Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and YA author Carolyn Cohagan is embracing the message of gender equality. YEM sat down with Cohagan to discuss her newest novel Time Next, book two in the Time Zero series. Cohagan discussed the process of writing her latest novel, and how a strong, female lead can impress both male and female readers.
Young Entertainment Mag: What makes 2018 the right time for novels like Time Next?
Carolyn Cohagan: Movements like #MeToo have shown that we still have a long way to go before women are treated as true equals in this country. Time Next is an entertaining read that engages teen girls while also teaching them how dangerous societal misogyny can be. I think it’s a great time for novels that empower girls and women.
YEM: How did you create the character of Mina?
CC: She started off as a little bit of me and a little bit of girls that I know, but as I got further into the first book, she took on a life of her own. Her circumstances and obstacles formed her.
YEM: Who are your writing influences?
CC: Ray Bradbury, Judy Blume, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, Roald Dahl, to name a few.
YEM: Why did you pick Manhattan as the setting for your novels?
CC: Two reasons: I lived in Manhattan for ten years and I know it well. Secondly, I wanted an iconic location so readers would recognize the settings and venues. I thought it would make the changes I made more visceral, like turning Central Park into cornfields and cutting off the head of the Statue of Liberty.
YEM: This book covers a lot of topics that are prevalent in today’s world. Was it challenging to write about them? Did you feel a responsibility to represent them in your writing?
CC: It was challenging in that I wanted to give proper representations. I did a lot of research, and my goal was to stick with reality as much as possible so that critics couldn’t say, “You’re exaggerating. Reality isn’t this bad.” Today more than ever it’s important to give readers information so that they can do their own critical analysis.
YEM: How did you craft this novel for a young adult audience? Was it challenging?
CC: Creating an authentic fifteen-year- old voice will always be challenging if you aren’t fifteen. I concentrate on the emotions and the things I remember most about being that age: the insecurity, the frustration, the passion. For this book, I also created slang that the local teens use, because every generation of kids redefines our vocabulary.
YEM: What’s next for Mina? Have you begun writing the next book in the trilogy?
CC: I have an outline for book three. That’s all I will say …
YEM: What is something you want readers to take away from this series?
CC: Never do something because you’re afraid that if you don’t, you will appear rude. Mina gets herself in trouble several times because she doesn’t want to appear unpleasant or impolite. Girls frequently put themselves in dangerous situations because they’re raised to always “be nice.” It’s time to put that rule to bed.
YEM: And finally, March 8 is International Women’s Day! The Time Zero series is written by a woman, about a woman, who deals with an issue that is common among many women. How does it feel to create a series with such significance for women?
CC: It feels great! However, I confess that one of my biggest thrills has been seeing boys read the series. I didn’t expect them to enjoy it as much as they do. Boys need to experience empathy with girls for society to make real changes.
Time Next and its predecessor, Time Zero, are available now!