Cori McCarthy writes beautiful but hard-hitting YA fiction. She lives in Michigan with her partner and young son.
Cori McCarthy studied poetry and screenwriting before earning an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Kirkus called her debut YA novel, THE COLOR OF RAIN, “[an] elegantly written and emotionally cathartic page-turner.”
Her second novel, BREAKING SKY, was published by Sourcebooks Fire and has been optioned by Sony Pictures. NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, set in Ireland, will publish in 2018.
When and how did you start writing?
I discovered poetry and short stories in eighth grade via the attentions of a phenomenal English teacher. He encouraged me to not only interpret the words, but to start writing my own. Even as I penned those very first poems, I knew that I had discovered my life's passion.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
My first visceral reaction to literature came through Katherine Patterson's JACOB HAVE I LOVED. It was the first time that I read a story which upturned all my feelings, made me hurt, and then at the end, brought me through to a new world of emotional awareness. To this day, I can reread that story, weep, and then feel all the pieces of me align in new ways.
Can you talk us through your career so far? What were the key moments?
I earned a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio University in 2005 and then excitedly moved on to a graduate certificate course in screenwriting through UCLA. But screenwriting felt entirely too limiting, and I stepped away from writing, becoming the coordinator of an afterschool program for at-risk school-aged children in Appalachian Ohio. It was then that I put together my love of writing with my passion for children's limitless enjoyment of stories and applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts's MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
Though I had always known that writing was paramount in my life, it was not until I enrolled in that program that my path to becoming a career writer lit up before my feet.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organise your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I do my best writing in the morning at the local coffee shop. I used to write at home but since the birth of my son in December 2011, I've needed to segregate my mommy-brain and writer-brain -- an every day struggle!
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Everyone says write and read every day, and that's important, but it is also important to build a network of trusted fellow writers. As a previously struggling poet and screenwriter, I can attest to the nasty competitive nature of selling your words, but I would not be publishing without the friends I made at VCFA and the supportive words we swap with each other every single day.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
Writing a fast, terrible first draft is key to my productivity, but I've also found that it's essential to plot ahead of time (while giving myself permission to change said plot on the fly) and to never censor my words or characters' choices.
Which favourite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
Oh, I ache to meet Stephen King, and assuming this dinner party comes with a time machine, I would also invite Walt Whitman. I bet the three of us would have quite the conversation. My favorite fictional character is, and always will be, Jane Eyre. No other character in literature can take a fictional beating with such grit and grace.