One of the best parts about being in the League is the chance to read advance copies of each other's books and then talk directly to the author about them! So recently, I had a chance to pick Julia's mind about XVI, and here's what I discovered!
Where did you come up with the idea for XVI?
The initial idea for XVI was a random imaginary picture that popped into my brain. It was a teen girl walking down the street of a big city, ear buds in as she tried to block out the cacophony of noises. She stepped over a homeless person, passed out on the street. And then, she turned around - not willing to be oblivious to others any more. That was the beginning. The story itself morphed out of that.
Do you think the world of XVI--with 'verts blaring everywhere, sex treated as an expectation of girls above a certain age, and a class system based on rank--is a possibility in our own future? What do you think exists now that might one day become the world of XVI?
Unfortunately, I do think it’s a possibility for our future. We have a rapidly declining middle class. The rich are getting ultra-rich and the poor are, indeed, getting poorer. We’re heading to a two-class system of haves and have-nots. That’s one thing.
Tom Ford layout in French Vogue - but, it is basically the sexualization of young (5 to 8 year old) girls. How anyone could consider that okay is beyond me. But, here’s the thing, and this is what makes me think the world of XVI could happen... mothers and fathers allowed their daughters to be displayed that way. Just as young girls get all decked out for pre-pre-teen beauty pageants and the like. One only has to walk through a shopping mall to see girls under twelve wearing tight, revealing clothes that have no business on a teen, let alone a child. Oh dear... ranting, aren’t I? Let’s not even talk about baby bootie high heels. Gah!
In XVI, the people are classified in levels or ranks based on their economic, academic, and employment level. It's very hard for people to break into a higher class--one reason why there's pressure on girls to join FELS. Do you think this is currently happening in our society today (or is a possibility for the future)?
Again, I think it’s a possibility. With the cost of a college education rising at a rapid pace, many families will not be able to afford to send their children to a traditional college. Scholarships will go to the star students – standouts in their studies and/or sports. Technical and two-year colleges will pick up some of the slack. Those students, traditionally, go into service industries – lower paying jobs. Back down to the haves and have-nots. Class separations begin in areas like this.
In XVI, girl are forced to get a tattoo labeling them as 16 years old (and available for sexual encounters). Men seem to have the upper-hand in this society--if a girl is an XVI, she's expected to be willing and even eager to participate in sex. The book drops us in medias res and we don't really know about the origins of this attitude and practice, but could you tell us a little bit about how the world came to be here? What happened in Nina's world's history that made society place such an emphasis on sexuality in girls?
There was a point where the Fems, in a bid to end wars forever, revolted and ended up ruling the western world. The pendulum of power tipped to the female side. But, because there wasn’t an equal balance between men and women, that same pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Men in charge of the media and big business waged a subtle, all-out psychological war against the women. The end result being – in an effort to prove their desirableness to men – they ended up giving away all their power. Of course, that focus on women being sexually desirable above all else had to be perpetuated. And, girls reaching maturity could not be allowed to really think for themselves, lest the Fems of the past be revived.
I thought that Sandy and Nina were two sides of a coin--Sandy embraced the XVI world, and Nina was uncertain of it. Why do you think these two girls are so different--how did their different view points develop? And why did they become such close friends anyway?
Geography played a lot in their becoming friends. When Nina’s mother moved her family out to Cementville, Sandy lived in the house next door to them. And, Sandy’s really a sweet, fun girl. Of course, they developed so differently because of their mothers. Nina’s mother didn’t trust the government and didn’t believe girls were nothing but sex objects. Sandy’s mother was desperate for Sandy to either get into FeLS or get married to a higher tier. She was constantly encouraging Sandy to practice being desirable. Nina’s mother was just the opposite.
Some reviewers have said that XVI is pro-abstinence. Was that your intent with the novel? What is your position on abstinence?
It was my intent to write a story, not take a stand on issues. As far as abstinence goes... well, it hasn’t worked so well for a lot of people, has it?
My position is that teens should be educated about sex. What it is, why it is, what can happen if you have sex, how to be safe, and how to say no, and to understand that no means no. All the ramifications of becoming sexually active should be right out there for girls and guys to understand. Teens are constantly being bombarded with images on TV, in movies, and on-line about sexuality – not to mention that their bodies are a mass of raging hormones. I personally think it’s unrealistic to think that abstinence is the only answer. There’s just too much going on physically, mentally and emotionally for teens to be able to make good decisions regarding sex – UNLESS they are making their decisions from an educated and (to them) moral place.
Can you tell us a little about the sequel to XVI coming out next year?
The sequel, tentatively titled “The Sisterhood,” is a continuation of Nina’s world and what happens when the FeLS scandal breaks loose (including “all hell” with it.)
I was fascinated with the lives of your side characters. Mike's sister is mentioned only for a few pages, but I felt as much sympathy with her as I do with some of the other larger characters' fates. Will we be seeing her in the sequel?
Yes. Mike’s sister, Joan, definitely plays a part in the sequel.
What one theme or lesson or idea do you hope readers get from XVI?
I would hope that readers of XVI would stop for a minute and think, really think, about the way girls are viewed in our society. They should be cherished in their childhood and allowed to become adults at their own pace – not at the pace of corporate bottom lines.
I hope you all enjoyed learning more about the world of XVI as I did! I have to say, I find it fascinating to learn about the history of the world and of Nina in particular, and I, for one, agree entirely with Julia's stance about education over abstinence. Do you have any other burning questions for Julia?