Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CRIMINAL G-Chat with Terra Elan McVoy!

I am so SO excited today because:

1) I get to interview an author I've been a fan of for a long time, the fabulous Terra Elan McVoy!

2) I love her book CRIMINAL, and the paperback release happened April 8th, which means you should have been reading this book yesterday! (Yes, I had to squeeze in that lame joke.)

3) Terra had the idea for us to do a G-Chat interview, and it was super fun, and I'm excited to share it with you! But first, here's a little more info about CRIMINAL:

A searing and gripping read that explores the depths of desperation true love can inspire, from the author of Being Friends with Boys.

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

Now, at this point, you are probably swooning over that blurb and that cover, and you may feel the need to rush out and buy CRIMINAL right now. It's cool, go right ahead :)

…you back? Okay, good! Here's the interview:

Me: So, first of all, I was snooping on your website and saw that CRIMINAL has been nominated for an Edgar Award! 2:22 PM
Congratulations! That is huge! 2:22 PM

Terra: Thank you! It was a shocking morning when I found out, for sure. Such a big honor and a nice way for the book to be recognized. 2:23 PM
We'll see what happens on May 1st! I have to buy a formal! 2:23 PM

Me: Oh! Fancy dresses and everything! That is very exciting! *crosses fingers for May* 2:24 PM

Me: So, I've mentioned this to you before, but my favorite part of CRIMINAL is how most YA/NA makes dating the bad boy seem sooo romantic and dreamy, and your book gives everybody a good whack with the truth stick and says, "This is what dating a bad boy actually does to you." 2:25 PM
Is this something you set out to do, or did it just kind of happen? 2:25 PM

Terra: Well, I have done my share of bad boy romanticizing in my life. :) 2:26 PM
To be honest, I wasn't trying to do anything with CRIMINAL besides get in the head of someone like Nikki. 2:26 PM
I think it's SO EASY to judge people who are different from us, or who do things we don't agree with. 2:27 PM
Much harder to actually empathize with them and see the human side of their story. The real trick was making Dee someone hot and exciting instead of just a slimeball. :) 2:27 PM

Me: Ha! Well, you did a great job there! No one can accuse Dee of not being hot. 2:28 PM

Terra: Thanks! 2:29 PM

Me: I really loved what you did with Nikki. And you're right, she causes you to think differently and really step into her life for a while. She's also very different from characters I've seen from you in the past. Did you do anything special to get in her head space? 2:30 PM

Terra: Environmental detail is really important to me in my character development, to help me get a handle on them and what their lives are like. 2:31 PM
So, I did a lot of interviews with people who either worked with incarcerated people, or people who had been in jail themselves. I found a lot of testimonials on a website for a local jail system, and that helped too. 2:31 PM
I worked backwards from the murder, thinking what might be necessary to get Nikki to that place. 2:32 PM
So, her boyfriend is her whole life? She must not have many friends. Why not? She must not go to school. How come? She must have dropped out. Why would you drop out? 2:32 PM
Like that. 2:32 PM

Me: I had been wondering about that. The amount of research that had to have gone into this book is mind boggling. I loved the prison scenes so much, and as I was reading them, I was like "How long did this take her? How did she make everything so real? DOES SHE HAVE A SECRET CRIMINAL PAST?!" 2:34 PM
So that makes a lot of sense. 2:34 PM

Terra: Hahahahaha. 2:35 PM
No, no jail records for me. But what was really fascinating during my research period was learning how very boring and banal jail actually is. 2:35 PM
It is not an "Oz" episode every day! Of course, Nikki wasn't in PRISON, she was in jail, which a lot of people don't know the distinction between. I didn't. 2:35 PM

Me: That is really interesting. And I didn't know that distinction either. And yes, movies and tv make it seem very dramatic and like your life is in danger every day. 2:36 PM

Terra: Which, I'm sure in some places, it is that way. 2:37 PM

Me: I really liked what a calm, structured influence it was on Nikki. And I LOVED the other girls. Priscilla. The hair stuff. And Cam and Bindi. I desperately want to give Bindi a hug! You can make that happen, right? 2:38 PM
Seriously, though, tell me more about these girls! 2:38 PM

Terra: Oh I will give Bindi a hug for you, yes! Poor little thing. 2:38 PM
Well, as we were talking about in terms of 17 FIRST KISSES, it's really important to me that secondary characters get just as much attention in the making-them-real department as the MC and etc. 2:39 PM
I worked hard at that in PURE, and really in all of my books. 2:39 PM
But with Cam, Priscilla, and Bindi, it was mostly FUN. 2:39 PM
I knew Nikki really needed a good influence in her life besides Bird, and that's where Priscilla came in. Where all of them came in, really, because one of Nikki's BIG problems is that she's been really isolated and hasn't had the power of good girlfriends in her life. 2:40 PM

