Students Want to Know Moriah McStay, author of Everything That Makes You

Moriah McStay is the debut author of the March 17th release Everything That Makes You. I received an ARC and instantly passed it on to my students because they’ve been so interested in this story. One of my freshmen tore through it and then it was passed on to one of my senior boys who loved it as well. I’m thrilled to feature this interview between two of my students and Moriah McStay.

Moriah McStay

Moriah McStay’s website
Find Moriah on Twitter
Moriah’s Facebook page

Everything That Makes YouSummary (From Goodreads):

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.

Did you enjoy writing the character swapping every chapter?

I did it enjoy it! At times, it got challenging keeping each girl’s story straight—I had charts and post-its everywhere! I’d write only one for awhile, and then switch over, which helped me stay true to each voice. Plus, giving each girl her own chapters provided some fun opportunities to play around with a single character. I got to create twice the wants, quirks and flaws—all good stuff for a writer!

Will there be a sequel?

No, EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is a stand-alone. I like it that way. It’s in keeping with the overall theme—who can say what’ll happen next? I have another contemporary YA coming out with HarperCollins sometime in 2017, though.

Do you like Fi or Fiona more?

At first, I identified more with Fiona. I approached Fi—the one “without any problems”– with the same assumptions lots of us have about people who look whole from the outside. Without much empathy. But once I realized Fi had her own issues, I connected with her more. Now, I feel motherly towards them both. I share characteristics with each, as well. For example, I’m creative like Fiona, but not painfully shy. And while I’m not a jock like Fi, I’m pretty competitive.

Do you believe, like in your novel, that one incident can change your entire life?

ABSOLUTELY! I believe everyone has a “What if?” question—several “What if?” questions, probably. What if my family never moved across the country when I was a kid? What if that girl didn’t sit next to me in third grade, and we never became friends? What if I picked a different major in college? What if my dad never got cancer?

And then there are the what if’s and maybes we can’t even guess. In one scene, Fiona gets into this with her brother Ryan, when she theories about all the random, unknown events that send us one direction or another. The possibilities of change in a single day are endless. But I think she’s right when she tells him, “If we try to analyze how every little thing changes us, nobody would get anything done.”

Playing around with how your past has affected your present—and future—is an interesting exercise. But I think the bigger point is that, no matter which path you find yourself on, you have the potential for fulfillment and happiness.

Students Want to Know Carrie Arcos

Carrie Arcos’ debut novel, Out of Reach, released on October 16th.  My students and I love contemporary realistic fiction, especially ones dealing with addiction, so I was really excited when Carrie agreed to be interviewed by my students.  They can’t wait to read Carrie’s answers and get their hands on Out of Reach!

Thank you, Carrie! 🙂

Summary (From Goodreads): How do you find someone who doesn’t want to be found? A girl searches for her missing addict brother while confronting her own secrets in this darkly lyrical novel.

Rachel has always idolized her older brother Micah. He struggles with addiction, but she tells herself that he’s in control. And she almost believes it. Until the night that Micah doesn’t come home.

Rachel’s terrified—and she can’t help but feel responsible. She should have listened when Micah tried to confide in her. And she only feels more guilt when she receives an anonymous note telling her that Micah is nearby and in danger.

With nothing more to go on than hope and a slim lead, Rachel and Micah’s best friend, Tyler, begin the search. Along the way, Rachel will be forced to confront her own dark secrets, her growing attraction to Tyler…and the possibility that Micah may never come home.

** Carrie Arcos’ Website **
** Follow Carrie Arcos on Twitter **
** “Like” Carrie Arcos on Facebook **
** P.S. Did you know that Out of Reach is a National Book Award finalist?! **


  • Do you ever have a hard time coming up with ideas like names, setting, plot, or just an overall story?
    When thinking of a story, I usually begin with a character and setting and something that the character wants or is struggling with. It’s not fully formed, but I have a general sense. So you could say I know the direction. What’s difficult sometimes is the middle. How is character going to get to where I think he or she should?  What obstacles come her way?

