My students and I love contemporary realistic fiction, especially when authors of this genre write both verse and prose novels. When Terra Elan McVoy approached me about an interview, I knew my students would be thrilled to interview her. I have a copy of her book Being Friends With Boys in my class library, and as we came up with questions for the interview, we discovered more of her books that we’re excited to read. Thank you for answering my students’ questions, Terra!
- What is your favorite YA novel? This is so hard to choose, but I think my very favorite YA novel is GIRL by Blake Nelson, just because it has taught me so much about voice, and the genre in general.
- At any point did you ever want to quit and begin a different career?
This is so funny, because it was only this fall that I really tired to approach novel writing as a career at all! I have always had other full-time jobs while writing my books, largely because though the advances are nice, they are not enough for me to live off of just yet! (And they really aren’t for most people.) Even now, I am working part-time at an independent children’s bookstore, as well as doing as many workshops and teaching engagements as I can, to supplement my novel-writing income. To answer your question though, even when I’ve had other jobs, of course I’ve felt like quitting, because being a writer is HARD!!
- Did any of your close family/friends tell you not to become an author? If so, why?
No, no one ever told me not to do this, except for myself. My family and teachers, friends, my husband, have all been extremely encouraging of my writing. I just never thought it was possible for me to make a living at it, because doing so is so difficult and requires so much work. (Work I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I just wanted to write because I loved it and had fun with it, and didn’t want to worry about the money part). Sometimes I still think it is indulgent, and a crazy thing to try, but for now it seems to be working out all right.
- What is your favorite and least favorite genre?
The stuff I love to read most is realistic fiction, because I’m so enraptured by the drama of daily life, and interested in how writers articulate this real-life human experience. My second favorite genre though is magical realism (books like The Night Circus, and Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin), because I love it when magic gets worked into real life, too. There isn’t any genre I dislike really, because I think it’s important for there to be a book out there for every kind of reader. I’ll say that I don’t often read a lot of high fantasy or paranormal stuff, though, just because I don’t need a dragon or a vampire to keep me interested in the characters and the plot, so long as the writing is good!
- Do your characters reflect yourself?
Of course they do, but not necessarily on purpose. I’ve heard several times that every person in your dream is really some reflection of your own self (for example: if you have a dream about your best friend, he or she in your dream is really a manifestation of how you see your friend’s energy/personality operating in yourself), and I tend to think that’s how characters are. There are qualities in all of my main characters that I can look at and say, “This is similar to how I am,” but it’s not intentionally like “Oh I’m going to write a character about me in this situation now.”
- Will you ever write another book in verse?
That is a good question, and the answer is, “I don’t know.” It’s hard for me to imagine how I might do that successfully, since I poured so much of my poetic self into AFTER THE KISS. It’s hard to picture how I could do so without having the poems sound just like Becca’s, or Camille’s vignettes. However, more than one person has asked about it, so it’s definitely somewhere in there in my mind. Not in the plans right now, but you never know!
- What was your favorite book growing up?
Oh gosh, I had SO many favorite books growing up, and different favorites at different stages in my life. One that really sticks out is Kabumpo in Oz. My mom read all the Oz books to us, and this one is one not many people know about, but it is so good. I was also obsessed with Fridays by Patricia Lee Gauch. I think I checked it out of the library about ten times when I was in 4th and 5th grade.
- Do you plan on writing any books in a different genre? (Other than contemporary)
It’s only very recently that I’ve started to ask myself this question. I didn’t really “set out” to become a contemporary author, or even a YA author–it’s just the way the stories have been coming to me, and for now it’s how they seem to continue to. However, I have had some curiosity about what it might look like if I wrote, say, a horror story. Or maybe something epic and futuristic, since I liked those things a lot when I was in high school. Lots of people ask me about writing adult, too. I guess you’ll just have to stay posted on those! Or tell me what you’d like to see me do next!
***About Terra Elan McVoy***
Terra Elan McVoy has been reading and writing since she first learned how to, and her whole life has been motivated by her passion for those two things. She received her BA in English at St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State University. She has worked as an event coordinator at a major chain bookstore; an editorial assistant at an NYC publisher; as manager of an independent children’s bookstore; and as Program Director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. She is the author of Pure, After the Kiss, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, and Criminal. To learn more about Terra and her books, visit http://terraelan.com.