Lauren McLaughlin Cycles Back to Jack & Jill

Late last week, I went out to Brooklyn to chat with Lauren McLaughlin about her two YA novels, Cycler and (Re)Cycler, which are about a teenage girl, Jill McTeague, who instead of getting a period transforms for several days every month into a boy, who has established a separate identity for himself as “Jack” despite (or maybe beacuse of) the efforts of Jill and her parents to keep him contained. I started out by asking McLaughlin about the ways in which, after essentially behaving as pure unreconstructed id in the first novel, Jack begins to develop a more nuanced personality in (Re)Cycler

It’s fairly easy to interpret the two novels as an extended allegory about teens struggling with queer identity in general and trans identity in particular, but McLaughlin observes that many other teen readers could identify with Jill’s turmoil in the first novel, as she’s fundamentally “a girl who is desperately trying to hide a secret” about herself that causes her shame and, like any adolescent, “[she's] not complete yet. She’s still in the process of inventing herself.” She admits, though, that Jack was her favorite character to write; with Cycler especially, “Jill, as the main point of view character, was harder for me to know. It took several drafts before I felt like I understood her.”

Could that mean, I suggested, that if she were to return to the characters, later novels could bring Jack even further into the foreground than (Re)Cycler? It’s a tricky question, she said, and not just because it would mean tampering with the biological link to Jill’s monthly cycle that defines their relationship. She’s given the various possibilities a lot of thought, and it’s an almost “existential” problem: “If I were to combine them into one character,” she offered, pondering one option, “does that mean that one of them is no longer part of the story? Or could they become somebody else entirely?”

I also wondered if McLaughlin was a Ranma 1/2 fan, but she swears she’s never seen it. “People have been asking me about it more and more, though,” she said. “I really need to catch up with it at some point.”

(By the way, this was the penultimate stop on a week-long blog tour for McLaughlin; if you want to read more, be sure to check out some of her other appearances.)

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23 November 2009 | interviews |