    Names can be tricky because I don’t want to use names of people I know or maybe they’ll think I’m writing about them. And names can mean something intentionally or not.

    I love setting in a story. For me it’s almost like another character.

Morgan F:

  • Why did you decide to use the name Micah?
    I once had a student named Micah who was just awesome. I’ve loved the name ever since. I’ve wanted to name every kid of mine Micah at some point, but my husband vetoed it. So naming one of my characters Micah was a given. I finally got my way!

Morgan T:

  • Why did you become an author when you were a teacher?
    I’ve always wanted to write, even before I became a teacher, but I think I was too chicken to try and get it out there. I taught HS for a number of years and wrote here and there. When I started having kids, I decided not to teach full time. I ended up taking my writing a little more seriously. I began teaching on the college level because I could do it on a more part time basis. Honestly, I love both. I miss teaching HS, some of my best memories are with former students, but at this point in my life it would be difficult for me to be a good one with three kids and a writing career.


  • What does it mean that your novel is lyrical?
    Lyrical refers to the style of the prose. I suppose it could also be called poetic or literary. My publisher came up with that phrase. It’s not a novel in verse.
  • How long has Micah had his addiction?
    About three years.


  • Are your characters based on real life people you have met?
    Yes and no.
  • What inspired you to write this novel and to write about someone with addiction?
    The book is inspired by some true events. I have family members who have struggled with addition. I have actually gone looking for someone as well. I thought that might make a good premise for a novel, so I kind of went with it. I also liked looking at addiction from the perspective of a sibling since most books I’ve seen that deal with addiction follow the addict. The story is not so much Micah’s story or a story of addiction, as much as it’s a story about how we deal with the pain that comes when those we love leave or make choices we can’t control. It’s a love story of sorts from a sister to a brother.

    Since I’ve gone through the pain of walking along side someone with addiction, I feel the novel contains emotional truth. The novel isn’t a true story, however, I did take something that happened from my freshman year of high school. When you get to the part about the substitute and the game Risk, yes that really did happen.

Students Want to Know: Kathy McCullough

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of Kathy McCullough’s debut, Don’t Expect Magic, this summer and I really enjoyed it.  It’s a cute and humorous novel that I know teens and tweens will enjoy.  If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy, I definitely recommend reading it.

Summary of Don’t Expect Magic (From Goodreads): Delaney Collins doesn’t believe in fairy tales. And why should she? Her mom is dead, her best friend is across the country, and she’s stuck in California with “Dr. Hank,” her famous life-coach father—a man she barely knows. Happily ever after? Yeah, right.

Then Dr. Hank tells her an outrageous secret: he’s a fairy godmother—an f.g.—and he can prove it. And by the way? The f.g. gene is hereditary. Meaning there’s a good chance that New Jersey tough girl Delaney is someone’s fairy godmother.

But what happens when a fairy godmother needs a wish of her own?

** Kathy McCullough’s Website **
** Delaney’s Website **
** Find Kathy on Facebook **
** Follow Kathy on Twitter **
** Check out the trailer for Don’t Expect Magic **


  • Why is the title Don’t Expect Magic?  Doesn’t it contradict the plot?
    Great question! It seems like a contradiction, but it’s meant to reflect Delaney Collins’ attitude about having inherited these magic powers. She’s dark and sullen, and therefore the typical image of a sparkly, cheery fairy godmother goes completely against how she views herself. She feels that none of her own wishes in life have come true, so she resents being forced to help others achieve theirs. The title applies in a more literal sense too, because Delaney discovers that she only has limited powers initially and she’s not very good at performing them. Ultimately, she discovers that it’s not magic that makes dreams come true, but accepting who you are—and letting others see the real you.


