The words “young adult literature” usually conjure up images of Katniss Everdeen, your once long love affair with The Twilight series and maybe even Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. While most my associate young adult literature with our guilty pleasure books that are really aimed at sixteen-year-olds, YA literature is aimed at college students too, and if done right, it can be a coming of age story for all ages.
One of the latest YA books to be published that should be read by women from fourteen to twenty-four is The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. If you haven’t read it yet, go grab it and read it over a nice cup of coffee or cozied up in bed on a night in. If you have read it, you know how important this novel is when it comes to today’s rape culture. Not only will the book make you feel empowered to be a woman (for more empowering books check these out: here), but it will also give you a lot to think about regarding tough topics such as sexual violence, rural poverty, female friendships, and relationships, and how we view women in today’s society.
But behind every strong female novel, there is a strong female author, which is the case of this book. Mindy McGinnis graduated from Otterbein College with a BA in English and Religion and still lives in Ohio as a YA librarian and has published five books. I got a chance to talk to Mindy about being a female author as well as her inspiration and feelings about this very powerful novel.
The LaLa: What made you want to become an author? How has this career fulfilled you?
McGinnis: I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but it’s not an easy path to follow. It took me ten years to get an agent, so there were many times when the frustrations outweighed the victories. I considered quitting more than once, but the stories in my head never stopped, so I figured I may as well write them.
Do you see any differences being a woman in the writing world? How do you combat these differences?
There are differences. In general, it’s similar to any other profession – white males get bigger advances, more marketing money (this is generally speaking, of course, but overall it does pan out as true). What I notice the most though is readers assuming that because I am a woman, boys will not like my books. [Some of my] most avid fans are males, which is something I enjoy telling people.
In The Female of the Species, you tackle so many hard subjects: trauma, abuse, rape, drugs, sex, and more. What made you feel compelled to tell this story? Especially aimed at young adults?
Because that’s the reality of their lives. I worked in a high school for fifteen years, and I was a teen not too terribly long ago. Not all teens live like this, of course, but too often I see tough subjects handled with kid gloves so as not to offend anyone. I knew if I was going to write a book about rape culture I needed to do so unapologetically in order for it to be honest.
Given the time that we live in and the statistics that a character states in the book, the topic of sexual assault is something that needs to be addressed and talked about. How do you think a novel is a good vehicle to drive these conversations?
I think it’s good for both genders to read, which is why I included a male POV in the book. I’ve had male readers tell me that the book was a “slap in the face” for them, in a good way, a wake-up call. For female readers, I want them to take away that fellow women are not the enemy – this is something society has bred into us. We see other females as competition, not as human beings that may need our help in any given situation. Women are just as guilty [of] dehumanizing other women as men are, and that’s a conversation that I hope this book can begin among fellow females.
A lot of your stories are set in rural Ohio, where you come from. Why do you set most of your stories there? Is it because it is familiar, or is it something else about rural America that you think needs to be said?
Good question. Rural poverty is something not often addressed. When poverty is mentioned, urban areas are what comes to mind. And while both areas suffer, they struggle in very different ways. The rural setting has its unique beauties, but it can have an ugliness as well. That’s something I wish to continue to convey in my writing.
There’s a big ethics struggle that Alex (the main female character) goes through in the novel. Was your intention to have us root on Alex or to be conflicted by the acts that she had done?
I go into it with no intention for how the reader feels because Alex wouldn’t care what people think of her actions, either. She’s doing what she feels is necessary and justified, in the face of what society expects of her.
What do you hope readers take away from The Female of the Species?
A better understanding of humanity, for both genders.
Is there anything else in the works for you? (bookwise or any other projects)
Yes! 2017 and 2018 are going to be big years for me! I have two books coming out both years. Given to the Sea is my first in a fantasy duo that will be released 4/11/17, and then a psychological thriller titled This Darkness Mine releasing 10/10/17. In 2018 the sequel to the fantasy duo will release in the spring, and then in the fall, I have another contemporary coming from Harper Collins. So yes, lots and lots going on!