Shootin’ the Breeze With Terra Elan McVoy

Hello Readers!

Today is a special day here on the blog. Today I’m featuring author Terra Elan McVoy here on The BookBandit Blog! As you know I recently read Drive Me Crazy, Terra’s debut middle grade novel. And as you also know I really loved this book.

So much so, that after reading I e-mailed Terra almost immediately. I knew I needed to feature, not only Drive Me Crazy, but also her on my blog! And I so very happy and grateful that she took the time to answer a few of my burning questions.

Sonya Sones Portrait  BookBandit (BB): Can you tell a little about yourself, and about your path as a writer?

Terra Elan McVoy (TEM): I started composing stories when I was about four years old—I would dictate them to my mom who typed them up on our old typewriter. From then on, writing was my favorite thing. I had a diary, I wrote long letters to my cousin, pen pal, aunt, and grandmother, and loved any writing activity at school. I got serious about it when I was in middle school (when I wrote my first novel and discovered ee cummings), and I continued on to study creative writing in both college and then grad school. I never aspired to make a living as a writer, however, because it’s so hard to make it; I thought I would write for pleasure (maybe an occasional story printed here or there), and earn my living another way. That’s how I’ve been doing things until about two and a half years ago, though I do still currently work part-time at an independent bookstore here in Atlanta. My first novel, Pure, began as something I was playing with for entertainment. With the help of my best friend Anica (who became my editor for six out of my seven books, including Drive Me Crazy), it got published, and things have continued on from there. I’m very blessed that my main job now is a thing that I love so much, and that I get to keep learning and growing in my favorite thing every day!

BB: What is the inspiration behind you debut middle grade, Drive Me Crazy?

TEM: There was a lot that inspired Drive Me Crazy, but three relationships in particular get the most credit. Very first is the connection I have with my editor, best friend, and writing collaborator, Anica Rissi. Every novel I’ve done, including this one, stems from some conversation (probably multiple conversations) we’ve had, often during a walk or while sharing some kind of fantastic dessert. Drive Me Crazy in particular emerged from a talk about middle grade books and what my writing one might look like. She had told me a horribly embarrassing story from her own history about a girl who’s diary had been found, and then read aloud on the bus, and that seemed too good a tale not to be used somehow. Luckily she was sweet and generous enough to let me run with something that came from her actual life!

There were other relationships we thought I could work with too: first is my connection with my cousin, Meg. To me, there’s something very unique about a strong cousin relationship: you’re not sisters, but you’re still family (so therefore attend the big family gatherings together). You have an opportunity to become a special kind of friend/relative with each other, and I wanted to write about that. Second, the idea of two girls who are seemingly opposite finding a point of connection was also inspiring to me. My oldest and dearest friend and I met when we were in second grade, but in middle school we went our separate ways for awhile (quite awhile—until our senior year, really), because she wanted to be a certain way and I wanted to be another. This tension between girls going through changes at that age was interesting to me, but I also knew from experience that it can be worked out. Also, I wanted to try my hand at doing something fun with grandparents, and Tess and Howie were certainly the answer!

BB: What is the biggest difference, you’ve found, writing young adult and writing middle grade fiction?

TEM: For me the biggest difference is there’s definitely far less self-analysis in middle grade. Sometimes that’s hard for me to remember when I’m writing, actually! When Lana is scared, she’s just sacred—she doesn’t have a big monologue with herself about why. If Cassie’s angry, she’s angry, and she doesn’t try to rationalize or justify it. Also, there’s far less romantic turmoil, and that was somewhat refreshing, I have to admit.

BB: If you were going on your own road trip, where would you go? And what would your music playlist look like?

TEM: When I was young, if my family went anywhere we drove instead of flying, so I love road trips. I think if I were to go on one now, I would like to drive from here (Atlanta) up to Idaho–an area of the country I’ve really never seen (there or much of anywhere between here and there). My playlist would be a mix of all kinds of things: broody crooners (I love the National, and Phox), upbeat, boppy dance hits (vintage Madonna, Gorillaz), and probably some good classic sing-alongs. I’d make sure and bring a whole range of things (definitely there’d need to be some Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer in there too), since your mood can shift so much depending on the landscape and how tired you are!