  • What was your motivation to write a book?
    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was five years old, when I wrote my first book: an illustrated collection of poems. I wrote stories all through junior high, high school and college, but I loved movies and decided to get my graduate degree in screenwriting. The challenge in writing scripts is that you have to include a lot of other people’s ideas into what you write. You also run the risk of having someone be hired to rewrite you. I decided to go back to writing books so that I could protect my ideas and my words. Not that I didn’t do a lot of revision for my editor! But it was me doing the revising and not someone else.

Jessica P.:

  • Why did you choose to write about a young girl?
    I’ve always gravitated toward family stories and stories about kids of all ages. I tend to identify with younger characters and I also think kids and teens are more interesting and complex than adults. Younger people tend to be more passionate about their beliefs and they also feel things more deeply, whereas adults have learned to tamp down or hide their passions and emotions in order to get along.

Jessica T.:

  • Do you plan on writing more books like Don’t Expect Magic?
    I do! I’ve completed a sequel to Don’t Expect Magic, in which Delaney faces off against a rival teen fairy godmother – an “f.g.” who is the pink, sparkly type. I’ve begun a new book, which, like Don’t Expect Magic, is a mostly comic novel with a touch of fantasy, and which uses the fantasy to propel the protagonist’s emotional journey.


  • Has your family read the book yet?
    I know my mom has read it and she liked it a lot. I’m not sure about Dad (he’s not a big reader; maybe if it comes out on audiotape…) My brother and sister-in-law bought a copy for their sons, but I don’t think any of them have read it yet. My cousin Paula, who is a big inspiration to me, has read it and I know at least one aunt has. Because the book just came out, many members of my family are giving it to other members for Christmas, so by January, everyone will have probably read it.


  • What do you do during your down time?
    I don’t have a lot of down time. Really! I’m trying very hard to juggle writing projects, both books and screenplays, and I also work part-time reading scripts and books for film production companies. I volunteer at the library (I guess that’s down time) and have been trying to keep up on all the promotional work of having my first book come out. Promotional work like this interview! – and also, visiting bookstores and libraries to introduce myself, doing school visits, etc. When I do have a bit of free time, I love going to the movies with friends. And, of course, I love to read for fun.


  • How would you feel if you were put in your character’s situation?
    I probably would be more thrilled with having magic powers than Delaney is initially, although I think I’d also be more nervous about them. Delaney’s not really afraid of screwing up, but I’m always worried about screwing up.
  • Was the publication process different than you thought it would be?
    Yes, in a lot of ways. I expected to do some revisions, but I ended up doing a lot – all of which made the book much better. I learned that there are many more revision steps than I realized, even after copy edits are done. Also, when I wrote the book, I had no idea that there were even book bloggers at all, much less book bloggers who write just about YA books! So that was an amazing discovery. The best thing I learned was that despite all the hard work and challenges involved, I really do enjoy the publication process.

These were excellent questions! Thanks so much for the opportunity to be on your blog.

Blog Tour: Everybody Sees the Ants

I’m very excited to kick off A.S. King’s blog tour for her new book Everybody Sees the Ants.  It releases today, so you better believe I’m buying myself a finished copy.  I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Lucky and his story and can’t recommend it enough. (Read my review here.)  For my part of the blog tour I interviewed A.S. King about the book.

I’m also holding a giveaway because everyone needs a copy of Everybody Sees the Ants.  If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the form is at the end of the interview 🙂  The giveaway ends on October 15th @ midnight EST.  US entries only.

