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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview: Mara Purnhagen (Author of Tagged!)

Mara Purnhagen is a debut YA author. Her novel, TAGGED, is a quick and satisfying read filled with mysterious gorilla graffiti and a complicated love story.

Mara Purnhagen cannot live without a tall caramel latte, her iPod, or a stack of books on her night stand. She has lived in Aurora, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Dayton, Ohio and Duncan, South Carolina. She presently lives outside Cleveland, Ohio with her family and two cats.

Visit Mara's website for more information!
Give a short description or statement about TAGGED that will lure in readers.

Gorillas change Kate’s life in more ways than one.

What inspired the premise of TAGGED?
A British graffiti artist, a strange reality TV show, and my husband’s work bench.

TAGGED features a bit of a love story, in addition to the mystery at the forefront of the plot. Kate doesn’t end up with her love interest right away and there is some drama as well. Even after all has been explained, Kate doesn’t immediately swoon and fall into his arms; she can’t automatically forget about how she was hurt. I think this is refreshing in a YA novel, as it is more true to life than some other novels portray. Comments?
Relationships are messy, and I think if they don’t begin well there’s little chance that they will end well. Kate doesn’t have much experience, but she’s been burned once before and doesn’t want to go through that again. I wanted her to have the confidence to wait for something better than was being offered to her, to decide that she was worth a better beginning. The guy was right but the timing wasn’t, and she recognizes that.

I found the TAGGED’s characters to very realistic; the dialogue and motivations were very close to how my friends and I would interact. I am appreciative that you accomplished this without using pop culture references blatantly throughout the novel. How do you feel about the use of pop culture references in YA literature?
Often times, pop culture references draw me out of an otherwise great story. Sometimes it’s because I can’t relate to the reference. Other times it’s because the reference is so dated! For example, I was reading a book in which the main character was looking forward to the release of her favorite band’s newest CD. Instead of making up a band, the author chose to use a real one. The CD mentioned had been released three years before the book was published and the band itself was kind of a fleeting group. The end result was that the book felt out of touch. However, I do think there are ways to include pop culture without hurting the story. If you can make a particular obsession central to your character’s personality (say, a devoted Radiohead fan who quotes song lyrics every chance she gets), it can work.

Can you tell us anything about your next YA novels/projects?
I’m working on the third book in my Past Midnight series. The first book will be released on September 1, and I’m finishing final edits on it now. I submitted Book 2 last week. The series revolves around Charlotte Silver, whose parents are paranormal investigators. They debunk ghost stories for a living. No one in the family believes in ghosts—until something happens to Charlotte that they can’t explain.

The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. What place, person, or activity is your personal hiding spot?
When my house feels crowded, I try to escape to my local library, which is sunny and comfortable and the ideal place for me to read—except when someone’s cell phone goes off.

Thank you, Mara!

For more information about TAGGED, visit GoodReads and Amazon!


  1. Great interview. Mara seems to have a good sense of humor. Her new series sounds interesting!


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