Sweet Sixteener Shannon M. Parker recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Moriah McStay about her contemporary YA debut, EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU (March 17, 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins).
About the Author:
Moriah McStay grew up in Memphis, TN, where she acquired a come-and-go drawl and a lifelong love of cowboy boots and fried pickles. She attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Two graduate degrees and seven jobs later, she finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is her first novel, and she’s probably at home right now working on another one.
About EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU:
One girl. Two different 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? EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU 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.
Shannon: Congratulations on your book release! EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is a fascinating look at destiny and the different iterations of love and strength. The novel is told from two points of view, or rather two versions of Fiona. How did you come up with the idea to explore two different fates for one character?
Moriah: When I was little, I was in an accident that left me blind in one eye. You can’t notice much now, but I got lots of questions, couldn’t play sports, had to wear big glasses. Later on—in high school and college—I wondered which parts of my personality that accident shaped. If it never happened, who would I be? And what about my family? How did the accident shape their lives? What about my friend whose father died when she was young? Or the classmate with cancer? How did those events shape them? There are so many “what ifs.” We all have them. It’s an interesting question to explore, I think.
Shannon: Agreed! When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Moriah: Maybe always? I went to college as a Creative Writing major, though somehow I lost my way and ended up with an economics degree. It took awhile to find my way back to it, but I never stopped wanting to be a writer.
Shannon: Well, I’m so glad you found your way back to writing! Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
Moriah: I wrote—and queried—two terrible novels prior to ETMY. They were necessary evils, in that I learned a ton. It took about a year to write ETMY and a few months to submit it to agents. I signed my agent contract with Steven Chudney in November, 2012—and then my contract with HarperCollins in March, 2013. The pub date is almost two years exactly from my first phone conversation with my editor, Jill Davis.
Shannon: What do you want readers to take away from the experience of reading about Fi/Fiona?
Moriah: The important message for me is that everyone’s got cruddy stuff behind them–but maybe the strongest, best parts of you are born from that. So embrace the suck. That said, hopefully it resonates with readers in lots of different ways. I just hope they enjoy it!
Shannon: Hah! I love it! Embrace the suck. I’m having tee-shirts made now!
Lightning Round Questions:
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Youngest of three. My big brother, then my sister, then me.
Music to write by?
Yes! Something loud, usually. Jack White, The Shins, Silversun Pickups.
Favorite Broadway musical?
A band you loved when you were 16 that you still listen to.
Dogs, always dogs. Right now, Molly (goldendoodle) and Luna (poodle, wheaten mix)
Do you write longhand or type?
Type. My handwriting’s atrocious.
About the interviewer:
S.M. Parker lives on the coast of Maine with her husband and sons. As a young adult, restlessness drove her to backpack throughout dozens of countries, adventures she found far less intimidating than high school. She has since devoted her life to education and holds degrees from three New England universities. She can usually be found rescuing dogs, chickens, old houses and wooden boats. Shannon has a weakness for chocolate chip cookies and ridiculous laughter, ideally, at the same time. The Girl Who Fell is her first novel. Find her at www.shannonmparker.com