Meet Cori McCarthy
Cori McCarthy is the author of the science fiction thrillers The Color of Rain and Breaking Sky, as well as the contemporary mixed media novel, You Were Here, and the forthcoming feminist rom com, Now A Major Motion Picture. Cori started writing at the age of thirteen, and studied poetry, memoir writing, and screenwriting before falling in love with YA at Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program. Cori spends most of their time at home in Vermont with their partner, fellow YA author Amy Rose Capetta, and their small son—and they are excitedly looking to get a puppy! On the horizon for 2019, Cori and their partner coauthored a duology entitled, Once & Future, a space fantasy about a girl King Arthur with an inclusive cast of the new knights of the round spaceship.
Find out more at CoriMcCarthy.com or tweet your favorite nerd .gif @CoriMcCarthy. You can also find me on Instagram. My account is locked to keep out the riff-raff, but if you’re a reader just request and send a note, and I will approve you 🙂
The writer vs. the adult. What do you struggle with in terms of balancing your writing live with your personal life?
On most days, I have three full-time jobs. I am a writer, an editor, and a parent. This is tricky at best…and like living in a swamp at worst. To help me stay balanced, I make small to-do lists and try to clear the deck of life’s etc. so that I can spend as much time as possible playing LEGOs with my son and writing as many books as possible.
What inspires you as a writer?
My mistakes and National Geographic. Not a lot of people know this about me, but I love to research. When I worked on Breaking Sky, I got to research the military, the Cold War, our global history of militarized youth, as well as amazing firsthand accounts of fighter jet pilots. When I worked on You Were Here, I devoured the NatGEo show Secrets of the Underground for urbexer inspiration—as well as going to the urbex locations in that story firsthand.
I draw heavily from history, culture, travel, and adventure when I write, but I also delve pretty deeply into the mistakes I’ve made and the problems I’ve faced. My writing thus becomes a kind of catharsis—a way to understand why things happen the way they do. I’ve always found that fiction is a balm for the aching places in the soul. For example, I wrote You Were Here as a way to understand my friend’s death many years ago. I never thought I’d be able to process what happened—and why the adults in my life were so ill-equipped to help us deal with the loss. But then along came Mik, Jaycee, Natalie, Zach, and Bishop…and they helped me out.
I see you freelance edit and are a writing coach. Does your editor brain clash with your writer brain when you are working on your own projects?
Nope! My editor brain and my writing brain don’t seem to be friends, let alone acquaintances. There are so many times when I’m advising a writing client, and I realize that the mistake they’ve been making is something I also need to work on in my own manuscript. I tend to write loose and fast, making all the mistakes as I go—only to smooth them out later. While I don’t necessarily tell other writers to do the same, I do encourage writers to be more willing to write badly. After all, you can never write a perfect book from the get-go. So go ahead and write it badly first! It’s faster to revise a draft than to wait for the perfect (imaginary) pages.
From to memoirs to poetry to screenwriting to YA to picture books… you’ve dabbled in it all! Tell us about you and how it influenced your decisions to branch out into different genres shaped your writing.
I find that they’re all related! When I write picture books or novels in verse, my poetry background leaps forward. When I’m plotting novels, my screenwriting education takes the wheel and makes sure I don’t get lost in the land of over-plotting nonsense. When I worked on You Were Here, I had to write scripts for the graphic novel sections, and poems for Bishop’s poetry, and then I needed all my education to make Zach, Jaycee, and Natalie’s prose voices sound unique. It was the best kind of juggling.
Are there any stereotypes or stigmas that you really want to tackle in upcoming projects? I have to point out here I am anxiously awaiting for everything you have in the works and continue to read You Were Here whenever I need the facts (but hope!) during rough times.
This is such a great question!
My upcoming book Now A Major Motion Picture is lighter than my other books—well, it is a rom com! That being said, I’d love for readers to look at what’s woven into the sweetheart romance and the ridiculous fantasy nerd shenanigans. Iris, the main character, is waking up to how women are blatantly mistreated in Hollywood—and the world and in her own family. This kind of awakening is tough to write about, and I’m hoping that it sneakily reaches everyone out there who needs a boost in fighting back against the most recent surge of patriarchal nonsense.
I’m also starting to write more about the LGBTQ+ community, and my experiences being a nonbinary, pansexual, mixed race Arab American. I have been afraid to write openly about these things in the past because publishing hasn’t had the best track record with uplifting marginalized identity stories and the writers who are brave enough to write them. But things are changing. And I’m done being afraid. Right now I’m working on a story that is similar to You Were Here in tone and depth, only this time it’s about my experiences growing up in a rural conservative community that abhorred difference. We’ll see how it goes…and if I can convince anyone to publish it!
Do you have a go-to author, book, or activity that helps you destress from writers block? If not, how do you tackle writers block? (Feel free to answer both if time permits or inspiration strikes!)
Keep in mind that if you are a writer, you should always be writing. Every day. But if you’ve hit a wall, maybe you should be writing something else? I once heard Philip Pullman say, “Don’t write when you’re not inspired. That’s like looking for a shadow with a flashlight.”
If there’s something you’ve burned out on, move along to a different project. When I was worn down from the heaviness of You Were Here, I ended up writing a rom com and a picture book biography about Kahlil Gibran—both of which surprised me. So yes, always write, but don’t make yourself write one book at a time. This business is tough enough, and you might as well have fun while you’re doing it 😉
Fangirling aside, is there anything you’d like to share with the readers today?
I think this is it! Great questions! Thank you for reaching out, and I’m really hoping to meet you one day!
Thank you Cori for stopping by! Had a blast 🙂
Now A Motion Picture is out now!