BB: Would you say you’re more like Lana, or Cassie?

TEM: It’s funny—throughout the writing of Drive Me Crazy I would go back and forth between whom I related to most. When I was in middle school myself, I think I was a Lana who desperately wished she could be a Cassie. So I was struggling with both of those identities at the same time, and in some ways still am!

BB: What challenges did you face creating two main characters who are so vastly different? With that, each girl faces some tough issues, what was the challenge in creating these issues?

TEM: Creating friends out of two seemingly clashing personalities was a big motivator for writing this book. Oil and vinegar make the best salad dressing, after all, though it does take a lot of shaking to make them mix, and one never fully gets incorporated into the other. I tried to remember, while I was writing, that each girl possessed a quality that the other one could benefit and learn from; the arc of the story followed a path that would get both Cassie and Lana to places where they could realize that. The biggest challenge there was making sure I stayed on track!

Both girls do also have their own different personal difficulties in Drive Me Crazy, and the challenge there was maintaining my own empathy for how serious each one was for them. Keeping their responses appropriate for their ages and development, instead of inserting my own grownup perspective, was sometimes hard to do.

BB: A big moment that takes place in Drive Me Crazy is when Lana hopes to capture a little magic, why was that moment so important to you, and to the story?

TEM: One of my favorite genres is magical realism, but for me the magic has to feel very, very grounded in our actual world in order for me to get sucked in. (Books like The Night Circus and Winter’s Tale are good examples of what I mean.) Cassie and Lana are right at that age when we often start questioning whether story magic is real or not, and are also learning to see what is magical in the ordinary life around us. Whether a reader is clinging to their belief in magic, or letting go of it—I wanted to create a scene that would work for whichever side they’re on.

BB: Can you tell of any upcoming projects you are working on? With that will readers get to see more of Lana and Cassie in the future?

TEM: Yes I’m very excited to be working as we speak on the companion book to Drive Me Crazy, called This is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker. (Which will come out in summer 2016.) It’s the tale of Fiona Coppleton, Cassie’s former best friend with whom Cassie has had a very nasty break at the beginning of Drive Me Crazy. Though we hear a lot about Fiona from Cassie’s perspective, This is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker gives us a chance to see what all of that looked like from Fiona’s side. You will just have to see whether Lana makes an appearance or not!

BB: What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

TEM: My advice to aspiring writers involves two main things: first, read. Read everything you can, as much as you can. Read what you love of course, but make sure you read things outside of your comfort zone. Read essays and articles. Read memoirs and historical fiction. Stick with a book you really dislike, and try to figure out what the author is doing that you can’t jive with. The more you read, the more you will absorb about good storytelling, compelling characters, and lush description. (And also what you don’t want to do!)

The second thing to do is practice. A lot, without thinking about publication or fame or what people will think, or any of that stuff. That can come later. For now, write letters, poems, and stories, book reviews, interviews with people you know, novels or just ideas for novels. The more you write—even if you abandon something mid-way—the stronger your writing muscles will get.

And actually there’s a third thing: Be willing to fail spectacularly. If you are worried about making everything perfect, each time, or afraid of putting down anything that feels silly or weird, then you will have a tough time being a writer. The braver you are about what you put on the page, the better. Even if it ultimately stinks, you will learn from it.

___

Seriously readers, check out Drive Me Crazy. Run to the library, the book store, or wherever it is you get your books from and read it! You will not be disappointed! And please make sure to visit Terra’s website to learn more about her and all of her awesome books!

THANK YOU Terra, for not only being awesome, but for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for me and for the BookBandit Blog. It sincerely means so much to me!

