I have had the honor to interview Catherine Aimes, the writer and publisher of Intraoral Press, a publisher oriented around Braces-oriented fiction and orthodontic topics. Aimes has herself written extensively about the orthodontic experience, particularly in a fictional story format. In the website, Aimes described her inspiration as follows:
When I was teenager with braces I was disappointed that no one wrote about all the things that I was going through. Having braces was a significant part of my life during those years, and with two daughters approaching braces age I got to thinking more about them again. With Intraoral Press I want to make books available that deal with the orthodontic experience in its entirety, from the small pains to the big gains.It is a treat to now present the following interview, which was conducted through email. I highly recommend Intraoral Press to all interested in braces and orthodontia for interesting books on that topic.
1. Among the stories you have written, which is your favorite and why?
It’s really hard to play favorites! I get completely wrapped up in writing them, so usually my favorite is whatever I am working on right now – currently the biggest of all the novels I’ve written, a book I’m calling “Mothers, Daughters, Braces.” I’ll always be fond of “Retainer Girl” because it was the first braces-book I wrote, but I really like how much variety there is to the books – and I also really like how the Dr.Wrighting-universe keeps expanding with new stories and experiences. (She is the orthodontist who treats most of the characters in my books.)
2.In the intraoral press website, you wrote that you were inspired to write about orthodontia from your own braces experiences. Are any of your stories inspired by actual events? If so, which stories and what events?
My stories are both really personal and flights of my imagination. The foundations are in my own experiences – not just the procedures and appliances the characters deal with, but especially my feelings and memories of the whole orthodontic experience – as well as from now also having shepherded my daughters through their time in braces, which provided all sorts of new insights and gave me new perspectives on dealing with having braces. All sorts of details, memories and experiences are taken from life, but the great thing about fiction is that you can expand on them in all sorts of ways. Writing my books allows me to imagine what the braced experience is like in all sorts of other circumstances, from being an adult with braces to having to wear different kinds of appliances that I never had to when I was being treated. I get to relive not only my own experiences, but to live in all sorts of experiences I can only imagine having.
3. Have you gotten any feedback from your readers? If so, are there any comments or questions from your readers which are particularly memorable? What did they say?
I do get some feedback, which is so encouraging! Most want to me to write more, so I feel bad that I can’t write faster, but it’s great to know there are fans who are eager to see the latest works. The fan base seems strongly split by sex: men definitely prefer the adult and fantasy content, while women are much more into the more realistic stories of the actual experience of having braces as a girl or teen. Most of the feedback is just readers saying they like my books and that they like finding things they can relate to, because they can’t find that in any other books. I’m not sure which I’m more proud of: when readers say they relate to the real-life stories, or when they say they relate to the fantasies!
4. What do you think it is about orthodontia that is so compelling and attracts the interest of so many people?
The experience of having braces is such an intense and prolonged one, both physically and psychologically, that I think it has an enormous and lasting effect. It’s also something that a lot of people have gone through – and that those who have can’t really forget. I think a lot of people like to remember those times and experiences, too – with mixed feelings, but strong feelings, because the feelings they had at the time were so strong. I think a lot of people have a love-hate relationship with the whole experience, and that is something that makes it so interesting too – and which makes it so interesting for me to explore in my writing.
When you have braces, you’re almost always aware of them – and a lot of them time when you’re in public you’re aware of how other people are aware of them. Especially when you have braces as a kid or a teen – which is when most people have braces – you already tend to be more self-conscious and having braces compounds most of those complex feelings from that age. Having braces as an adult must be difficult too – I try to imagine it in some of my books – and there’s a lot of self-consciousness to deal with too. It’s such a strange experience too, and some of the appliances are both frustrating and sometimes appealing, from the way they feel or fit. I think all of that makes it interesting for people.
I think there is so much to the experience – but that’s why I write whole books about it, to try to describe and explain all those mixed and complex feelings people have about braces.
5. Other than stories published by Intraoral press are there any mainstream books or movies that you would recommend to someone getting braces or who has an interest in braces?
The reason I started Intraoral Press was because there are so few books about the experience of having braces! It’s so frustrating. There are a few guides and information books, but I think they miss so much about the experience. I am working on a few ideas for books for readers who haven’t gotten braces yet, including a guide for younger patients, but so far my novels and stories are definitely for readers who already have or had braces, or I guess mature readers who have an interest in braces.
I guess “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier is the basic getting-braces book of our times. It’s good, but the case is kind of scary-extreme – it’s an unusual case, with knocked-out teeth and everything, so it’s not entirely like most kids’ experiences with braces. It is a graphic novel, so it is visual – but that also leaves less to the imagination. Other than that I don’t really know any good braces books. I did really like Alyson Gerber’s “Braced” recently. It’s a different kind of ‘braced’ – the girl has scoliosis and has to wear a back brace – but there are a lot of similarities with the experience of having orthodontic braces. There should be an equivalent book for kids with orthodontic braces! (My “Brooke in Braces” kind of is, maybe?)
There are some getting-braces episodes of TV shows, but usually those, as well as scenes with braces in movies, are too brief and too often they aim for cheap laughs, so that’s kind of disappointing. One exception I like is the sit-com “The Middle” where the girl, Sue, has braces for years. They play that for comedy a lot too, but because she always has them, over so many seasons, they really become part of the story, which is great. And of course there’s “Ugly Betty” which actually treats orthodontia seriously a lot of the time.
I like the short movie “Head Gear Girl” (it’s here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SQICtdVVU4) – except that I get really annoyed by the girl playing soccer wearing her headgear. Her orthodontist would be horrified! (I also don’t like that she smokes….)
Now, here's the short film Headgear Girl, which was cited by Catherine Aimes in her interview.