Welcome to another feature of Celebrating Debutantes 2017 event. Today I’m featuring new author McCall Hoyle and her contemporary novel, The Thing with Feathers. This wonderful diverse book is not only heart-warming but also full of hope.
To know more about the author and The Thing with Feathers. Check the McCall’s bio and book’s description that follows after the interview. There are also links where you can catch up with the author or where to pre-order copies of the book. And if you’d like to own a signed advance readers’ copy of the book and swags, there’s a giveaway at the end of this post. Just enter the rafflecopter form for a chance to win.
Interview with McCall Hoyle
How was the experience writing your debut novel, The Thing with Feathers and going through the publication process?
The Thing with Feathers is my first book, but I truly believe it will always be the book of my heart. Although, I am in no way Emilie, the main character in the book, I have felt all the emotions she experiences—grief, hope, feelings of inadequacy.
I’m not going to lie, the road to publication is long and arduous. But every step along the way was worth it when I first held an advance copy of the book in my hands and especially when I read the acknowledgements and realized yet again how lucky I am to have had so much help along the way from family, critique partners, professional organizations like Romance Writers of America.
I love the title and cover art of The Thing with Feathers. If I’m not mistaken the title comes from Emily Dickinson’s poem. Did you have any say in choosing the title and cover art? How important do you think they are?
Yes, the title is a line from a well-known Emily Dickinson poem. She writes: “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers; that perches in the soul; “ When the title came to me, I knew it was perfect. Everything about this book and about Emilie, the main character, is about learning to find hope even in the most difficult circumstances. And reading poetry and studying Emily Dickinson have a major impact on Emilie’s emotional arc in this story. Thankfully, my agent, editor, and publisher also agreed the title was perfect. I don’t personally think a title is going to make or break a book, but I love a nice title—especially one that’s somehow connected to the theme of the book and that readers have to uncover the meaning of for themselves.
Mental health themes in YA novels are not only widening but also getting lots of buzz especially with how they are portrayed. What can you say about this? What message do you want readers to take away from your book?
I’m too new to the business of publishing to address trends or speak for other books. But I can speak for Emilie. I want readers to relate to Emilie on an emotional level. Epilepsy is not a mental illness, but living with an invisible and stressful disorder like can greatly impact a person’s mental health. As a teacher, a mom, and a human, I believe we all struggle with complex issues at varying levels whether it’s epilepsy, anxiety, depression, body-image issues, grief or something entirely different. I want readers to read Emilie’s story and realize that we all struggle, but that struggling is not a reason to give up hope. No matter how flawed we feel, no matter how awful the adversity, we can always find a reason to hope. I want teenage girls to have the courage to believe in their own happily-ever-afters.
As a writer, was it difficult to combine romantic elements with the exploration of Emilie’s condition?
That is an excellent question. First, I wanted this to be Emilie’s story. I wanted it to be a story of strength and resilience and hope. I did not want the romance to overshadow Emilie’s emotional growth. But in my experience, relationships are a central part of who we are. We’re constantly starting, developing, and ending relationships. Emilie’s story is about opening up, taking risks, and learning to hope. Taking a risk on friendship and first love were a natural part of her growth as a human being. I feel like it worked. Epilepsy is a big part of Emilie’s life, but it’s not her entire life. She’s a perfectly average teenage girl. Yes, she has epilepsy, but she’s also dealing with all the things teenage girls deal with including boys. 🙂
What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing Emilie’s story? Any interesting things you found out during your research?
Of course, I did lots and lots of research on epilepsy, different types of seizures, the effects of epilepsy on mental health and day-to-day living, as well as various treatment options. I also read several stories about the benefits of therapy dogs, seizure response dogs, and dogs in general and became fascinated by the touching and almost magical relationships between dogs and humans. Emilie has a seizure response dog named Hitch, inspired by a real life golden retriever and by many of the stories I read. Several early readers seem to love Hitch as much as they do Emilie. I encourage readers to do some research of their own if they fall in love with Hitch.
How did you go about putting yourself in Emilie’s mindset? How did you manage your emotions while writing?
I’ve taught middle school and high school for several years. I’ve raised a teenage daughter, and I was a teenage girl. On an average day, I spend more time with teenagers than with adults. Also, I experienced some of the greatest trials of my life during my teenage years. It’s actually frighteningly easy for me to put myself in the mindset of teenage girls. Emilie struggles with managing the challenges of her epilepsy and her seizures, but in my experience, all teenage girls are struggling with something. When I write, whether it’s about a girl with epilepsy, or a girl struggling with grief, or a girl struggling with body image issues, I just try to tap into the emotions I’ve experienced in similar situations. And above all, I aim for honesty. I want teenage girls to know that no matter how flawed they feel, there is always room to hope.
And I did cry as I wrote several scenes in the book, but I tried very hard not to “manage” my emotions. I tried to embrace them. I think readers want to feel something. So when my own writing rips me apart emotionally, I generally think I’m writing some of my best words.
Do you think you’ll stick writing YA contemporary or branch out into something else? Any future works we should watch out?
I will ALWAYS write YA contemporary. My heart and soul reside in the emotions there. But I do have an adventurous side and would love to experiment with something gruesome and terrifying and maybe women’s fiction as well. I love writing about sisters and moms and daughters.
Fingers crossed on the YA contemporary that I’m currently revising for my editor. I think it would pair nicely with Emilie’s story and would love to have a 2018 release as well.
Thanks for having me!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
McCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. She is a high school English teacher. Her own less-than-perfect teenage experiences and those of the girls she teaches inspire many of the struggles in her books. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and their odd assortment of pets—a food-obsessed beagle, a grumpy rescue cat, and a three-and-a-half-legged kitten. She has an English degree from Columbia College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. She lives in a cottage in the woods in North Georgia where she reads and writes every day.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: The Thing with Feathers
Author: McCall Hoyle
Publication Date: September 05, 2017
Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audio
Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.
Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.
Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”
What’s up for Grab?
- signed advance readers copy of The Thing with Feathers
- bookmark, and postcard
- Open to International
- There will be one (1) winner
- Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
- Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
- Ends August 29th, 2017
- Prize will be sent via book depository
To enter fill out the form
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