Friday, August 21, 2009

Author Interview: Diana Peterfreund discusses Rampant

I was lucky enough to get to read RAMPANT way back in March (read my rave review) and to celebrate the fact that it is finally coming out next week, I have a special interview with Author Diana Peterfreund.

Let's get started, shall we?

Astrid and her cousin Philippa belong to the Llewelyn line of unicorn hunters, which is known for producing the best hunters. The other girls are from other lines with different talents. Which family line would you be most likely to be a part of and why?
I guess that's the real question, isn't it? Are they the best hunters, and if so, is it because of their heritage as Llewelyns? Is there any truth to that old idea, or is it like saying that just because your last name is Smith, you should be particularly good at metalworking? These theories were formed in a time when birth and blood were supposed to be all-important. You were a noble because your father was a noble, not because you had any particular gift for politics or leadership. How many of the old ideas are accurate is a central question in the novel. So, given that, I don't know if it matters which family line I was part of. However, I have always had kind of freaky good aim. ;-)

So, I have been wondering, is the little unicorn Bonegrinder a virgin too? Or is she a hypocrite, attacking non-virgins even though she’s not pure either?
She doesn't attack non-virgins, she attacks non-unicorn hunters, which is a group composed of all men, all non-virgin females from a unicorn hunting family, and all other people in the entire world, regardless of sexual status. Bonegrinder did not make the rules that bind her magic. She's as trapped by them as the hunters are.

Virginity is a concept defined by humans for humans, and it's one that changes depending on a given human society's definition. Depending on the prevailing rules of various societies of people, virginity can be defined by marriage (i.e., virgins are unmarried women, period), by physiological changes in a body (i.e., existence of the hymen), by various types of sexual experience (the old "does XYZ sexual act count as sex?" question), or by a magical substance in the body that only virgins possess. (Seriously, in my research I came across various cultures that believe that you can tell a virgin through all kinds of wacky magical tricks, like the existence of flowering "grapes" inside a virgin, and no, I'm not making that up!)

Some cultures might equate virginity with "purity" (as you did above, and as a lot of people in our culture might), others might not have that concept or care about it (like the culture of medieval Japan), or might even confer higher status on women who have been proven fertile (which makes a lot of sense if you think about it!). It's an utterly artificial construct; virginity means what your culture decides it means, and I have yet to read about a culture that cares one iota for the virginity of an animal.

Having said that, however, Bonegrinder is a juvenile unicorn who has been isolated from others of her species since she was a baby. I don't think she's even seen another zhi outside her parents.

Thanks for clearing that up! If you could go back in time and have a chat with Alexander the Great, what would you discuss?
Probably the value of creating an empire with depth, and not just width. Oh, and settling down and taking better care of his horse, Bucephalus. Also, libraries. Way cool.

On your website, you say you volunteer at the National Zoo. What animals do you like to visit the most?
This actually changes depending on why and when I visit. I live really near the zoo, and it's free, so sometimes I'll just stop by for a few minutes, see an exhibit or two, then leave.

The animal exhibit I work with is the Golden Lion Tamarins, which are small, squirrel-sized Brazilian monkeys, so I often see them. If it's early in the morning, I like to hike up the steep hill to the bird sanctuary, which is far removed from the rest of the zoo, very quiet and (perhaps because it's not filled with hordes of people) has a lot of potential for seeing something very interesting. I'll drop by at panda feeding time, of course.

And when I'm trying to write a particular scene I like to see the antelopes or zebras or Przewalski's horses, which are a type of true wild horse from Mongolia (not domesticated horse breeds that have become feral, like Mustangs). The oryx, with its unicorn-like horns, is a special favorite.

I also like to visit the predators: tigers, hyenas, lions, snakes, and lots of invertebrates, especially if they have poisons or strange body makeups -- spiders, octopus, jellyfish. Observing them, even in captivity, really helps me get in the mood to write about wild and dangerous creatures.

Is there anything you can tell us already about the sequel to Rampant?
Sure! It's a direct sequel, picking up pretty much where Rampant left off, and following Astrid as she settles into her role as a full-fledged unicorn hunter. What does that mean for her, for her life, and for the lives of those around her? There's going to be a new type of unicorn in this one that we haven't seen before, and some really cool new locations as well (hint: Astrid travels to France).

Thanks Diana!

Find out more about RAMPANT at Diana's website as well as at and read the first 83 pages online at HarperTeen. And of course, don't forget to pick it up on August 25th!


Charlotte said...

I'm looking forward to this one!

(and I like oryxs (oryxi? oryx?)a lot too)

Yan said...

After reading this, everything seems to be more complicated than I imagined xD

April (BooksandWine) said...

Diana Peterfreunds seems very well-"spoken." Great interview, I'm really looking forward to reading Rampant.

Anonymous said...

Any book that has a unicorn named BoneGrinder is a must read for me.

Memory said...

Interesting interview; this book was already on my radar, but it piqued my interest just a little bit more. And I've got to say, the flowering grapes thing is one of the strangest definitions of virginity that I've ever heard!

Memory said...

Urgh, I forgot to say *tweet*! Does this addendum still count?

Color Online said...

Reading Diana's response about virginity and culture is all the impetus I need to check out this novel. I am particularly drawn to works that examine social mores in a society. Sound like a thought-provoking read.

So glad I saw your tweet and came by. With a gazillion followers, Lenore, I have no illusions about winning here, but I do enjoy reading your post. Thank you very much for this interview.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Hi, Charlotte! thanks. I think it might actually be "oryx" like "moose." Or maybe oryxes?

This whole conversation though, is reminding me of that awesome post-apocalyptic novel by Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake. Anyone read that?

Thanks, Memory. If you're interested in reading more about the grape thing, it is part of the culture of the Gitanos (Spanish Romani). There's actually an excellent book out called VIRGINITY: THE UNTOUCHED HISTORY, which covers all manner of strange practices in Western Europe throughout history around the concept. One of the most disturbing, to me, was the persistent belief that one could cure oneself of a sexually transmitted disease by sleeping with a virgin.

Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

awesome interview! i have 2 read rampant :D

bookmagic said...

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bookmagic said...

I have an award for you on my blog!

bookmagic said...

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(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

That cover is pretty amazing!

Beth Kephart said...

My imagination feels quite tiny when I read of stories like this. Thanks for the great interview.

Marie Cloutier said...

Great interview. The stuff on virginity was fascinating!

Alix said...

Great interview. I think rampant will be both an action packed and thought provoking read - can't wait!

-.- said...

Great interview, once again! This book looks really good, I can't wait till I get the chance to read it.

~ Popin

Zibilee said...

Great interview! I am really interested in this book. It looks great and I will be adding it to my wish list. Thanks!

H said...

Every time you mention this book it sounds better and better. I'm looking forward to it now.

Unknown said...

oh I love pandas!
and I bought a cuddly panda bag that I can hardly put it down!
Flor (

MissA said...

I loved Rampant and I'm so glad Lenore linked to this interview to be judged because it's great! The concept of Rampant is fascinating and I completelyel agree that viriginity means different things to different cultures and in a way it's 'all in our heads'.

I wanted to cuddle with Bonegrinder (but only if my family was descended from unicorn hunters!)