Me: Totally agree. Isolation is a key player in the type of relationship Nikki is in. 2:41 PM

Terra: Nikki also needed to find out her own value without Dee. And that's where the hair stuff came in. It's a talent she hadn't thought of as a talent because it was what was buying her milk, you know? 2:42 PM

Me: That's very true. There was a bigger connection with her doing hair in jail versus on the outside, but I didn't think of it until now. 2:43 PM

Me: Kind of a different direction, but I feel like this book rides the YA/NA line because Nikki is a teen, but she isn’t going to school anymore and has some pretty grown up problems to deal with. I always recommend this book (and another YA, Rainbow Rowell’s FANGIRL) to people who love reading NA but are tired of the same old thing. With great results too! Everyone I’ve rec’d has been happy!
Any thoughts on CRIMINAL and the YA/NA thing? 2:45 PM

Terra: Oh, hooray! And thank you so much for spreading it around! 2:46 PM
One thing that is interesting to me -this is a sideways start to your question- is that people LOVE YA, but get so impatient with YA characters. 2:46 PM
You'll see reviews that are like, "Put on your big girl panties already!" but the thing about teenagers is that they don't HAVE big girl panties yet. They are just learning how to make them. 2:47 PM
I still get a lot of that with CRIMINAL, people wanting to slap Nikki for how dumb she is, but that's sort of the point of the book. 2:47 PM

Me: Bwahahaha. I love that about the big girl panties. 2:47 PM

Terra: You're watching her transition from Girl to Young Woman. She just happens to go to jail to do it. 2:47 PM

Me: Yeah, and I think that's kind of the point. Who wants to read a book where someone is completely strong and self-aware and has all the answers at the beginning? 2:48 PM

Terra: YA for me is interesting not to romanticize my past, or get all gooshy in nostalgia, but because that period of life is so difficult and interesting. 2:48 PM

Me: Nikki makes tremendous leaps during the book, but in real life, you have to earn those. And whenever she made a decision where I wanted to cheer for her, I felt like it had been earned, and that is so important. 2:49 PM

Terra: Oh thank you. You have no idea what a big compliment that is. 2:50 PM

Me: Also, I totally agree about why YA is interesting. 2:50 PM

Terra: About what you said about reading about self-aware characters and stuff, it feels as though, for some reason, we're more forgiving about messed-up characters in Adult fiction. 2:50 PM
Maybe that's not wholly true, but I seem to see stuff all the time where a book gets bashed because the reviewer didn't adore the MC or wasn't able to superimpose her own face over the MC or whatever. 2:51 PM


Me: Yes. And also when the characters are men…but that is another soap box for another day. 2:51 PM

Terra: It's just weird. Oh man--definitely the men! In YA too! They are all losers and dorks or whatever. :) 2:51 PM

Terra: One thing that one of the lawyers I interviewed said really fed this book, and that was that it was always inspiring to her, working with a client, who at first was in TOTAL denial about his/her role in the crime. 2:52 PM
How then they moved to acknowledgment and then on to wanting to repent. 2:52 PM
That was huge for me and really shaped the whole book. 2:52 PM

Me: That's really interesting that that kind of denial and then repentance is common in real life. I mean, it makes total sense. 2:53 PM
It's just not something I would think to wonder about usually. 2:54 PM

Me: So, let's talk about Bird and her friendship with Nikki. 2:54 PM
Bird was one of my favorite characters, and I loved reading about their friendship. I also felt that what happened with their friendship was very real, and I don't think any other outcome would have been true to their characters. But man, oh, man, Terra, you sure know how to break hearts, don't you? 2:56 PM

Terra: Laughing, laughing! 2:56 PM

Terra: Bird is my favorite, too. My heart just . . . pulls for her. 2:56 PM
My editor and I talked a lot about Bird and Nikki, and how that should all go. 2:57 PM
And one thing Anica reminded me about was that sometimes, when things get broken, they really don't get fixed. Sometimes you hurt someone badly enough that you really do lose them. 2:57 PM
We want things to get better for Nikki, but her actions have real consequences, and her relationship with Bird is one of those parts of her life that is HUGELY affected by Dee. 2:58 PM
I would love to one day write something else with Bird though, maybe. 2:59 PM

Me: And I would love to read it!! 2:59 PM
That is a really tough lesson, but it's true. I'm glad you went the tougher route when you were writing them. 3:00 PM


