Tuesday, January 13, 2015

[Year-Round YA and NA Guide: A List of My Most Anticipated 2015 Releases] Q&A with Moriah McStay, Author of Everything That Makes You

Author: Moriah McStay (Website | Twitter
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books


One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore. 

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

Why is this book included on my list? Initially, the book cover caught my attention which lead me to check out the synopsis of it. Now, I am very curious how this book will be written and how the story will flow. 

Pre-order links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Q: Before I proceed, I shall ask you first a little bit something about yourself. What’s your favourite food? Favourite color? Favorite TV show? Pet peeve/s?

A: Fave food: Stuffed pizza from Bacino’s in Chicago—spinach, no mushrooms. Fave color: Orange. Pet peeve: Pointless quotation marks on billboard ads.

Q: Who’s your favorite author and what is your favorite book? How did this particular author and book influence you as a person and as a writer?

A: This changes all the time. Right now I love David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Bone Clocks) because he’s just a brilliant, awe-inspiring writer. Growing up I read lots of classics, and Jane Austen was probably my favorite. I’m a sucker for a love story.

Q: Have you really dreamt of becoming a writer? Who or what inspired you to become one?

A: I wanted to be a writer ever since I was a teenager, but I forgot about it in my twenties (I know--weird.) Children’s books helped me finally rediscover the love of writing. Being a mom, I read great books to my kids--Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Mysterious Benedict Society, Roald Dahl, so many! That’s when I started thinking, “Maybe I can do this, too.”

Q: When you aren’t writing, where would we most likely find you? What are your hobbies aside from writing?

A: I love yoga—I finished my teacher certification in 2014—walking my dogs, getting coffee with friends. Reading! Outside of writing and time with family, I don’t have time for much else!

Q: Can you give me an idea on how you came up with the story line for Everything That Makes You? How did you get started with writing it?

A: When I was little, I was in an accident that left me blind in one eye. You can’t notice much now, but at the time it felt significant. People could tell. I got lots of questions, couldn’t play sports, had to wear big glasses. Later on—in high school and college—I began to wonder which parts of my personality that accident shaped. If it never happened, who would I be? I thought a book looking at one particular event, and its impact would be an interesting project.

Q: What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process for Everything That Makes You?

A: The dual story lines—over a three year span—was both really fun and a logistical challenge. Each girl needed plot points at pretty much the same time to make it work. Figuring it all out was satisfying and maddening.

Q: Cover Art Talk. I love how artsy and unique the cover for your book looks. Were you involved in the choosing process for the cover art? How were you able to come up with this one?

A: Isn’t is great? I feel like I lucked out with this. It’s not what I envisioned at all—I actually didn’t want a girl on the cover. But Erin Fitzsimmons—the art director at HarperCollins who designed it—did such a fantastic job. She gets all the credit. The hand lettering of the lyrics on Fiona’s side of the face is all her work. She ripped out a moleskin page and worked on that, to make it the most authentic.

Q: Is there a character in Everything That Makes You that’s based on someone you know or loosely based on yourself? Are there certain scenes in the book that’s based on your experiences or of your friends?

A: In the beginning, Fiona was based loosely on me—or my emotions, maybe. I identify with the ways strangers relate to her. For example, there’s a brief scene where she and her mom are shopping for a prom dress, and the clerk talks to her like she’s disabled. I can empathaize with that. That said, she’s not me at all. I don’t have stage fright, I never pined for the hunky guy from afar. I was always much more likely to just go talk to him! Mrs. Doyle is like my mom in the sense that she’s maddeningly beautiful and loves to decorate, but Fiona’s issues with her mom aren’t my issues. My mother never once made me wear pink.

This is cut from an early scene in the book. Fiona and her brother Ryan are talking in her room. It’s February 27, the anniversary of the childhood accident that left Fiona badly scarred on the right side of her face. This part starts with Ryan saying he’d be mad about the accident, if it happened to him:
 “I’d be pissed.”

 “Waste of energy. I can’t change anything.” She grabbed a Moleskine notebook off her bedside table. She’d been keeping these notebooks since seventh grade, around the same time her mom finally let her quit piano for guitar lessons. They weren’t diaries, or songbooks strictly. Most of the back pages were covered in rhymes. She’d pick a word, make syllable count columns, and see what matched with it. Pride. Divide. Bona Fide. Jekyll and Hyde. 

 She flipped pages until she found a blank spot, jotting down some more words to add to the rhymes and lyrics scrawled everywhere—not to mention her goofy hearts and Trent McKinnon’s name.

 “I can’t change that I’m short,” Ryan said. “It still annoys the hell out of me.”

 Fiona moved between guitar and notebook, playing through chords and writing them down next to the words. “You’ll grow. Dad’s six two.”

 “But I’m short now. Most girls want to be taller than their dates.” Ryan leaned over, trying to get a look at her writing. “When are you going to let me hear one?”

 Fiona’s pen stilled against the paper. She stared at the words she’d written—raw, aching phrases that explained her to herself, unfinished songs about unrequited love with Trent McKinnon. They told about her fears, which were many, and her hopes, which were unlikely. The words laid out her insecurities, her self-disgust, and, inexplicably, her pride.

 Simply put, they were True. No way was she sharing them with anyone.

 “Nothing to hear yet. Just scribbles, really.” She changed the subject back to Ryan. “Dad said he didn’t have his growth spurt until college. Freshman year he was five seven. By that summer, he’d grown five inches.”

 “I didn’t come in here for you to solve my problems.”

 “Your problem has a solution.” 

 “Yours might,” he said quietly.

I listened to a lot of Neko Case and Cat Powers when I wrote Fiona. They’re artists I think she’d listen to. There’s this one song by the Mynabirds—We Made a Mountain—that Fiona and Fi would play for each other, if they could.

You know, I’m so honored that people are talking about ETMY, that it’s struck a chord. I’m a member of the Fearless Fifteeners and Class2k15, both debut groups for middle grade and YA authors, so I know how many awesome books there are to pick from. And if folks choose to spend their money on mine—it’s humbling, really. I hope all my readers enjoy it as much as I loved writing it!

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