Please enjoy this small offering of a reader's guide to go along with the fancy new Resurrection Girls paperback cover.
*Fair Warning: I did my best to give as little away as possible in the compiling of this reader's guide, but please do not read ahead if you have not already finished Resurrection Girls and do not want any details spoiled for you.
Resurrection Girls Reader’s Guide:
Olivia Foster hasn’t felt alive since her little brother drowned in the backyard pool three years ago. Then Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her mother and grandmother, and Olivia is immediately drawn to these three generations of women. Kara is particularly intoxicating, so much so that Olivia not only comes to accept Kara's morbid habit of writing to men on death row, she helps her do it. They sign their letters as the Resurrection Girls. But as Kara’s friendship pulls Olivia out of the dark fog she’s been living in, Olivia realizes that a different kind of darkness taints the otherwise lively Hallas women―an impulse that is strange, magical, and possibly deadly.
1. Olivia and Prescott were once childhood friends. How did the loss of Olivia’s brother impact her relationship with Prescott? What else contributed to the breakdown of their early friendship?
2. Weather plays a symbolic role throughout the novel. What is the significance of the drought they are experiencing? What is the significance of the fire? The rain that eventually falls?
3. Grief and loss impact everyone differently. As a family, how do Olivia and her parents cope with her brother’s death individually? How do they grieve collectively?
4. As a character and a friend, Kara’s flaws are obvious. She can be insistent, forward, and demanding. She often pushes Olivia into things she otherwise wouldn’t do. But what are Kara’s strengths as a friend? And why is she actually good for Olivia?
5. The Hallas women have a mysterious history. In chapter 23, Kara alludes to a curse her family carries. What do you think is the true nature of this otherworldly family of women? How would you define their “curse”?
6. While Olivia despises her mother’s addiction to prescription medication, she doesn’t recognize her own substance abuse as it’s happening. Why do you think she’s unable to see where she is following in her mother’s footsteps? What are the excuses she makes to justify her behavior?
7. Despite her misgivings, Olivia is persuaded by Kara to join her in writing to convicts—many of whom are violent offenders. What benefit does being a “Resurrection Girl” provide Olivia? How do she and Kara approach this hobby differently?
8. In chapter 21, Olivia has a powerful reaction to what she finds in her father’s storage unit. What about revealing her father’s secret is so hard on Olivia? Do you think Olivia does more harm or good by breaking into the storage unit?
9. Death can be considered its own character in this novel. What are the many ways in which death makes an appearance? What impact does it have on the other characters? How does that change over the course of the novel?
10. Early in the novel, Olivia watches as Kara steals an aquamarine ring from her mother’s room. What is the symbolism of the aquamarine ring? How does it connect the girls?
About the author:
Ava Morgyn is a native Texan who grew up falling in love with all the wrong characters in all the wrong stories. She is a lover of crystals, tarot, and powerful women with bad reputations. She studied English Writing & Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University in Austin and currently resides with her family in Houston, where she lives surrounded by antiques and dog hair and writes a blog on child loss, ForLoveofEvelyn.com. When she isn’t at her laptop spinning darkly hypnotic tales, she can be found reading, hunting for delicious vegan recipes, or wandering a forest.
Q & A:
Can you tell us when you started RESURRECTION GIRLS and how it came about? I carried the idea for RESURRECTION GIRLS for years. Originally, I imagined it as an adult novel told from the perspective of the mother in the family, but I prefer writing YA. Eventually, I started toying with the idea of shifting the focus of the main character to the daughter. That’s when things began to spark. Olivia was born and the rest really grew out of her.
How did you come up with the title?
The title for Resurrection Girls came to me in the writing. For the longest time it was simply labeled “novel” in my documents. It was the first time I hadn’t titled something before I began writing it. But I started writing Resurrection Girls without really knowing what I was writing yet, and I couldn’t give it a title until I had a handle on what the material actually was.
There is a scene in the novel where Kara and Olivia are deciding on a pseudonym for themselves, a way to sign their letters to the inmates they are writing together. When I finished writing that scene, I knew that the name they came up with—Resurrection Girls—would be the name of the novel. When I look back at the work now, that title is eerily on point at a variety of levels. Yes, it’s the pen name they choose for themselves, but it’s also who they are to each other, to Olivia’s family, even to Prescott, and in both a literal and deeper way, it’s who they both embody in their character arcs. I hope it’s also who they are to the readers.
What was the most difficult scene in your book to write?
I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a scene towards the end where Olivia is coming to terms with her brother’s loss in a new way. That scene was particularly emotional for me, both before and after losing my daughter. It is really about the acceptance of the loss. And when a child dies, acceptance is truly the hardest part.
Kara Hallas is a character who stands out very vividly in your novel. How did you come up with such a wild, yet vibrant character?
