Monday, January 19, 2015

I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner

Young Adult Fiction for Catholics

Corinna Turner has been writing since the age of 14 and has an MA in English from Oxford University. She has recently been admitted into the Dominican Order as a Lay Dominican at Oxford Blackfriars. She is the Editor of the award-winning Caritas parish magazine of the Catholic churches of St Gregory the Great and St Thomas More in Cheltenham. 
To give us a taster of what the novel has in store, I quote the back cover of her first book I Am Margaret: 'In Margo's world, if you don't pass your sorting at 18 you are recycled. Literally. Margaret Verrall dreams of marrying the boy she loves and spending her life with him. But she's part of the underground network of Believers - and that carries the death penalty. And there's just one other problem. She's going to fail her Sorting. But a chance to take on the system ups the stakes beyond mere survival. Now she has to break out of the Facility - or face the worst punishment of all. Conscious Dismantlement.'

Despite only being published in June, Corinna already has had some great reviews. Eoin Colfer, author of Artemis Fowl, declares the following: "Great style ... like The Hunger Games." And Stewart Ross, author of The Soterion Mission, has this to say: "An intelligent, well-written and enjoyable debut from a young writer with a bright future." And a review from someone not so famous - my husband - which he left on Amazon: "Something about this story manages to be both thought-provoking and utterly gripping. I think it's the strength of the main character which really drives the whole thing forward - I liked her straight away and never stopped caring about what she does, how she thinks and where she ends up. Loved it."

In the summer, Corinna was interviewed by the Catholic Truth Society's Catholic Compass Blog and we share some of the interview here.

CTS Compass: How did the idea for writing this come about?

Corinna: It started with a growing dissatisfaction with mainstream fiction. The mainstream fiction I was reading – and writing – seemed to have to obey an unwritten rule, ‘we don’t do God’. Especially ‘we don’t do Christianity’. As someone whose faith is central to their life, this was making mainstream fiction increasingly unsatisfying, to say nothing of it feeling very unrealistic. When the idea for ‘I Am Margaret’ stormed into my head in a dream during a retreat I decided I would go right ahead and write it just as I would write a mainstream novel – but with a Catholic heroine whose faith was integral to the story.

‘I Am Margaret’ has a certain thematic and stylistic similarity to mainstream novels such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’, but it takes a very different attitude to morality and faith plays an integral role in the book. The tone and pace of a mainstream Young Adult novel are combined with a totally Catholic attitude to life and to the challenges the characters face.

CTS Compass: What are your hopes for the book?

Corinna: I hope this novel will allow ‘churched’ teenagers who are reading (often spiritually and morally unwholesome) mainstream novels due to the lack of compelling Catholic alternatives to enjoy a gripping, page-turning read that actually reflects their world view rather than that of the secular world, and thus to nourish their faith whilst entertaining them to the same – if not greater! – degree.

CTS Compass: Do you think your title will appeal to wider audiences too?

Corinna: From the feedback I’ve had from non-Christian readers, I think those who find any mention of faith uncomfortable are never going to enjoy it, but I have had very positive feedback from people who are open to faith and to other people’s world views. So there definitely seems to be a wider appeal.

CTS Compass: Tell us a little about how you came to the Catholic Faith and what it has meant for your writing?

Corinna: I was raised in the Methodist church, confirmed as a teenager in the Anglican church and finally received into full communion with the Catholic Church just over four years ago. In the years leading up to my reception (and since then) I had tremendous growth in my spiritual life and began to develop a genuine relationship with God for the first time in my life. This had a direct influence on my reading and writing habits. The lack of faith in mainstream fiction began to really trouble and frustrate me, and I also became much pickier about what I read (or watched) – I’m now much less prepared to put up with gratuitous violence and offensive material. However, Richard Atkins from BBC Radio Gloucestershire remarked in a recent interview that ‘Christian Fiction can be rather twee… but there’s not a twee-ness about ‘I Am Margaret’, is there?’ – and there are certainly a number of scenes in ‘I Am Margaret’ that readers find quite challenging. Because personally, I don’t think people find ‘twee’ satisfying or stimulating – but the scenes are not excessively graphic. A scene can be gritty without being gory!

CTS Compass: In Margaret’s world why is it so important to be Catholic?

Corinna: For the same reason that it is so important to be a Catholic today. Because God loved us so much he died for us – Jesus is the way to God, the truth about everything and the life eternal! In the future world of ‘I Am Margaret’ the ‘Underground’ (the network of religious believers) does essentially have a monopoly on non-violent opposition to the status quo, but I don’t think many people would join them just for this reason because the punishments are too severe. [14th August 2014]

Although I Am Margaret is predominantly written for the young Catholic adult, the book and its subject have far wider appeal. It is suitable for readers from the age of 14 upwards. To find out more about the I Am Margaret series, to read the first chapter or watch the trailer video, go to The first two books are available to purchase as a paperback or as an ebook from,, Kobo, Barnes and Noble or any bookseller. The next book in the series to be published is the third book, Liberation, which is due out on the 15th March 2015.

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