Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A NerdsHeartYA Interview W/ Terra Elan McVoy

This the second year of the NerdsHeartYA . This year the tournament is looking at under represented YA literature. Over the next week or so, a few of the shortlisted authors will be interviewed by bloggers turned judges. I am a second round judge. I love the diversity of the shorlisted titles. I've read reviewed and enjoyed 15 of the 32 titles.

Including Pure by Terra Elan McVoy. I do hope you'll take a moment to check out the shortlisted titles. After reading this interview of course. Because right here, right now, its all about Terra Elan McVoy and her wonderful YA debut Pure. My review

Hi Terra - congratulations on the recent release of your second novel After the Kiss. Can you tell us a little about yourself and Pure?

Well, I grew up in Tallahassee, FL, and was in love with reading and writing pretty much as soon as I learned how to them. I've always written poems and stories, and I've almost always had jobs that have something to do with reading or writing in some way, including teaching fiction and composition when I was a grad student at Florida State University.

I started writing Pure when I was working in publishing in New York. I was reading a lot of YA fiction that I felt didn't really represent what life was like being a pretty "normal" teenager, and I thought that was weird. I mean, I didn't go to an elite boarding school; my parents weren't incredibly rich (and always leaving me on my own while they traveled to Japan or wherever), or dying of cancer; I wasn't plotting the revengeful murder of any of my friends, and I certainly wasn't in love with a vampire (as far as I know). I had pimples and boys and clothes and work and church and friends to deal with, and that was dramatic enough! So I wanted to write something about how hard it is, having to grow up, define yourself, and choose your own morality. When I was given an article about purity rings, it all sort of clicked together, and I felt like I'd found the hook for my story.

A "normal" teenager, so that's why there was homework and actual test to study for.
Purity rings is a topic I would have bet serious money, I would never have read a book about. Terra, you cost me a lot of imaginary money and I know I can't be the only one. Pure has been out for over a year. What has the feedback been from readers who were tentative about picking it up because of the subject matter?

Happily, for me, most people have had the same reaction you did. They thought "Oh my gah. I cannot read a book with all this Jesus stuff in it!" Some people have been put off, sure, but it seems like ultimately, when they got into it and gave it a chance, they saw that there was a lot more to Pure than a bunch of preaching in one direction or another. It was really, really important to me to be fair to everyone in the book, and to take each side as seriously as they would themselves, and that included religion. But nothing in life is really simple and clear-cut, even if, like Morgan, we want it to be sometimes. I'm glad that a lot of people are finding out that this book isn't clear-cut, either.

Pure is written in such a balanced and thoughtful matter, it could easily lead to questions and conversations. I will never understand purity rings, though in the end it comes down to respecting the choices of others. One way to do this is through dialogue.

That is definitely one thing I was trying to accomplish with this book.

I found your main character 15 Tabitha very likable and realistic. When you started writing, did you always know the type of girl Tabitha would be? Or did that change over time?

Tab was very, very clear to me from the second I started writing. I heard her voice right away and knew her pretty completely, including knowing how she'd handle things in the end. It's why I was able to write the book in the first place: something I'd never done before and never thought I'd try to attempt. Tabitha, thank goodness, was more certain and solid than I was a lot of the time!

Tabitha's friendships with her three closet friends (who also have purity rings) is broken when one of the girls has sex. Tabitha's best friend Morgan is strong in her convictions and will not have anything to do with the other girl. Tabitha must choose between a friend or a life promise. Being 15, its the first time she faces something like that and struggles with it. I always assume authors become very close to their main characters. Was it hard to put Tabitha in such a difficult position?

No because I knew she was going to be okay. And that dilemma you pinpoint is exactly what I wanted to write about. When you are in high school, you can lose friends almost overnight by making certain decisions: who you're going to hang out with, what classes you're going to take, if you'll get a job, what you wear . It's painful and awful and horrible, but it's also amazing and very, very important. I knew Tab was going to suffer, but because I had to go through very similar things once myself, I knew she was going to come out okay, and stronger in herself.

Tabitha's bestfriend Morgan likes to be in control and have the best of everything when compared to her friends. What did you want readers to take away from their relationship?

Mainly just that life is change. As you grow and develop, the relationships you have need to grow and develop with you --make room for who you have become-- because if they can't or don't, they aren't going to last very long. But also that growing and changing (and maybe losing things in the process) is okay

Religion is always a touching subject. How do you think you did? Would you have changed anything?
You're right that religion is touchy. But it's also a big part of a lot of people's lives. The hardcore stuff we see or hear about on TV is only a tiny-miney fraction of what's out there. Which is part of why I wanted to take on something like this: to show that there are other ways of believing in God, and trying to practice that in your life. I based a lot of Tabitha's church experience on my own background, so I think there I did okay. If there's one thing I'd change it's maybe where the Ring Thing celebration is in the book. With it being in there so early, and being so intense, it might've set a weird tone for some readers. But it makes such an impact on Tab, I couldn't have taken it out altogether!

Terra, thanks again and good luck in the tournament.

Thanks again to you, Doret, and I'm looking forward to the competition, though being chosen at all is a terrific honor to me!

NerdsHeartYA just announced two great prize packs that can be won for promoting the competition. There is a signed copy of Pure in second one. And remember every time you spread the word about NerdsHeartYA others get wiser to the goodness of the shortlisted authors.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great interview Doret! And I loved this: "I was reading a lot of YA fiction that I felt didn't really represent what life was like being a pretty "normal" teenager, and I thought that was weird. I mean, I didn't go to an elite boarding school; my parents weren't incredibly rich (and always leaving me on my own while they traveled to Japan or wherever), or dying of cancer; I wasn't plotting the revengeful murder of any of my friends, and I certainly wasn't in love with a vampire (as far as I know). "

That is so true about normalcy and YA (or any other kind of) fiction!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Gah! :D I have to read Pure. Trust me, I do. Thanks for the interview, Doret. Will spread the word!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

p.s. Doret, you need to go to that link at NerdsHeartYA and add your link to this interview! :--)

Jodie said...

Really great interview, thanks so much for helping us get more information on Terra out there as part of NHYA. Can't wait to see your reviews for your judging bracket (so close now).

Oh and yes this interview totally counts as promotion, so if you add a link in the comments on the giveaway post you can enter to win, win, win :)

Purity Rings Online said...

Great interview. Staying pure and friendships are struggles that teens have to face everyday.

Anonymous said...

I read this way back with the cover was pink! Any idea why it changed to yellow? The cover really attracted a lot of my students to the book, I never could keep it on the shelf! It's more than a book about religion. If it were just about religion I wouldn't have finished it. It's about deciding what you believe in and realizing the consequences. This book would be great to pair with Saving Maddie.

Doret said...

Thanks Jill - I liked that as well. And its always nice when teens in YA book have to deal with regular things.

Nathalie - Its a great word.

Edi - I didn't like cover for the hardcover. Though I am not big on pink. And your right its a lot more then relgion. I still need to read Saving Maddie.