Author Interview: Robin Kirk

Photo by Jenny Warburg

Today I am interviewing Robin Kirk, author of the new YA fantasy novel, The Mother’s Wheel, final book in the The Bond Trilogy. She teaches human rights at Duke University, where she also started a class on speculative fiction and human rights.

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DJ: Hi Robin! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Robin Kirk: Thank you for having me! Briefly, I’ve always been a writer and enjoy working in many genres: fiction, essays, poetry, opeds, etc. But the genre I love best is speculative fiction especially when it engages young people. Some of my best reading experiences have been as a kid devouring science fiction and fantasy.

DJ: What is The Mother’s Wheel and then the The Bond Trilogy about?

Robin: One day, my daughter asked me why I wasn’t writing books for kids. At the time, I was a full time researcher for Human Rights Watch and covered Peru and Colombia. The kinds of stories I was hearing, I thought, really weren’t appropriate for kids (even for most adults, to be frank). But then my daughter told me that I had to read her current favorite book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I was utterly blown away. Here was a YA book written by Death, during the Holocaust. And it was one of the most beautiful and exciting stories I’ve ever read, for young people and for adults. The Book Thief made me want to write about human rights for kids in a powerful way that used story to get at tough issues. On a long walk down a mountain, I started to wonder if I could write about genocide, when one group sets out to exterminate another. I wondered how I could do that in a way that many readers would accept. In other words, I wanted readers, at least at first, to kind of support genocide, as often happens in the real world. What group of people, I thought, had done a lot of damage to the world and would be easy to “sell” as the targets of genocide? Well, the answer came pretty easily: men. Men have done a lot of harm, including starting most of the wars. That’s essentially the story of The Bond and the dilemma my heroine, Dinitra, faces. Get rid of men and guarantee peace? Or acknowledge that men are human and, like women, capable of both good and evil. In Book 2, The Hive Queen, I wanted to make these ideas more complicated by really humanizing males and making them more sympathetic. I switched narrators, to the character Fir, a male warrior who Dinitra falls in love with in The Bond. He was genetically engineered for one purpose, to fight under his mother’s command. But he wants to free himself and free his brothers. That journey puts him in the path of the Hive Queen, Odide, a beautiful and dangerous mutant, or draft. The story of how he copes with that and finds his way back to Dinitra sets up Book 3, The Mother’s Wheel. A third narrator takes charge, a mutant frog-human named Sil. The real question in The Mother’s Wheel is who gets to be human–who gets that dignity and respect? And what does having a family mean when we are all constructs of one sort or another? That’s an especially important question at a time when we are seeing humans that are increasingly “engineered”: through IVF, gene therapy, modern medicine, bionics, etc.

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