March 5, 2015

Interview with Moriah McStay, Author of Everything That Makes You

It's been a long time since I've done an author interview, so I thought it was about time I did one. 

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.

Moriah McStay was kind enough to agree to an interview. First, a little bit about her!
headshot cropped
I grew up in Memphis, TN, so I love music and friend pickles in the deepest part of my soul. My hair has been every style and color imaginable (except for pink, though I still may try that one.)
I went to college in Chicago. My freshman year, I had to get written permission from all my professors to take final exams early, as I was needed home to be a Princess in the Cotton Carnival. There were about thirty of us princesses, and we all wore the same pink, floor-length, pleated taffeta gown. At all the parties, we looked like a school of giant, land-based shrimp.
I had picked Northwestern for its Creative Writing program. I’m still unclear where I veered off-course, and how I ended up with a BA in economics. It took me two graduate degrees and seven jobs before I came back around to writing. After a few years of churning out some downright awful novels, I finally got the hang of it. Now that I write full-time, the noisy characters in my head are much easier to control.
I love Mr. Darcy, guacamole, Hob Nobs, indie music, consignment stores, Harry Potter, and love stories. I’m really not a fan of shopping, heights or spicy food. I suck at reading directions; however, I’m an excellent parallel parker. Like, excellent.
I live in Memphis with my husband and three daughters. To date, none have expressed interest in being a Princess in Cotton Carnival, though one has had blue hair.

Let's get into the interview.

Emma: I'm sure you've been asked this a lot, but what was the original inspiration behind Everything That Makes You?
Moriah: 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.

Emma: What's one thing you'd like to share about one of the characters that you may not have been able to share in the book?
Moriah: In an earlier draft, the prologue was MUCH longer, and it included the entire accident. We edited it way down, and in the current version, it’s only specifically mentioned a few brief times. Fiona’s brother Ryan says about it: “I remember going to the snack bar. It was empty—just us. The guy at the popcorn cart, he looked like a grandfather, kept trying to pat our heads whenever we ran past him.”

As I was just beginning the story—trying to figure out where I was going with it all—I wrote the scene from several different points of view, including the old man at the popcorn cart (which topples over and burns Fiona’s face.) I saw him as the sweet retiree, missing his grown kids who lived hours and hours away. He kept trying to play with Fiona and Ryan out of nostalgic sadness. It still gets me choked up thinking about him.

Emma: What's your favorite part of the Everything That Makes You cover?
Moriah: At first, I wasn’t sure about another cover with a girl on it, but Erin Fitzsimmons did such a great job. Her hand lettering is absolutely my favorite part. Fiona is a songwriter and has tons of moleskine notebooks. Erin ripped out a moleskine page and hand lettered some of Fiona’s lyrics directly on it. It’s just stunning.

Emma: How did you react when you got the news that your book was going to be published?
Moriah: I was on vacation for Spring Break, and the beach town had horrible phone reception. My agent Steven Chudney sent a cryptic email—he wanted to talk about revisions—and I replied back we should handle it all over email, because of the spotty connections. He emailed back “Just call me! You’re ruining the surprise!” So my husband and I drove into town, sat at a literal Tiki Bar, and I called Steven while looking out onto a very blue ocean. It was just a perfect moment. We got back home and told our daughters and had an awesome Celebration Shrimp Boil.

Emma: What's next for you, writing-wise?
Moriah: I’m revising my second book right now. I’m working with my editor Jill Davis again, and Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins will publish it. I’d tell you the title and pub date if I knew it…it keeps changing. The novel will be a standalone like ETMY, but another contemporary YA.

Emma: What are three YA books you recommend?
Moriah: I can only pick three?!?! One of my favorites is WILD AWAKE by Hilary Smith. The voice and writing are just outstanding. THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater is excellent. I also highly recommend both of Jandy Nelson’s — THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. (That was four, but only three writers so partial credit.)

Emma: And finally, my standard question, what's your favorite fairytale and why?
Moriah: When I was a kid, it was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’m not sure why—I’m the youngest of three, and I think I found some satisfaction that it was the littlest bear that figured everything out. These days, my favorite movie of all time is The Princess Bride, which kind of counts as a fairy tale, right? The writing and characters are fantastic.

Emma: Thanks so much, Moriah!

You can find Moriah McStay and her book at the following links:
Moriah's website:

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading this right now, so it's cool to see an interview with her. I kind of figured that there was a personal story to go along with the premise of the book and knowing it makes the book feel so much more personal.

    Great interview, Emma!

    Erin @ The Hardcover Lover


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