Monday, May 09, 2005

CHOOOSE 3 with Martha O'Connor

Martha O'Connor delves into the dark side of human nature, the intensity of female friendship and the possibilities of redemption in her literary debut, The Bitch Posse. The novel, which sold in only four days, has been garnering the kind of praise and attention that most first novelists fantasize about, including comparisons to the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Sebold and Donna Tartt.

By turns a department store clerk, waitress, latte-maker and eighth-grade teacher, Martha O'Connor now lives and writes fiction and poetry full-time in Marin County, California, with her husband, award-winning novelist and short story writer Philip F. O'Connor, and their children.

To learn more about Martha and The Bitch Posse, visit her website:

P.F. There are few bonds as intense as those between teenage girls, and few girls seem to escape those years without being singed by their heat.You've done an amazing job of conveying the fierce closeness and the pain that so many of us block out or forget as we reach adulthood. How were you able to access those emotions so convincingly?

M.O: As you probably can guess, I had some very strong friendships in high school, friendships that often got me through each day. And we don't often form relationships that intense and free as adults. I remember, though, what it was like, and I've gotten emails from readers in their thirties saying, "I thought no one remembered but me." So I know I'm not the only one who's felt this way.

While I was writing this novel, Amy, Rennie, and Cherry became my closest friends. They let me into their world, their thoughts, their experiences, and I used their language to transcribe what happened to them. The story just flowed out of me. That's never happened to me with a book before; it was truly a magical experience.

P.F. Your erotic scenes are very fresh and gorgeously written--enough to earn a nomination for the Henry Miller award. Did you experience any trepidation in writing so frankly, or did the words flow as naturally as they seem to?

M.O.: I realized early on that if I was going to explore these characters' lives honestly (particularly Rennie's), I would have to turn off all the censors. I just let the words pour out of me, and didn't think much about what people would say. Actually, I was convinced that no US publisher would have the balls to touch this book, so once I got to a certain point I said to myself, Hey, I can do anything! No one's watching.

In the end, I'm not a huge fan of the "fade the sex scene to black" approach. Sex is an extraordinarily powerful part of the human condition, yet many writers turn away. I find that studying each moment of the sexual experience is tremendously interesting. Not titillating~INTERESTING. We can gain so much insight into characters by watching the emotions and thoughts brought up during sex.

P.F.: 'The Bitch Posse' has been called "a dark novel," and it certainly tackles dark themes and events. But in the end I find it very hopeful and illuminating. Can you speak a little about that?

M.O.: You absolutely hit the nail on the head. In the end the novel is about redemption. None of us is perfect, and some of us make major mistakes and hurt other people. But we're all redeemable. I really believe that. And those human connections, like Amy, Rennie and Cherry have as part of The Bitch Posse, are sometimes the only things making life bearable, a lot of the time. It can be a really lonely and frightening journey, this Life thing. You have to do it all by yourself. But if you have people you can be REAL with, it's not so bad.

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