Terra: Well, that's thanks to my editor. She always tells me I try to be too easy on my characters!! 3:01 PM

Me: Yay Anica :) 3:02 PM

*******WARNING: This section of the G-chat has been removed because I asked Terra a super spoilery question about the plot twists in CRIMINAL. Hint: They are so awesome, you should go read this book right now.********

Terra: But if it helps, when I talk about the book, I do talk about the fact that this was inspired loosely by a news report I heard about a guy who killed his girlfriend's parent, and that he had an accomplice--with whom he was also maybe romantically involved. 3:06 PM
My brain just went crazy with that . . . talk about a love triangle! . . . wondering who the heck would do such a thing. (Meaning, the accomplice girl.) So I knew she had to not know about the other girl. 3:07 PM
This helped me develop Dee a lot too, knowing this secret of his. That really he was a two-timing jerk, not just a killer! 3:07 PM

Me: That is such a crazy story! Excellent book inspiration! 3:09 PM

Terra: Yeah it was pretty wild. More proof that you can find stories everywhere!! 3:09 PM

Me: Yes! 3:09 PM

Terra: But, you know, without that reveal, Nikki may NEVER have finally seen Dee for who he was. 3:10 PM

Me: It was definitely critical. 3:10 PM

Me: I just have one more question. 3:09 PM
Is there anything you want to tell me about IN DEEP? I don’t even know what. Just some tantalizing piece of information to see if I can be even more excited about this book! 3:10 PM
Oh dear. I wrote tata-lizing the first time. That would have been a different type of information indeed. 3:11 PM

Terra: Hahaha. 3:11 PM
Tata-lizing. I like that. That should be a new adjective for a groovy girl. 3:11 PM

Me: Haha, yes! 3:11 PM

Terra: So, IN DEEP I am very excited about, because it's revisiting a character from SUMMER OF FIRSTS AND LASTS: Brynn, the camp "bad girl." 3:11 PM
My cousin read SOFAL and afterwards asked me if there was more "about this Brynn character." I brushed it off, because I was working on other things at the time, but the question kept coming back. 3:12 PM
So I decided to find out what IS up with Brynn in the time before she goes to Camp Callanwolde. I'm also nervous/excited about it because it is, essentially, a tragedy 3:12 PM
Maybe not Shakespeare-level tragedy, but it's definitely about someone falling from a place of power and confidence to . . . not so much. 3:13 PM

Me: Ohhhh. I'm excited! More than excited. I am officially tata-lized. I love the idea of getting to know more about a bad girl. That by itself would be enough. But the tragedy element too. YES! 3:14 PM

Terra: The hilarious part about Brynn being tata-lizing is that she's skinny as all hell and looks more like a 12 year-old boy than a 17 year old girl. So, that's funny. 3:15 PM
I'm glad you are excited though. I am too!! 3:15 PM
It'll be fun to share this with everyone. 3:15 PM


Me: Yes. Definitely! 3:16 PM


And that's it! I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as Terra and I enjoyed doing it! And I hope you love CRIMINAL as much as I did!

11 comments:

  1. this was a great style interview. I loved reading more about CRIMINAL (I read it when it first debuted…in hardcover. I saw Terra at a panel and the way she spoke about her novel & working with her editor made me realize I needed to read that book :)) and I can't wait for IN DEEP. Though I guess I have to read SUMMER OF FIRSTS & LAST, first, huh?

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  2. I want the spoiler parts!!! Just kidding. The stuff about the attorney and eventual acceptance was interesting, as was the Bird parts. Definitely picking this one up.

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  3. Loved reading how Terra 'worked backward' to uncover Nikki. And great thoughts about big girl panties-- (ha! First time I've ever said THAT.) Thanks, Rachael and Terra, for a thoughtful interview. Looking forward to CRIMINAL!

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  4. Ahhh! Another book for the TBR pile. This sounds excellent. Glad to listen in on you two!

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  5. Rach - I first found out about Terra's books via panel too (Decatur Book Festival)! She is good on a panel :)

    Dawn - Ha! Glad the spoiler warning worked!

    Thanks, Kate! I loved the big girl panties thing too!

    Dana - yes! Definitely one to add to the TBR pile!

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  6. Loved the format of this interview - lots of fun! "Tata-lizing" is just plain awesome! Just added Criminal and Summer of Firsts and Lasts to my kindle - I can't wait to dive in.

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  7. Thanks, Het! I know, I kind of want to say Tata-lizing all the time now :) You have to let me know how you like CRIMINAL and SoFaL!

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