In The Mark, Cassie sees a light glow surrounding certain people and desperately seeks out the meaning behind this unique and disturbing ability. How did the idea for The Mark evolve from a tiny spark to full length novel?
When the idea of knowing it was someone’s last day hit me, I saw right away the dilemmas it would present and knew how it would manifest – the mark, even some of the scenes that’d play out all at the same time. With the “right” choice such a clear theme, philosophy seemed a natural layer to the story. So, the path of the story formed fairly quickly, without a whole lot of evolution. Writing it took a bit longer…
Do you have a favorite scene, quote or passage within The Mark that you could share with us?
Well, avoiding spoilers, I’ve always kind of liked this one:
I doodled Cassandra Canton in my notebooks, liking the alliterative sound of it whispered aloud, then quickly scribbled it out before Lucas could see that I wasn’t the deep thinker he took me for, but just a silly schoolgirl after all.
The setting of the book alternates in Pennsylvania, where you hail from, and then switches to the Midwest, when Cassie travels to Kansas. Was there a reason in particular you chose to transplant Cassie into Kansas?
Actually, no. I use “placeholders” when I write – just picking a character’s name or city or whatever – off the top of my head as I’m writing so I don’t disturb the flow of getting the story on paper. Later, I’ll go back, think about it and choose a more appropriate name or city. In this case, I wanted her far from home and quick-picked the middle of the country as my placeholder. I ended up changing the town’s name, but didn’t see any reason to move her to another state so Kansas it was.
Cassie’s relationships with other characters in the book, especially Lucas and Nan were very vivid and realistic. Did you draw from your own experiences or people in your life when constructing the characters within The Mark?
I really didn’t. I don’t know anyone like either of those characters – or any of the others in the book - wouldn’t even say they’re composites of people I know. Where I think I do draw on my experience in how my characters act. Especially with Cassie, I put myself in her head a lot and as a result, she does a lot of stuff I probably would in the same situations.
Cassie enrolls in an intro philosophy course and speaks with a psychiatric professional in order to gain some insight and guidance into her ability. Did you do a lot of research in these areas when writing the book?
I’ve always been fascinated with mental disorders and have read a fair amount about them so I just had a psychiatrist friend and my mom, who’s a nurse, check those parts.
I did have to read a lot of philosophy – lots more than made it into the book. There were whole class lessons that I ended up deleting, but I think it got my head in the right place.
Cassie struggles with whether to tell people about the mark and is subsequently conflicted by the ramifications of her choices. Can you talk more about the questions of ethics, fate and happiness that are explored in The Mark?
IMO, the stuff Cassie thinks about is just good to consider from time to time. It’s very easy to live life by rote, but we only get a certain number of days and doing a double-check of our choices – big and small - every now and then is a good exercise.
How you think you’d handle seeing the mark if you were in Cassie’s shoes? Would you tell people?
Just like she does – I’d be just as unsure of the right choice.
At this time, are you planning on writing a sequel to The Mark? If so, will we see more of the smaller, but interesting characters like Drea and Petra? Can you tell us about any other projects you are working on?
There is a completed un-contracted sequel to The Mark that's with my Bloomsbury editor now and Petra does re-appear in it, as do some other characters. I have two other YA novels in early stages, one paranormal and one dytopian.
Thanks Jen for taking the time to stop by! Be sure to check back tomorrow for your chance to win an ARC of The Mark and swag!
Jen Nadol grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, the hometown of John Updike, Taylor Swift, and the now-defunct Monopoly railroad. She has a BA in literature from American University and has lived in Washington DC, Boston, and New York City. She currently resides in a 150-year-old farmhouse in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and three young sons and is at work on her next two related novels. She has no paranormal abilities and is pretty happy about that.