In this author spotlight, Samantha Mabry, author of Tigers, Not Daughters, shares her inspiration for the title of the new young adult novel and the most surprising part of writing the book.
Name (byline): Samantha Mabry
Literary agent: Claire Anderson-Wheeler at Regal Hoffman
Book title: Tigers, Not Daughters
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Expected release date: March 23rd, 2020
Genre/category: Young adult contemporary with elements of magical realism
Elevator pitch for the book (1-2 sentence pitch): A year after the death of their oldest sister, the Torres sisters are working through their grief while unlocking the mysteries of their haunted house.
Previous titles (if any) by the author: A Fierce and Subtle Poison (2016), All the Wind in the World (2017, National Book Award Longlist)
What prompted you to write this book?
The title came first, actually. It’s from King Lear, and after I’d heard it spoken during a performance of Shakespeare in the Park and used there as such a biting insult against Lear’s daughters, I was determined to write a story in which the phrase could be shifted to a compliment or as empowering in some way.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process? (Explain.)
To answer this question, I looked back through old files, and the earliest document with “TIGERS” in the title is from late 2017, which can’t possibly be right. It feels like I’ve been thinking about this novel, especially the opening pages of it, for forever. Everything changed so much during the process. So much! I’d always had the sisters and the ghost, but I didn’t know the best way to tell the story as a whole. Eventually, I landed on each of the (living) sisters having chapters devoted to their individual points of view, but since that seemed like the most difficult way to execute the story, I’d tried hard to avoid it for a while. This novel was tricky to get right. Oftentimes, I’m still like, “Are we sure it’s finished?”
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? (Explain.)
I’d had the first 100 or so pages of Tigers, Not Daughters written for a long time, and was stuck on what to do after that. I knew how the sisters were grieving. I knew what they each wanted from the ghost of their oldest sister, but I didn’t know what the ghost wanted, which I realize is kind of a key element of a ghost story. I always knew this wasn’t a true horror novel or a straight-up scary story, but things didn’t really click together until I thought of it as a love story between three siblings who you might, at first, think don’t have a lot of love for each other.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
This question is so hard for me to answer because I don’t necessarily like to think of my books as instructional in any way. I’m concerned mostly with getting the story right, and then whatever readers want to take from it is up to them. What I suppose I’ve hoped to do with this book is show the multi-faceted nature of grief and how there isn’t one way to process that emotion. I write for young people. I am an only child, and in general an isolated person. When I was teenager, books revealed to me how small my world was, and how my view of things wasn’t the only view of things. I appreciated that, and hope I can perhaps do the same for others.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
All of my advice is stolen from other writers! I heard Lauren Groff once say something along the lines of how the only real difference between someone who has written a book and someone who hasn’t, is the willingness to “do the work.” It’s helpful for me to approach writing as work and not some grand creative endeavor.
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