Kara was influenced by several different characters for me, including Cordelia from the novel Cat’s Eye, one of my favorite Margaret Atwood titles. I knew that the Hallas women would embody the sacred feminine archetypes of Maiden, Mother, and Crone when I started writing the novel. It’s common to imagine the Maiden as young, virginal, pure, ultra-feminine, and soft. But I thought about what the Maiden represents, which is ultimately new life. And I kept returning to this idea of a girl who is so vibrantly alive that it’s almost violent. Kara is a wilder, more feral version of the Maiden—a girl who so easily follows her own impulses, so completely embodies all the aspects of herself without apology, that her presence is both extremely magnetic and unnerving at once.
For those who are unfamiliar with Olivia, how would you introduce her? This is how I would describe Olivia—start with an every-girl, then put her through one of the most devastating traumas you can imagine, and lock her in a house with nothing but her pain for company. At the beginning of the novel, Olivia’s most defining feature is how disconnected she is—from the outside world, from her family, and even from herself. She is spectacularly sad, and yet very unaware of it. I think that is something that resonates with a lot of people—young or old—that feeling of having to stuff a world full of hurt so far down that you lose sight of it. But that doesn’t mean it goes away. We just stop realizing how it is affecting us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 350 children drown under the age of five each year. What was your experience like writing about this grim and harrowing topic?
I chose to write about drowning because I knew that it was an unfortunately common way to lose a small child. After writing the novel, I spoke with a director at the Live Like Jake Foundation for a blog post (which you can access here). I learned a lot about childhood drowning and how we can prevent it, and we talked at length about all the ways people outside of this horrible experience leave themselves open to greater risk. It's important that we see loss and tragedy when it happens in our communities so that we can learn from it.
Writing about child loss was challenging. When I originally wrote the novel, I hadn't experienced it. I had to go back into my own grief over losing my parents and translate that experience into what I thought a deeper, more traumatic loss—like child loss—would be like. It forced me to feel my grief again after many years of packing it away.
But losing my daughter, Evelyn, after writing this novel taught me that I could never fully capture the horror of this experience for others. Still, I think it's important that we talk about the ugly feelings and difficult experiences that come along with trauma, death, loss, and grief. Grief is a universal experience after all. When we talk about the hard things, we not only increase our ability for empathy and compassion, but we chip away at the isolation created by these traumas.
When I edited RESURRECTION GIRLS, I did so as a grieving parent. I was no longer just writing about the experience but living it. I edited this novel with a heart full of compassion for the Fosters and an empathy for my characters I had never felt before. I wish every single day that losing Evelyn was just a story, just a book on a shelf and not my real life. I think it's important when we read fiction to remember that our stories are often based in real experiences, and to let that work inform our compassion for others.
Which character was your favorite to write?
Sybil was probably one of my favorite characters to write. She’s not a main character, but I really enjoy characters who embody witchy vibes. And I also love writing characters who break stereotypes or subvert expectations, who aren’t interested in conforming. Sybil is very much a standard wise woman archetype, but she’s also surprising. She’s unsettling, not always safe. I love that she smokes cigars and speaks her mind and generally does and says things according to her own impulses.
What is your writing routine?
I absolutely need quiet and space. It’s best if I’m alone, if my family is gone or all in bed. I can write in public places—as long as they aren’t too noisy—because I’m not invested in the people around me, so it’s less distracting.
And I need energy. If I’m too tired, if I didn’t sleep or ran around doing a bunch of chores first, then I won’t be able to write, or at least not much. Writing is really draining for me, even if it is sedentary. I have to protect my energy and my time in order to do it.
Can you tell us about your editing process?
I edit as I write, meaning that as I write the first draft, I go back over and back over the pages I’ve written before. Then, once the full first draft is complete, I usually go through it one to three more times, depending on how much rewriting I think it needs. And then I send it to my agent, who will go through another few rounds of editing with me. And then, when it gets picked up, there’s multiple rounds of editing with your actual editor. Editing is not just looking for grammar or spelling errors. It’s thinking about whether the novel is going where you want it to go—what still needs fleshing out, what is the tone and where does that need refining, what is the cadence of each sentence, each paragraph? It’s a lot of moving parts to work with.
RESURRECTION GIRLS - Out Now!
Olivia stopped living the day her brother died. Three years ago, Robby toddled into the backyard pool and drowned. Olivia can no longer remember what it feels like to really be alive, until the Hallas women move in across the street. Kara, who is Olivia's age, has morbid fascinations—but Olivia's family has secrets of their own. The deeper Kara draws Olivia into the impulsive and seductive web of her world, the more Olivia finds herself confronting the unraveling of her family's connection to the land of the living.
"RESURRECTION GIRLS is a heartbreak of a book, where love and loss write letters to the strange things that lurk in the darkness." –Rin Chupeco, author of THE BONE WITCH trilogy & THE NEVER TILTING WORLD
Subscribe to my newsletter for all Resurrection Girls and The Salt In Our Blood updates, events, and free stuff. Subscribe to (very cool, not at all annoying) newsletter here: VERY COOL NOT AT ALL ANNOYING NEWSLETTER LINK.