Patricia McCormick - Author Picture

Patricia McCormick - Author

Patricia McCormick is an award-winning writer and journalist. She travelled to India and Nepal for her research, where she interviewed the women of Calcutta’s 'red light' district and girls who have been rescued from the sex trade.

Q&A with Patricia McCormick
1. The research you undertook in order to bring a subject that is a serious global crisis to its audience was clearly incredibly detailed. Did you also find it tremendously harrowing as you delved deeper and discovered the true extent of Nepali girls being sold into slavery?

I went over to India armed as a journalist and I think I was able to keep a scrim between what I was seeing in the brothels and what I was feeling. I would go back to my hotel each night, though, and tremble - with rage, with sadness and sometimes with fear. (I was followed home once or twice and witnessed a beating that upset me terribly.) But I was determined not to cry, to just keep on collecting the information that would give the book its authenticity. I was also shocked by the primitive conditions in which many Nepalis live and the squalor of the brothels. The experience changed me; I feel now that I am as much an activist as I am a writer.

2. Sold is told in a very original and unusual voice, in the style of spare and evocative vignettes, rather than in chapter form. As a consequence each scene – often just a page or two - has a real page-turning quality about it. Did you plan to write it in this style rather than in chapters before you began or did it happen once you’d begun the writing of it?

I started writing the book in small scenes because, initially, it was too daunting to imagine that I could tell Lakshmi’s entire story. Once I had a

3. It was very brave of you to write, what is a horrific story, for a teenage audience, but we salute you for doing so. This should be required reading, not just for teenagers but adults as well. What was your original inspiration and catalyst for writing the story of Lakshmi?

In the past year or so, the trafficking of children has gotten a good deal of media attention. But nearly five years ago, when I had a chance meeting with a photographer who was working undercover to document the presence of young girls in brothels overseas, I knew immediately that I wanted to do what no one else had done so far: tell this heartbreaking story from the point of view of one individual girl. I believe that young adults want to know what’s happening to their peers on the other side of the world, but that media accounts, by their very nature, cannot usually go beyond the surface. To me, there is nothing more powerful- or permanent- than the impact of a book.

4. What were the challenges of bringing Lakshmi’s story to life?

Perhaps the biggest challenge was not to let the sadness of the situation overwhelm me. When I first came home from India, I fell into a despair unlike anything I’d ever felt before- something I now understand was a delayed reaction to the suffering I’d witnessed. Moreover, I felt inadequate to the task of doing justice to the stories the women had entrusted to me. But when I thought about the young girls who might be recruited to take their places as the women became ill or died, what I felt was urgency- urgency that their experiences be known and understood by the outside world. And I began to write. It was also a challenge to keep the book from being too grim, and to keep Lakshmi’s humanity alive in a believable way. It was important to remember that, in even the grimmest of situations, there is kindness as well as cruelty, terror as well as boredom, and even, surprising as it may seem, humour.

5. Who are your favourite writers and how have they inspired your work?

I loved Lousia May Alcott's Little Women, in part, because the main character, Jo, is determined to be a writer. I also loved This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff; it's such a story of alienation and escape. I love Carson McCuller's Member of the Wedding because it captures the outsider status so perfectly. And I love Carolyn Coman's books, all of them, because they are both beautiful and compassionate. (funny at times, too.)

6. What advice can you give would-be children’s authors in getting published?

Unplug. Spend a little time each day away from your Ipod, your computer, your TV and just see what imaginative ideas YOU have when you're not listening to the imaginative creations of others.

Featured Books, with extracts, by Patricia McCormick

Patricia McCormick
A powerful novel written in vignettes about a Nepalese girl who risks everything for a chance to reclaim her life from the depths of childhood prostitution. Endorsed by Amnesty International UK this title was also a finalist for the US...
Lovereading Price: £6.39 - Saving £1.60 (20%) Featured in: 13+ readers
Format: Paperback | Released 02/06/2008
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