  • Everybody Sees the Ants has become one of my absolute favorite books.  I’ve added it to my classroom library and can’t wait to hear what my students think when they read it.  What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?
    I am so glad you enjoyed it that much! Thank you for saying so and for sharing it with your students. I think the book speaks on different levels to different people. So, I guess I hope it says the right thing to the right person. I also hope that generally, it opens discussion about many subjects. Bullying, war, violence, the genderization of the world and how we divide boys and girls (and men and women) rather than promote healthy humanhood for everyone. J And on a deeper level, I hope it can help some readers realize that you are allowed to teach other people how to treat you by demanding respect. Because respect is the minimum.
  • It’s really unique how Lucky interacts with the ants and his P.O.W. grandfather.  What inspired you to write these interactions into the story?
    I think the book started with the seed of the still-missing POW grandfather and how that can affect an entire family. I’ve always been inspired to write about Vietnam War-related subjects because I’ve been fascinated with the war since I was a kid growing up surrounded by it. Before I wrote ANTS, I’d picked up several books on POW/MIA issues and I became even more fascinated with the families who, to this day, are trying to locate their loved ones or solve the mysteries of their disappearance. It just hit me so hard, the stories of these families who were often blown off or forgotten. It ended up relating, in a small way, to the victims of bullies who are also often blown off and forgotten.

    The ants are a bit of a different story! They just arrived, as ants sometimes do. As I revised the novel, they continued to pop up and say the right thing at the right time. In party hats. Armed with Howitzers sometimes. What can I say? I have an active imagination.

  • Many YA novels with male protagonists focus on the relationships between the main character and his father.  This is part of Lucky’s story, but what made you decide to have him spend so much time with his mother?
    Lucky is stuck spending time with his mother because his father is completely distant and has a job that keeps him out of the house for long hours. But both Lucky and his mother are really byproducts of his father’s emotional absence, which is a byproduct of his grandfather’s disappearance in Vietnam. Lori Linderman, Lucky’s mother, tries her best to live inside of a half-life where she is told to ignore every maternal instinct she has in relation to Lucky’s bullying situation, so she also become oddly distant by becoming a squid. Yes I said squid. You have to read the book to understand that part! (Sarah knows what I’m talking about!) Also, if you look at a cross section of American boys, many of them do spend a large portion of their time with their mothers because their fathers are no longer around. So I think this is a pretty normal state of affairs.
  • When you were writing Everybody Sees the Ants, did you interview many teenagers who have been bullied?  Was any other research involved?
    I researched a lot about POWs and the missing from the Vietnam War. I spoke to vets and family members of the missing. I didn’t need to interview kids about bullying because I know too many people who were either dealing with it at the time or have dealt with it in the past. Around the time when I was writing the book, a boy I know was being failed by his school administration and was additionally bullied by an awful principal who shared similar views with the students who were tossing slurs at the boy every day and physically harming him. As someone who personally witnessed similar situations while I was in school (see my essay in DEAR BULLY anthology) this hit home. I am happy to say the boy I’m talking about was removed from the school with the bully principal and is doing well at a new school and since then, a few other students have also left based on the same bigotry. Sadly, the principal is still there.
  • If you could give advice to teenagers who are being bullied, what would you say?
    This is such a tough question because bullying takes so many forms and each area of the country (and world) has different programs in place to combat bullying. But the first thing I’d say is TALK ABOUT IT. Find someone. Anyone. A parent, a teacher, a counselor, an administrator, a friend, your doctor, the school nurse, a coach, a friend of your family, a sibling, etc. Find someone who will be your advocate, not judge you. Ignore anyone who tells you it’s your fault. Being bullied is not your fault. Being physically harassed is against the law. If you or someone you know is at risk of being harmed by a bully, call your local police or 911. If your school isn’t keeping you safe from bullies, you and/or your parents must talk to the administration. If they fail to do their job, then you can contact the state school department. Several areas have bullying hotlines. And if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal because of bullying, or have even had thoughts about suicide in relation to being bullied, then use this number: 1-800-273-TALK. Also, a great resource for parents, teachers and victims is the page:
  • What are some of your favorite YA novels this year? 
    I loved BROOKYLN, BURNING by Steve Brezenoff, I’LL BE THERE by Holly Goldberg Sloan and SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield. I know this was technically a 2010 book, but I was really struck by NOTHING by Janne Teller. Books I can’t wait for: LOSS by Jackie Kessler, DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann and BOY 21 by Matthew Quick.
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