 

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Drive Me Crazy

Drive Me Crazy by Terra Elan McVoy (e-galley recieved via Edelweiss)

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When Lana’s Grandpa Howe marries Cassie’s Grandma Tess, Lana and Cassie only expect to see each other at awkward family gatherings. And for Cassie that’s perfectly fine. But for Lana, it just isn’t. This is Lana’s chance to not only gain a cousin, but a best friend.

So when Grandpa Howe and Grandma Tess announce that both Lana and Cassie are coming along for a road trip adventure, both girls are a bit nervous – one more so than the other. For different reasons, both Lana and Cassie are hesitant. Even though Cassie is happy to spend time with her beloved Grandma Tess, she isn’t exactly thrilled to be sharing that time with boring old Lana and weird Grandpa Howe. Besides that, she’s worried that her friends back home will forget all about her.

While Lana is over the moon happy to get to know both Cassie and Grandma Tess, she’s worried about things at home. Her mom seems to be getting sicker and sicker. She hopes giving her mom some peace and quiet will make everything better.

With brave faces both girls hop in the backseat, buckle up, and sing along with the show-tunes blasting from the car stereo. Little by little both Lana and Cassie form a bond and a friendship.

Will these two new cousins survive a summer trapped in the backseat of their grandparent’s car?  Will Lana and Cassie’s friendship be strong enough to survive the secrets they are hiding from one another?

Drive Me Crazy, written by author Terra Elan McVoy, is a debut middle grade novel that, not only captures the nuances of becoming a teen, but will capture reader’s hearts.

The writing that fills the pages of this book is simply dazzling. Told from alternating perspectives – from both Lana and Cassie’s – author McVoy truly excels at giving each character the chance to tell their individual stories. Because of this – young and older readers alike – will get the chance to, not only know each of these unique girls, but also get the chance to see a little bit of themselves hidden within these magnetic characters.

Lana and Cassie truly are characters that readers will easily relate to. Beyond that, they are characters they will instantly root for. And it’s because they were crafted as being so openly honest, and so incredibly emotional. Beyond that, each of the girl’s are going through a lot during the course of the book. Cassie is struggling with the pressures of fitting in and the ever-changing emotions of a tween girl. On the other hand Lana is dealing with the realities of having to grow up too quickly, and deal with a situation that is super scary for any person, let alone a tween girl.

And even though it may seem like one issue is bigger than another, author McVoy does not treat them that way. The issues that Lana and Cassie are dealing with are real and treated equally. And McVoy handles them with grace, sensitivity, and the utmost care.

I originally went into this book simply because of the road trip aspect. I’m a real sucker for a good road trip book.  And this book captured all the qualities I love – adventure, wanderlust, and of course magic.

Drive Me Crazy had it all. To say I loved this book is an understatement. Readers, read this book! McVoy’s way with words is apparent, the characters are real, and the plot will take you on an unforgettable adventure!

(Image from GoodReads)

Rock On! A Music Themed Book List

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Hello Readers!

In case you did not already know this I am a total and complete music junkie! To say I love music is simply an understatement.

With that being said I thought it would be fun to create a themed book list focusing on two of my favorite things – music and books (obvious). As I was assembling this list you would be surprised at how many music themed books there are. Some of which I read and loved, other which I haven’t but I hope to some day.

So if you love music, and you love books than this is the list for you!

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Debbie Harry Sings in French

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

Born to Rock by Gordon Korman

Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Amplified by Tara Kelly

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

 Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

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The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Exile by Kevin Emerson

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I’d Like to Meet (Or Rather, Top Ten Authors I’ve Met!)

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Hello Readers!

Today’s top ten Tuesday post is going to be a really fun post. Today, instead of sharing the top ten authors I’d like to meet, I’m going to talk about the top ten authors I’ve already met. I’ve been very lucky! Living so close to NYC has allowed me to meet many of my favorite authors.

So below, in no particular order, these are the top ten author’s I have met, and have had a great time meeting!

