaps because I was dealing with such big topics, but the writing felt like a long and painful wrestling match. It was so hard to get it right, and sometimes I really despaired of it. One of the hardest things was to allow Bob to be enough of a monster to explain why the world is such a mess, while hanging onto enough of his brilliance and sincerity so that you could like him enough to care about how things turn out. Who knows if I succeeded in the end….let’s just say I’m glad it’s finally in print. I’d probably still be rewriting it now….
The Book Smugglers: The book’s premise itself is a potential minefield – personally, I felt you questioned religion without being disrespectful of any belief. Are you worried worried about possible backlash when the book comes out?
Meg Rosoff: My mother is very worried, but I think that a.) religious fanatics don’t pay much attention to YA literature, and b.) the book isn’t a serious attack on anyone’s beliefs, per se. I’m very sympathetic to belief and faith (though I don’t like fanatical adherents….to anything!), and despite being an atheist, I’m quite interested in the fact that so many people do believe. Also, humour is a great leveller. I hope.
The Book Smugglers: One of the most interesting aspects of the story for me was the fact that there are two “youngsters” in this pantheon, Bob and goddess Estelle. Both gods look and act young, despite the fact that they have lived for thousands of years. At one point of the story, Estelle starts to show more interest in life and eventually grows up. But Bob does not. Do you think he will ever grow up?
Meg Rosoff: Trying to speculate about what happens to characters after a book ends is a minefield! No one (not even the writer) really knows. But I suppose in my heart, I usually have my own inkling. I mean, I secretly think that Daisy and Edmond in How I Live Now will somehow make their love last, and I suspect Bob is never going to become a mature, wise god. But you never know. Maybe his adventures on his next planet will change him completely. Of course he’s a fictional character, so whether he grows up or not is probably less important than many other pressing questions of our time.
The Book Smugglers: One of the main themes is, of course, love. Forbidden love, lust-filled love, love at first sight, love that lasts, love that doesn’t last, all kinds of love. What are you favourite love stories?
Meg Rosoff: Hmmmm…. I’m interested in all kinds of love, as you’ve noticed. But I suppose that moment right at the beginning of new love is hard to beat — the moment at which you realize but can’t quite believe that the other person feels the same way.
Which is probably why Pride and Prejudice is such a great love stories — you wait and you wait for Elizabeth and Darcy to fall in love, knowing that they’re perfect for each other, and the book ends with them finally getting around to what we all knew all along. It’s a very satisfying literary construction, which is why so many people steal it.
The Book Smugglers: Most of your books, regardless of age classification, setting, or tone, seem to deal with the human condition, how people behave in face of adversity, with love, with mortality. If you had to define yourself as a writer would you be able to (like for example a Young Adult author of magical realism)?
Meg Rosoff:I write the books I want to write, and observe, with a mixture of amusement, wonder and sometimes disbelief, how other people categorize the books. I don’t much like the designation “Young Adult” because who ever thinks of him/herself as a young adult? I’m interested in adolescence and so that’s what I write about. My pigeon gets claustrophobic in a hole.
Ms Rosoff, thank you so much for chatting with us, and best of luck with the new book!
You can read more about the author and her books over at her website.