Author Spotlight: Zoje Stage talks Baby Teeth
I'm so excited to be hosting Zoje Stage on the blog today! Zoje is an amazing author whose debut is about to blow you out of the water! BABY TEETH is a tense, psychological thriller that has been compared to the likes of Gone Girl and We Need to Talk About Kevin. The book released yesterday to mega reviews (a few of which are listed below!), so if thrillers are your thing, you're definitely going to want to pick this one up!
One of Entertainment Weekly’s Must-Read Books for July
“A wholly original and terrifically creepy story.” ―Refinery29
One of PopSugar's "25 Must-Read Books That Will Make July Fly By!"
A Barnes and Noble Blog Best Thriller for July!
One of the "Biggest Thrillers of the Summer" ―SheReads
“Summer 2018 Must-Read” ―Bookish
“Best Summer Reads for 2018” ―Publishers Weekly
“One of 11 Crime Novels You Should Read in July” ―Crime Reads
“A twisty, delirious read” ―EntertainmentWeekly.com
“New & Noteworthy” ―USA Today
“A deliciously creepy read.” ―New York Post
And now, here's my chat with Zoje!
Hi, Zoje! Welcome and congrats on the release of Baby Teeth. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you! BABY TEETH explores what happens when a mute, manipulative seven-year-old girl takes advantage of her mother's perceived weaknesses. It's told in dual POV, so we see the girl's creative thinking and her somewhat naïve view of the world, as well as the mother's sense of guilt and failure as she struggles to find help for her increasingly dangerous daughter. It was inspired by the "bad seed" trope, but is handled in a very realistic way: what would a family do if they seriously started to believe their child was a psychopath? The original concept was based on a screenplay I'd written many years ago, and while certain elements remain, the process of really developing the characters changed the entire focus of the story.
Baby Teeth is told from two extremely different POVs. How hard was it for you to switch gears between Hanna and Suzette?
I think the fact that they are so different actually made it easier. Suzette always thinks like a more or less rational adult, albeit one who is a little insecure about her own self-worth. Hanna is just the opposite: supremely confident in her belief that she is "right," and quite irrational in how she interprets the world.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Maybe it's because I'm a pantser, but I find revisions to be quite difficult. My brain is better at being immersed in something and following my intuition, rather than having to analyze bits & pieces while being "outside" of the story. I'm very fortunate in that my agent helps translate more abstract revision ideas into concrete elements that my brain can process.
Tension is the lifeblood of every psychological thriller. What are your tips to manipulate it to keep readers engaged?
Always have things that are unresolved, and continually introduce new questions, doubts, or obstacles.
And (of course) I’m obligated to ask about Pitch Wars since you and I were both in the 2016 Class! 😊 How do you feel like the experience prepared you for the rigors of publishing?
I was struggling with the revision process before Pitch Wars, and it was definitely something I felt I needed to experience on a more professional level in order to have the confidence to keep pursuing my publishing goals. So, even though revisions still make me squirm a bit, it helped to go through it with a mentor, and see the end results. It was crucial to learn that even if the process is hard, it can be done – and worth the effort in the end.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Baby Teeth teach you?
BABY TEETH was my sixth novel, and I'd been consciously trying to improve my craft from book to book. One of my main goals was to write something that was extremely readable, both in terms of flow of words on the page, and the reader's desire to keep turning those pages. BABY TEETH "worked" in the way I wanted it to work, so I guess the most important thing I learned was that Practice Makes Perfect is truly not a cliché.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I cannot get enough of British mysteries and police procedural shows, like: Happy Valley, Unforgotten, The Fall, Broadchurch, Scott & Bailey – all with great women leads and great acting! I don't write in that genre, but I love watching it – and reading authors like Gilly Macmillan and Tana French.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
Hmm… I think it would be something about having clarity, and being true to yourself. It really helps to have an idea of who you are as a writer – career-wise – including a vision for the types of relationships you hope to develop with your agent and publishing team. It was important to me to always feel free to be myself – in my writing, in my interactions – to ask a zillion questions, or be a bit of a weirdo.
Many thanks go out to Zoje for taking the time to tell us more about BABY TEETH, tackling revisions, and how practice makes perfect when it comes to writing. Be sure to add Zoje's hot new release o your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retail sites such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Or you can always request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,