Mara Madness Blog Tour & Author Interview - Michelle Hodkin

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I read a lot of books, but sometimes there is a book that stands head and shoulders above the rest in its genre. Recently for me, that book was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. I've been raving about it since I finished, so I was SO excited to be asked to participate in the awesome tour coordinated by Cindy from Books Complete Me. So, I had the great honour and privilege of interviewing the lovely much fun! Be sure to visit all the tour stops to see the other awesome features they have in store for you! 

An Interview with Michelle Hodkin

1. Describe The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer in five words or less, please!

Dark, sexy, disturbing psychological thriller.

2. Part of what I loved most was the fact that Mara was still a bit of a mystery to me after the entire book. Did you intend for the reader to have a full grasp on her character, or did you want to make her a bit hazy?

What I wanted was for Mara to feel real, like someone who actually exists. And real people are complicated—we sometimes laugh when we want to cry, we might insult someone we actually want to kiss. Real people change. What’s challenging and beautiful about the YA perspective is that it captures the age when people become who they really are. In THE UNBECOMING, I wanted readers to witness the very beginning of that process for a girl when she starts to realize she isn’t necessarily who she thought she was. And by the end of the series, my hope is that readers will have a more fully realized sense of not just who she is, but who she isn’t. For now, though, readers are limited because Mara’s own self-knowledge in THE UNBECOMING isn’t that extensive yet. What you know is what Mara knows, and Mara knows some things but not everything, and that was very much intentional.

3. Noah Shaw pretty much stepped out of every girl's fantasy...where in the world did he come from, and how in the world can we expect more from him in book two?

To tell you the truth, once I knew who Mara was, which happened in the span of an hour or two before I began writing the book, I knew who Noah had to be. For better or worse, I couldn’t have written him differently, for reasons that will become apparent later.

Speaking of later, I really, really can’t tell you anything about the sequel yet, even though I’m dying to share it, but I can say that Noah is very much in it.

4. Speaking of book two...when can we expect to start hearing, perhaps, the title?

I don’t know! But I do think it more information will probably start filtering out after THE UNBECOMING is released…

5. There are annoying, cloying cliffhangers, and then there is the aptly titled "Cliffhanger of Doom" that we see in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. How did you know that was the right moment to end the book?

Oh, cliffhangers. I have to tell you, as a reader, I suffer just as much as the next person when the series books I adore end with cliffhangers! And actually, I went through a few different endings for THE UNBECOMING before settling on the ending it does have. The bottom line was that the other endings didn’t work; either they ended at an earlier point in the story’s timeline, leaving even the central question of the novel—whether something is happening to Mara Dyer—unresolved, or they ended at an even later point, which would have resolved some questions but would have introduced many, many more (and would have led to the book becoming a 700-800 page monster). THE UNBECOMING ended the way it had to, so while it’s tough for readers who are dying to know what’s next—and thank GOODNESS for you guys! I’m so glad you care!—there’s really no other way it could have been written.

6. Your writing is equal parts conversational and descriptive. How do you choose to balance the two, and does it affect how you paint a character or a scene?

I kind of love this question, because for better or worse, my novels start as rough screenplays; I write most of the dialogue first and then fill it in with description. In some cases, I’ve even developed scenes out of bits of dialogue that I found myself writing. It makes me super happy to know that you find the novel descriptive because I always worry about not being descriptive enough.

For THE UNBECOMING, my first readers were helpful in letting me know when the balance was off. In an early draft of the book, I hadn’t even described Croyden, Mara’s new school. I remember the moment and the email from my youngest brother telling me I had to include that. Since then, I think I’ve become better able to tell when I’m going overboard in one way or another. At least, I hope so! And I’m glad you liked the balance :D

7. It's a cliche a question, but what (if anything) sparked the idea of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer?

The very short answer is that was inspired by true events. The long answer is going to be posted on when it goes live.

8. In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, you give the reader enough to set a scene and get to know the characters, but you somehow keep us from knowing too much. How do you filter what information you give the reader and when you do so?

This is always a really difficult balance to strike, but one of the things I tried very hard to do was to stay painstakingly, firmly in Mara’s perspective throughout the whole novel. Every observation is colored from her point of view—how she views her mother, her school, Rachel, her brothers, Noah, the weather—everything. Because every human being sees the world and the people in it differently; we view everything that happens to us through a unique lens, and we process the information we learn from what we see in our own way. In that way, we’re all unreliable narrators; if someone asks me what brussel sprouts are, and I answer “a disgusting vegetable,” that’s a highly subjective opinion and one that can’t necessarily be trusted. So to, if someone asks Mara about needles, she won’t give you the same answer that an acupuncturist would. And if you ask her about Anna, a girl at school she thinks isn’t so nice, she’d be likely to give you a very different answer than Anna’s mother would.

