Author Interview: Terra Elan McVoy on Pure

Learn more about Terra Elan McVoy.

Could you describe yourself as a teen? Who were your favorite authors?

I was a very serious teenager–serious about writing and literature, serious about my job, serious about my church involvement, serious about boys and serious about my friends. My favorite authors were serious authors: J.D. Salinger, Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

Well, I’ve been writing pretty much since I learned how to, and I developed my poetic voice at St. Andrews Presbyterian College while I was there for undergrad, but my studies at Florida State in their MA program for Creative Writing really helped me get rid of my writing baby fat for real. The teachers there are all top-notch but so are the students, so you’re getting good professorial help but also good help from your peers, too.

What was the single best thing you did to improve your craft?

The single best thing I’ve done to improve my craft is to read every book, short story, and poem I can get my hands on.

How did you find out that you’d sold your first novel? Did you celebrate, and if so, how?

I found out about the sale of my book through a phone call from my editor, who is also a friend of mine. At the time, I celebrated with some champagne at home and then dinner with friends a couple of nights later, but the best celebration was on April 17 when we threw a really giant book release party at the bookstore I manage, Little Shop of Stories. We had about 200 people there with champagne and cupcakes and Ring Pops and even live music. It was great!

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Pure (Simon Pulse, 2009)! Could you tell us about it?

Pure is a book about five close friends, all of whom wear purity rings. When one of the girls breaks her promise, the rest must decide what it is they really believe.

But this book is about a lot more than purity rings. It’s about friendship, faith, and first love. Even more, to me, it’s about that deliciously horrible time in life when, for the first time, you find yourself making choices that separate you from your friends, your parents, your teachers and mentors: when you begin defining yourself as an individual.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I wanted to write a book that addressed the challenges of being a teenager, on top of being a teenager who was trying to sort out his or her own faith. To write about that time when you’re really forging your own morality.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I think the biggest challenge was just sitting down and having the discipline to get the writing done.

How goes the transition from writer to writer-author?

So far it is going okay, though it is a lot more work than being just a writer! Writing is one thing, but working on promoting your book, doing appearances and interviews–that’s another ball of wax altogether.

Also writing is pretty much a solitary activity, while being an author out there in the world is definitely more community involved.

How have you set out promoting your novel to YA readers?

Well, managing a bookstore really helps with promotion. But I’ve also done some out-of-town signings, and gone to talk to local schools and a couple of churches, too.

The release party at Little Shop of Stories was great. I’ve also got my own website. I’m doing a lot of interviews like this one on other folks’ blogs, and am interviewing authors on my own website, too!

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Keep it up. You don’t suck as much as you think you do.

What do you do when you’re not in the book world?

I’m never not in the book world–it’s both my job and my pleasure. But sometimes I do cook. And do decoupage. And I really like movies.

What can your readers look forward to next?

Well, my second book is still sort of forming as we speak, but I can tell you that there won’t be a sequel to Pure, that’s for sure!