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Sugar and Spice and All Things Horrible: Q&A with Zoje Stage about her debut novel Baby Teeth

July 25, 2018

About The Author

ZOJE STAGE is a writer and former filmmaker. She was a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation of the Arts and a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Baby Teeth is her first novel.

Purchase a copy of Baby Teeth here 

Read our review of Baby Teeth here 

Baby Teeth is generating a lot of buzz. Can you tell us a bit about the story?

Baby Teeth is about a family who appears quite normal—almost perfect—from afar. But the reality is Suzette cannot connect with her seven-year-old daughter Hanna, who is selectively mute. While Suzette tries to find a school or doctor who can help her difficult child, Hanna does everything possible to sabotage her mother’s mental and physical health. The battle of wills escalates until Suzette starts to fear that Hanna intends to kill her.

Why did you choose to tell the story from the perspectives of both Suzette and Hanna?

It was really the best way to deeply develop both characters. And by fleshing out Suzette’s experience with motherhood simultaneous to delving into Hanna’s perception of the world, I was able to make them each the protagonist of their own narrative and the antagonist of the other’s.

Is there a particular character in the book that you are most sympathetic towards? If so, why?

I have often described Hanna as “the child of my heart”—which might make people who are afraid of Hanna think I’m insane. But there is an aspect to her that reminds me of myself as a very young child, and how impossible it felt to express myself and feel understood. I have a lot of compassion for her frustration in that regard.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

The research was pretty organic. One of the original sources of inspiration for this story was a British documentary I saw many years ago about a facility for deeply troubled children. I watched other documentaries and read articles as necessary related to childhood mental illness. Like Suzette, I have Crohn’s disease, so there was no additional research needed for that element of the story.

Baby Teeth is your first book. What are some of your all time favourite debut novels?

There have been so many amazing debut novels, but some of my absolute favorites are: The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan, and Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein (technically short stories, but they are connected)

What are you working on at the moment?

In April I sold my second novel, Wonderland (also to St. Martin’s Press), and I am polishing that to make it the best it can be. It’s a horror novel about an artsy New York City family who moves to the Adirondacks and promptly find themselves trapped by the winter weather, and in the presence of something… scary. That’s all I’ll say for now…

 

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Comments

  1. Celeste Pomerantz

    Just finished reading “Baby Teeth”. I totally enjoyed it. I too have suffered with Crohn’s disease for over 40 years and could so relate to Suzette. Thank you so much for bringing attention to this awful disease! Wonderful book!!

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