Interview with Terra Elan McVoy

Posted by on Sep 4, 2012 in Feature, Interviews | 0 comments

AYWI student member Amira had the opportunity to interview author Terra Elan McVoy!  Read on to see what Terra said about writing, inspiration, characters, and more! 

A simple plot, storyline, or idea can alter one’s way of thinking. Words can weasel their way into brains and sit there waiting for you to think of them again. Books and novels have this specific power. Authors such as Terra Elan McVoy have captivated their readers with plots that make them think and contemplate different things going on in their lives. Ms. McVoy has a unique style that reels her readers in and makes them want to read more. Many are curious of how authors became authors – how they started writing. Ms. Terra Elan McVoy has shared her story of how writing has been a big part of her life since she was a young girl. Growing up as the oldest of three girls, she has developed a passion for the elegant skill of storytelling and does it masterfully. She is the author of After the Kiss, Pure, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, and Being Friends With Boys. With these books, she has shown readers that anything can happen, and life is to be lived without any regrets.

When did you start writing, and how long after this did you decide that you wanted to be an author?

I didn’t really “decide” I wanted to be a writer. I’ve just loved reading and writing from the minute I figured out how to do both, which was, like, age 4. It’s just something I’ve always done and always loved. Writing was my passion and my hobby—I just did it on my own. Until I got an idea for a project that I shared with some editor friends while I was working in NYC at as an editorial assistant. It was still just a way for me to entertain myself for a long time, but it eventually became Pure.

What inspired you to start writing?

Reading great stories all my life and being affected so deeply by them, and poetry too. Wanting to be able to have that skill, myself.

Was there a certain person that had a big impact on your writing?

My parents had a big impact, mostly by making sure I always had books in my life. The library was an extremely important part of our routine. And every single English teacher (starting with my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Jones) who saw that I had talent and a deep interest, and who just encouraged me and helped me grow. My mentor at Florida State University, Mark Winegardner, also taught me how to read more analytically, and that helped my writing a ton. I benefitted equally from a lot of my colleagues in school, both college and grad school. And of course my editor, Anica Rissi, I couldn’t live without.

Are your novels inspired my real life experiences that you’ve had?

I’d say that my work is fueled by my real life, not necessarily inspired. Real life is like the fertilizer that helps the garden of my books grow.

How do you come up with characters?

 That is a great question and I’m not sure how to answer it. At first I get a loose idea of a person, I suppose, and then once I have that ghost outline –or more a feeling about who that person is—then I start buckling down and getting to know them for real, and fleshing out as many details as I can. Learning their likes and dislikes, and their daily routine really helps a lot, even for the minor characters.

Is there a certain process you use when writing novels?

It’s not the exact same every time, but I can definitely say that outlining and pre-writing are really important. Then I sit down and write the scenes as they come to me (sometimes this is linearly, sometimes not), and sew them together. I do some editing of course when I go back to it, but I’m trying to get into the habit of just getting it out and then editing later.

Do you have an idea book that you jot down ideas in about certain things you saw or heard that seemed like good starting points for novels?

I wish I were that organized! It’s more like bits and scraps of paper I shove into this old organizer of my grandmother’s from time to time. Every now and then I’ll reach in there and see what I’ve got. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it goes into the recycling bin.

Do you and your main characters have any similar characteristics?

I hope I have some of the same traits of my characters, because I like them so much! I think, like Tabitha in Pure, I am very dedicated to my friends and it’s important to me to keep up those relationships. Like Becca in After the Kiss, I was very serious about poetry in high school, and like Calla in The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, I am the oldest of three sisters. I think like Charlotte in Being Friends With Boys I’ve sometimes been unsure of my own talent, and have needed encouragement from friends and family to put it out there.

Do you sometimes find yourself modeling characters after people in your life?

The people in my life definitely inspire me in terms of characters, but again it’s more like they are the kernel I start with, and then I let my imagination and whatever comes up while I’m developing the character go from there. They certainly aren’t literal duplications by any means, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t bits and scraps or qualities of some of my real loved ones in my books.

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