Oliver Jeffers

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I’m an insanely huge Oliver Jeffers fan! So getting the chance to, not only meet him, but snap a picture with him, is a real highlight of my life so far. I mean I met him easily over two years ago and I still talk about it as if it happened yesterday. Miss Print can attest to this.

Ransom Riggs

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After waiting in line at Yallfest to meet Ransom Riggs for quite some time, and after finding out that he was unfortunately sick I was one upset fan. But I knew eventually I’d get to meet the man behind Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. So when I found out that he would be visiting Brooklyn, my bestie Danielle and I trekked over to the wilds of Brooklyn and had the awesome opportunity to, not only meet Ransom, but to hear his great stories.

Stephanie Perkins

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Stephanie Perkins is one of my most fave authors — of all times! And I’ve had the chance to meet her, not once or twice, but several times already. The top picture is when I first met Stephanie at Books of Wonder at one of their annual mega signings. The bottom is the most recent – at last year’s Yallfest. Not only does she write some fantastic books, but she is honestly super sweet!

Holly Black

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The first time I met author Holly Black I was in grad school. Her and author Libba Bray visited one of my classes to talk with us students about genre, writing, and books. It was one of the most memorable classes I’ve ever been in. I met Holly Black several other times, but for some reason never had the chance to document it. Until last year’s Book Expo America where Holly was signing advanced copies of The Darkest Part of the Forest. You can tell my that big cheesy grin just how big a Holly Black fan I am!

Kiera Cass

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Kiera Cass is a real delight to meet! She’s super sweet, and her signings are always fun. Or at least the two that I’ve been to. And even greater than her books – her hair bows! Seriously, I wish I could rock a hair bow half as well as she can!

Tara Altebrando

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The first time I met Tara was several years ago when she was signing at Books of Wonder. She was signing Dreamland Social Club. A book that, I didn’t know that, would come to be so vastly important to me. Since reading I haven’t had a stronger connection with any other book. Since that, I’ve been a fan of Tara’s and I will remain one!

Rainbow Rowell

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Do I really need to explain? It’s Rainbow Rowell … you all know how awesome she is!

Lauren Oliver

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I feel like I always miss Lauren Oliver when she’s signing in my general area. Besides at Yallfest I met her one other time before at Books of Wonder but didn’t have a chance to snap a pic with her (because it was CRAZY!). I was glad to have the chance to, not only snap a pic with her, but to chat with her for a few minutes.

Neil Gaiman

IMG_0907Seriously this was by far the absolute craziest signing I have EVER been too. I waited no less that seven hours for my chance to meet Neil Gaiman. Getting to meet him was – as cheesy as it sounds – an inspiration.

Sarah Dessen

IMG_3001What can I say about Sarah Dessen. She’s YA royalty. And besides that she’s the absolute nicest person … ever. At this point, when I had taken this picture, she had been signing for at least an hour, and every fan that she met she greeted with a big smile!

So, yeah, like I said I’ve been lucky!

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!

Is finally in the wild! And available for all of us book lovers to devour and love!

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Hello Readers!

In celebration of the publication of Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce I decided to do a giveaway!

As luck would have it, not only did the wonderful people over at Scholastic give me a finished copy, but fellow blogger and in real life BFF Miss Print gave me an ARC of this highly anticipated book. Generally, I’m not a book collector (mainly because of space limitations) I’ve decided to share the wealth and give one lucky blog reader the chance to win this ARC.

So, obviously one lucky winner will have the chance to win an ARC (advanced readers copy) of Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magica Creatures. And for an added bonus I’ll through in some goodies/swag.

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This giveaway is open to all U.S. Residents ages 13 years and older. This giveaway will be running from May 2nd until May 9th. One winner will be randomly selected and will be notified via e-mail on May 10th. Winner will have two days to reply to e-mail with mailing information. If no response is recieved a new winner will be selected.

That’s all there is! Good luck!

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*Top image created by me via PicMonkey.com. Image of book cover from GoodReads.