Which is why the events that occur in the plot unfold the way that they do—everything that happens colors and affects Mara’s perspective, which affects the way she tells her story. An example: there’s an exchange between Mara and her older brother, Daniel, at one point in the novel where Mara starts to bemoan how easy everything is for him and how he’s going to get accepted to every internship he applies to. And Daniel basically calls her out for not working as hard as she should to get the same results. Does Mara see it that way? No. But Daniel’s right anyway; sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge the more unflattering aspects of our personalities…and sometimes we overacknowledge them, and emphasize them. And because of that, I think that everything that is and isn’t included in her telling says a lot about her without explicitly telling the reader what to think. That was was my hope, anyway.

9. If you can only pick one character in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer to be your favourite, who would you choose, and why? (If you choose Noah, I will fight you for him, and yes, I bite.)

I could never pick just one—that would be like picking a favorite pet or a favorite child! But I always enjoy writing Daniel, Joseph, and Jamie. They don’t give me trouble the way Mara and Noah often do—though I love them just as much.

10. My token throwaway question - Michelle, is there anything you'd like to tell your readers?

Thank you for picking up this very strange story. Thank you for talking about it. It means more to me than I can can say.

Now, for those of you that didn't know, each tour stop is posting a letter or character that makes a complete phrase from the book. It's a very important phrase, but even if you haven't read the book, you should be able to figure this one out. Click on the links to each post to find the correct letter and once you have the phrase figured out, fill out THIS FORM. Ends 9/30 at midnight. So, without further ado, my letter is...

Be sure to click HERE to check out all the tour stops and collect all the letters to earn your chance to win! If you've already forgotten, click HERE to fill out the form! Good luck!


  1. Ooh, I'm curious to find out what "true event" sparked the idea for MARA DYER! And yay for more Noah in book two! Loved that boy to bits! :)
    Thanks for the interview!

  2. I'm excited to read this. I like that she made Mara into a "real" person - one who can't easily be figured out. It will be interesting to see her character develop.

  3. Awesome interview. I am so excited about this book and am impatiently awaiting my pre-order. I love that Michelle talks about writing the book's dialogue first in a type of screen play format and will remember this as I read.

  4. Wow! What a great interview. I really enjoyed it, and this book sounds great!

  5. Great interview! I can't wait to read more about Noah!

  6. AHHHHHH I LOVED THIS BOOK! And I absolutely adore Michelle, she is one of the sweetest and nicest people ever. I need Mara 2 like I need air, I have so many questions I want answered and I need more Noah time. Lots more Noah time. Thanks so much for this interview Melissa and Michelle, you both rock.

  7. Oh wow, I had no idea the book was sparked by a true event. Now I'm even more curious to read this book. Great interview, Melissa!

  8. I'm so excited for this books upcoming release! And I'm very curious now what the true event was that inspired the book.

    Great interview! :)

  9. This is a fantastic interview! She did a great job of thoroughly explaining her answers, I like that. And I find it fascinating that she starts with dialogue and fills in the descriptions later.

  10. Cliffhanger of doom o_O Ok now I am scared...

    Great interview :)

  11. Great questions, Melissa. Though I haven't read Mara yet, I love the thorough answers Michelle Hodkin rewarded us with.

  12. I am in love with the title. Unbecoming is such a cool word. *Shivers!* It's great to find out even even more about Mara and what Michelle is planning for her to go through.
    I'll fight you for Noah too!

  13. I just ordered this yesterday, and I can't wait to read it! Great interview :)

  14. I'm finishing up this book now and becoming hesitate cause of this "cliffhanger of doom" stuff...Im so worried. LOL great interview and questions!

  15. I have read other reviews that say it is hard to explain this book, and I agree. It is captivating, creepy, mysterious, sexy, funny, fast paced, etc. I usually love dystopian series like Divergent and Hunger Games and Delirium, but this for me is a close 2nd behind Divergent. I read it in 3 days and absolutely loved it. So unique. Was blown away.

    Zaira Lynn (Cash Advance Company)


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