Author Crush Friday with McCall Hoyle
Glitter girls, you have pressing questions for your favorite authors and we have their answers. Welcome to our weekly segment, Author Crush Fridays.
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to award-winning author and high school English teacher McCall Hoyle, author of the poignant young adult novel, Meet the Sky (September 4, 2018; Blink/HarperCollins). Thank you for talking to us today, McCall! We’re honored! Make sure you read until the end because McCall has some sage advice for teens going through difficult times and she has some fun books that she’s working on right now as well!
GLITTER: Tell us five things that people might not know about you.
- I’ve got some mean sentence diagramming skills.
- I love reading and writing suspense and horror as much as I love reading and writing sweet contemporaries.
- I believe chips and salsa deserve their own section on the food pyramid.
- I’ve dabbled in dog training—agility and obedience.
- I consume frighteningly large quantities of hot tea.
GLITTER: How would you describe your writing to a new reader?
MCCALL: What I have published so far is very emotionally driven. Both Meet the Sky and The Thing with Feathers are stories of girls coming of age in the wake of tremendous turmoil. Sophie, in Meet the Sky, is dealing with grief in the face of an oncoming hurricane that’s threatening what’s left of her fractured family. Emilie, in The Thing with Feathers, is dealing with finding her place in the world despite her debilitating seizures.
I am a hopeful, optimistic person in spite of all the ugliness in the world today. I love what Anne Frank said about still believing that human beings were basically good at heart despite all the horrors and hatred she had witnessed.
I have to believe that in spite of everything going on in the world around me, there is the possibility of a kinder, gentler human race at some point in the future. Otherwise, I would be paralyzed by sadness. So I write stories that deliver hope in the face of difficult circumstances.
GLITTER: How do you find the emotional truths in your writing?
MCCALL: My published writing so far is all about emotions. I tend to gravitate toward the big emotional experiences that have shaped and molded me as a human being, like pretending to be something I was not for the first half of my life and my father’s sudden death. I also teach high school and frequently realize that despite all of our differences as human beings, many of us share similar emotions and heartaches.
GLITTER: What one question sparked the whole plot of Meet the Sky?
MCCALL: My dad was big on taking risks in life as well as risks of the heart. He believed what Alfred Lord Tennyson said about it being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Sophie, the main character in Meet the Sky, has to explore this question and decide for herself what she believes.
GLITTER: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
MCCALL: I wish. I’m a mom and a teacher. I do write better when I’ve set aside chunks of uninterrupted time to write at my local Books-A-Million with a chai tea beside my laptop. But because of how hectic my life is, I’m just as likely to be found writing in the car line waiting to pick my son up from school with my laptop balanced on my knees. Glamorous, huh?
GLITTER: What character do you relate most to?
MCCALL: I very much relate to Sophie, a girl sort of paralyzed by grief who is trying to compensate by protecting and controlling everything she holds dear—mostly the people she holds dear. The character that I hope I’m evolving into is Finn, the boy who has experienced a tremendous loss of his own, but doesn’t allow it to hold him back from anything. In fact, he uses it to motivate himself to take risks and try new things.
GLITTER: What was the first book that you ever wrote, even if it wasn’t published?
MCCALL: I’m going to be honest. I wrote that first book that many authors talk about—the one that should stay hidden under a bed or on a flash drive somewhere and never, ever be brought out into the light of day. Mine was a really bad young adult paranormal romance about a shapeshifter with anger-management issues. Of course, as I was writing it, I thought it was a work of art and would immediately sky rocket to the top of bestseller lists everywhere. I’ve contemplated going back and reading it again several times, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
GLITTER: Do you have anything that you love to collect?
MCCALL: I went on a big simplifying, decluttering kick several years ago. Getting rid of stuff was one of the most emotionally freeing experiences of my adult life. So I try to have as few things as possible. But I have a weakness for books. No surprise there, right? Every room in my house has at least a few books that are either special to me or were special to someone who I love.
GLITTER: What book of yours do you hope to see on either TV or as a movie and why?
MCCALL: I think this is the hardest question in the interview. I love both of my published books for very different reasons. I think Meet the Sky would be more commercially appealing and work better onscreen because of the suspense of the hurricane.
But I think The Thing with Feathers delivers the driving theme of my life that I’ve touched on here and there in this interview. It explores the theme of being true to yourself and learning to love yourself just as you are. And I feel like that’s a really strong message I’d like to share with readers young and old alike.
But let’s be honest, I think it would be pretty amazing to see anything I’ve written developed into other forms.
GLITTER: What one piece of advice could you give any teen going through difficult times now?
MCCALL: I know it’s really, really hard, especially in middle school and high school, but I would say be yourself. And be honest.
Don’t waste years of your life pretending to be something you’re not or trying to fit into one group or another. Pursue what you love no matter what. You are going to get lots of well-meaning advice from people you like and respect. But you have to give yourself the opportunity to explore things that interest you and the courage to chart your own path.
I see so many of my creative, liberal arts, fine arts students trying to force themselves to fit the mold of budding young doctor-scientist-engineer-mathematician because they live in a society that frequently values money, status, and accomplishments above all else.
In my experience, it didn’t matter how much money I was making or what title I had acquired in the business world. I was never truly happy until I took a great risk, changed careers, and pursued what I had loved all my life—reading and writing.
GLITTER: Did any of the authors you read in high school affect how you write now?
MCCALL: I’m a wee bit mature-ish. So there wasn’t a tremendous body of young adult fiction when I was teenager—at least not that I remember. I was reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Robin Cook when I was in the eighth grade. I’ve read voraciously most of my life and like to think that all the authors I’ve read have affected my writing.
When I really started reading a lot of young adult fiction was when I changed careers and started teaching about fifteen years ago. When I discovered Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I was hooked. The young adult contemporary authors who I think most affected what I’ve published so far are Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, Kasie West, and Susane Colasanti.
I read and re-read their books, annotating and marking up the way they develop their plots and characters.
GLITTER: What are you passionate about in life?
MCCALL: I have a tendency to feel things very strongly, like many reader-writer types. Education and literacy are a longtime passion. There is a tremendous body of evidence to show that reading fiction increases human empathy. There is also a body of evidence that shows that the amount of time young people spend reading for pleasure (not teacher-assigned reading) is the single greatest indicator of academic success in all content areas including science and math.
As a human being, a mom, and a teacher, I think one of the solutions to much of the world’s hatred and violence must involve the promotion of literacy. In addition to teaching public school, I also teach high school English at a women’s prison and passionately believe that education is changing my students’ lives there, making them more employable, and less likely to be re-incarcerated.
GLITTER: What are you working on right now?
MCCALL: I have a young adult historical thriller that I’ve recently finished. While I’m waiting to see what happens with it, I’m playing around with a middle grade book told from a bomb-sniffing dog’s point of view. It’s early, and I’m still in the honeymoon period with this manuscript where I love everything about it and think it could be the best thing I’ve ever written. That’s how new projects start out for me. Then the middle third of the book can be really hard, and I convince myself that I’m a fraud and that being published was a fluke. Then I frequently fall back in love with the story as I near the finish line. But I have my fingers crossed that I will remain infatuated with this story straight through to the end.
Photo credit: Lily McGregor photography
When McCall Hoyle is 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. Learn more at mcallhoyle.com