Mundie Moms

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Interview with Birth Marked author Caragh O'Brien

We are excited to have Caragh O'Brien, author of Birth Marked, with us today. Here's a little bit about her 2010 Debut book:

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Gaia carries an encoded ribbon from her parents, and its secrets hold vital information about certain advanced children who were "birthmarked" by tattoos. The Protectorat, who safeguards the population within the wall, needs Gaia’s code and its genetic counterpart to offset the hemophilia that plagues the Enclave.

Sgt. Grey, a young, handsome guard of the Enclave, is used by the Protectorat to manipulate Gaia and gain her cooperation with decoding the ribbon. As Sgt. Grey faces his own complicated past and Gaia recognizes the moral ramifications of her actions, they take desperate steps to escape.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code (quoted from Caragh's site).

How would you describe the world that Birthmarked is set in?

Let me first say thanks, Katie, for inviting me by. I’m really happy to be included on Mundie Moms. Birthmarked is set in a future, dystopian world after climate change, on the shore of Unlake Superior. I imagined a society divided by a wall, where those inside the Enclave still have electricity, technology, and ample water and food, while those outside live in essentially medieval conditions. Though it’s surrounded by wasteland, very dry and hot, I picture very colorful clothes and gardens inside the wall.

What do you admire most about your main character, Gaia?

It’s very cool that Gaia is a midwife, so I appreciate her skills, but most of all I admire her gutsy courage. When faced with awful situations, she does not hesitate to do what she thinks is right. I wish I could be more like her. I’m trying to be.

What inspired your dystopian story?

The first idea of the wasteland and a stressed society emerged from a cross-country road trip when I saw the drought in the southern states in January, 2008. I didn’t realize, at first, it would be dystopian. I let the characters evolve in ways that felt natural, and it seemed likely that the people of privilege would be careless about others who were less fortunate.

Do you have a favorite dystopian book?

My favorite dystopian book is Ayn Rand’s Anthem. What she does with “we” in that book absolutely dazzled me the first time I read it. I felt like she was playing with my mind at the same time that she was urging me to think for myself: a very odd experience.

If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I’d like to spend a day with Leon, but it wouldn’t work. He only opens up with Gaia, and I’m private, too, so we’d probably just shake hands politely and say hello, and then he’d want to get back to work and I’d want to come home to write about him.

Thanks again, Katie. This was fun!


Thank you Caragh for spending some time with us today!! If you'd like to learn more about Birth Marked, please visit Caragh's site here-


  1. This sounds excellent. I can hardly believe this is the first time I've heard of it! I'll definitely be checking it out. Thanks Mudies and Caragh!

  2. This is a fabulous book! I read it a couple months back and was glued to the pages. I had to read it into the very wee hours of the morning because I could not close it to go to sleep.

    Great job!

  3. Great interview. I absolutely loved Birthmarked. I read it back in May while I was at an anime convention (and the fact that I actually made time to read while I was there shows how much I enjoyed the book) and I kept talking about it to the people I was with.

  4. I loved this book - great interview. Thanks.

  5. Thank you so much!! I'm looking forward to sharing my review tomorrow.

  6. Ohh I'm so curious about this book now, thanks so much for this interview! Loved the question about spending a day with one character, it's always fun to know which characters stand out to the authors. Adding this one to my list immediately!

  7. This is great book! The dystopian world she created was wonderful, and very creative. Thank you for the interview!

  8. This book is now available in French and I had a great time with Leon and Gaia. And for once, I think we have a better cover than you ;-)