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October 17, 2016

Chatting with Mindy McGinnis, Author of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES at Books by the Banks

By Bryn D.
Teen Board Member Bryn D. recently attended the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. This regional book festival is coming up on its 10th anniversary next year and is host to over a hundred authors for different events. It sure sounds like booknerd heaven! Bryn had the chance to sit down with Mindy McGinnis, author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK and most recently THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES. Find out about her upcoming releases and the books that inspired her to write in this post. 
In the midst of a bustling conference room at the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati, Ohio this past Saturday, a mystery perpetrator spilled Mindy McGinnis’s water all over her signing table while she was off talking with excited readers during a “V.I.P. visit.” Upon seeing this crime at her table, Mindy managed to have an entire interview with me while waving the white tablecloth up and down to dry it, a measure of her professionalism and calm-under-pressure attitude. And when the organizers brought her a broken down cardboard box to sign her books on, Mindy managed to make it look like that was how she had always wanted to sign her books. By the end of the interview, I forgot it was there, or that the spill had even occurred. Mindy proved to be a master storyteller, even when she was just answering my questions, just like her favorite childhood author: Stephen King.
Don’t worry, she wasn’t that young to be reading Stephen King. Mindy and I both agreed that 6th grade is not that early to begin reading about creepy clowns and psychotic hotel caretakers. She had to read Stephen King because when she was younger, they did not have the type of YA novels we have today. This early love of Stephen King even gave her the “freedom” to write the dark books she currently creates. “There was very little strong Middle Grade/ was like ‘I have a puppy and I love my puppy’...and I don’t write ‘I have a puppy and I love my puppy.’” From reading Stephen King, she liked seeing that it was “okay and even successful to write dark [novels].” Staying with the dark and twisted novel theme, Mindy is currently reading BLOOD FOR BLOOD by Ryan Graudin, a book that I cannot wait to get my hands on. BLOOD FOR BLOOD just came out a couple weeks ago, but there was another release, during her college years, that made a huge impact on Mindy and her writing.
The inspiration for THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES came from a documentary Mindy watched 17 years ago. The documentary was about a girl who had been raped, murdered, and left to rot in the woods. The rape and murder happened in a really small town, though, so everyone knew who did it, and they could not do anything about it. Mindy thought, “if I were not a [mentally] healthy person...they said the name of the town...they said the name of the guy...I could go kill him.” Then she thought, “Huh. Interesting idea.” Thus, the basis for THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES was born. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES was actually the first novel she ever wrote, her first published novel NOT A DROP TO DRINK, being the fifth. Although, Mindy says her original draft of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is only similar to the current published copy in the character names and title name. Now, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is her fourth published novel so far, with the fifth and sixth coming next year.  
GIVEN TO THE SEA, coming out in April 2017, is a fantasy novel about five characters caught between land and sea with politics, love, and a little war thrown in. The inspiration for it came from a movie McGinnis watched in the eighties called Ivanhoe (1982). A particular scene where a prince came to rescue a princess in a tower caught her eye. The princess thought the prince was coming to assault her, so she ran to the window and threatened to jump if he touched her. Even at six years old, McGinnis could tell this princess was a kickbutt character. This movie, coupled with the concept of genetic memory and wondering “What if sea levels never stopped rising?”, led to the creation of GIVEN TO THE SEA. Her sixth published novel, THIS DARKNESS MINE, comes out in Fall 2017. It is a psychological thriller, a genre that McGinnis excels in. It is a novelization of a short story she wrote in the anthology AMONG THE SHADOWS that came out in 2015. Another author in that anthology, Kate Karyus Quinn, a YA novelist, is McGinnis’s current favorite author. Because of McGinnis's two new novels coming out next year, she recently took a break from her job as a librarian at a high school. This Monday, though, she is going back to fill in for a little while. When she is not writing or working as a librarian, she reads as much as she can. “I read sixty books a year, roughly, sometimes more,” she says. McGinnis also loves listening to Modest Mouse, The Devil Makes Three, and basically everything but modern country music. When I asked if she listens to my favorite band, The Civil Wars, me and her table partner, LET’S GET LOST and NEVER ALWAYS SOMETIMES author Adi Alsaid, were quick to judge when she said no. Don’t worry, though: I think we convinced her to give them a listen.
Before she was a librarian, writer, reader extraordinaire, and anything-but-country-music listener, her first three jobs were in food service, farming, and then retail, a far cry from where she is today. Her farming roots trace back to where she was born, on a farm in Ohio. When I asked her what her favorite thing about Ohio is, she said, after much deliberation: “The feels.” As an Ohio girl, I can confirm this only makes sense if you have lived in Ohio. When I asked her for any tips for aspiring young authors worried about growing up in a rural area and wanting to be published one day, she said, it “doesn’t matter where you live.” I think Mindy McGinnis, with her Edgar award, four published novels, and two novels coming next year, is living proof. Even when a runaway water renegade tries to sabotage her day, she just keeps getting better.
You can check out my review of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES on the TeenReads website.
You can learn more about Mindy McGinnis and her novels at her website: