Author Crush Friday with Emily McKay
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to nationally bestselling author, Emily McKay, who is the author of the new young adult fantasy novel, Storybound (May 5, 2020; Entangled Teen). Thank you for talking to us today, Emily! We’re honored! If you haven’t picked up Storybound yet, run, don’t walk, to grab it because who doesn’t love a good book boyfriend?! Kane the Traveler is the book boyfriend we all want and need! Pick up a copy of Storybound and you’ll find out why.
GLITTER: Tell us five things that people might not know about you.
- I have a black belt in Taekwondo. And, the master who taught me, also teaches Willie Nelson!
- I love animals and have two dogs, two cats, a fish and twenty-three chickens. No goat yet, even though I’ve always wanted one.
- I was a “slow reader” in school and didn’t read on grade level until like eighth or ninth grade. In retrospect, I think I had undiagnosed ADHD, possibly with something else like dyslexia thrown in too. All of which is just to say, we can’t take success or failures in school too seriously. In the end, passion and hard work are so much more important!
- The only food I absolutely hate is horseradish. Of course, that means I also don’t like sushi, because I feel like sushi is just a vehicle for wasabi. And, yeah, I know wasabi and horseradish aren’t really the same thing. But they kind of are.
- Even though I have written horror novels, I scare very So I can’t read them. Can’t watch horror movies either. I can barely watch Supernatural.
GLITTER: How would you describe your writing to a new reader?
EMILY: I write fun, fast-paced books with snarky characters. I love writing big, dense worlds that readers want to get lost in.
GLITTER: How do you find the emotional truths in your writing?
EMILY: For me, writing is all about the emotional truths. I feel like I haven’t connected to a character until I found that emotional space where I overlap with him or her. And this is true for heroines, heroes, and villains. A writer has to understand the motivations of everyone, even the bad guys. And not just understand, but also empathize a little.
So, here are a couple of examples from Storybound …
The heroine, Edie, travels into the magical world of the Kingdom of the Mithres—which happens to be the setting of her favorite fantasy novels. Well, once this ordinary human girl is there, she feels very outclassed by all these people she’s interacting with. She has to find a way to hold her own and get them to take her seriously.
In my real life, I’m this dorky, socially awkward introvert. And those are all fine qualities for a writer. But I’m also a mom. I have to interact with lots of people in my mom life. And, yeah, a lot of the time, I feel outclassed by them. I struggle to hold my own.
Edie survives because of her conviction that she brings something important to the table. I do the same.
GLITTER: What one question sparked the whole plot of Storybound?
EMILY: A couple of years ago, a friend and I were heading to Chicago for a conference. As we’re getting off the plane, I said, “How cool would it be if we didn’t land in the real Chicago, but instead landed in Harry Dresden’s Chicago?”
We both stopped. We looked at each other. At the same time, we said, “That’s a great idea for a book!”
And that’s the question that sparked the book … what would happen if a superfan somehow wandered into the story?
GLITTER: Did any research go into writing Storybound?
EMILY: I did a lot of research on the mythology of magical creatures from around the world, particularly the Fae. When I first imagined the Kingdoms of Mithres, the beings weren’t Fae. In fact, I thought of it as a straight parallel universe. More science based and magic based. But one of the very first elements that made it into the story is the idea that Kane (the hero of the Traveler Chronicles) is from our world. That is his mother (the queen) lost her infant son and kidnapped him to raise him as her own in a fit of grief.
That element—the idea of a changeling—is deeply, intrinsically tied to the mythology of the Fae, I felt like I had include nods to Fae lore.
GLITTER: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
EMILY: Lol … don’t we all?
My routine is pretty basic. I try to always write in my office, because that’s just were I get the best work done. So the routine is: I go up to my office. I meditate for five-ish minutes. I journal for 10-ish minutes. I use an app for meditating called Simple Habit. Sometimes I use one of their meditations, or sometimes I do my own. Then my journaling is usually a response to that.
Then I set a timer on my phone for twenty minutes. I turn on the Brainwave app on my phone. And I write for 20 minutes. Then I take a five minute break. Sometimes the break is texting someone. Sometimes it’s getting another glass of water or tea. Sometimes it’s playing a game on my ipad. I never let my five minute break be email or social media, because those things always stretch into longer than five minutes. Then I do the 20 minute/5minute thing again and again until I’m done for the day.
I am “stuck,” sometimes, I’ll mediate again. Or go lay down on the bed and stare at the ceiling. But when I’m stuck, I never turn to social media. The answer is never on social media.
GLITTER: What character do you relate to the most?
EMILY: Like, one of my own characters? Or someone else’s character? If I had to pick some existing character who reminds me of me, I’d say Chidi Anagonya from The Good Place. His absolute determination to do the right thing, all the time, and the way his indecision is his greatest failing … omg. That is just me over and over again.
Which … you know, now that I think about it … just sucks for me as a writer. Because being a writer is nothing but decision making.
GLITTER: What one piece of advice could you give any teen going through difficult times now?
EMILY: Gosh, that’s a tough one, because all the good bits of advice have been given so many times they all sound trite, right?
I guess, I would say this: High school is weird. It’s weird in a way that no other experience of your life will be. You are thrust into close contact with this group of strangers who have different interests and talents and morals than you. You, your parents, and society, will constantly compare you to these people for four years. And then you scatter. And most likely, you don’t see each other again, unless you really want to.
The experience is intense and emotional and brutal and short. When you’re living through it, you don’t realize how short it is. So, if you’re having a good time as a teenager, enjoy it. It’ll be over soon. If you’re having a miserable time, just take a deep breath and count to ten. It’ll be over soon. I promise.
Unless you’re a vampire and have to go to high school over and over again. And then I’m sorry.
GLITTER: Did any of the authors you read in high school affect how you write now?
EMILY: Of course!
One of my favorite quotes is from the movie YOU’VE GOT MAIL. “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
And to prove this point … when I was fifteen or sixteen, I picked up a fantasy novel in my local used bookstore, called A Blackbird in Silver by Freda Warrington. I didn’t know at the time that most fantasy books aren’t stand alones. (It was a more innocent time.)
I loved the book, but when I got to the end, the tri of heroes had not slayed the evil serpent.
So I looked for sequel, only to find that not only could I not check it out from the library or buy it used, but that I couldn’t buy it anywhere. No, it wasn’t that the sequel hadn’t been released.
The book was published in England. Not America.
So some sick bastard bought this fantasy novel in England and then sold it to a used bookstore in Texas? Jerk.
Well, this was before the internet. (I said it was a more innocent time, right?) So I wrote a letter to the publishing company. I went to the post office and paid for international postage. Months later, they wrote back explaining how I could order a copy of the sequel. I had to go to the bank, get a check cut in pounds, and mail that to England too. And then eventually I got my sequel.
Needless to say, I still have those books.
When you’re young, there’s more empty space in your brain. In whatever part of a psyche holds stories. It’s like, all your life you’re making a story fruit salad. Only the stories you love go in. The more stories you love, the more flavors are there. This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. But you probably never forget that first time you ate a mango.
Which now that I look at the question you asked, isn’t really an answer to that question at all. Instead I kind of answered the question: did what you read in high school affect you as a person? And the answer is a whole-hearted yes! Which means it also affect me as a writer. Does that make sense?
GLITTER: What are you passionate about in life?
EMILY: A lot of things.
Obviously, I’m really passionate about stories. About the way they unite us and cross barriers. About the way stories give people a voice.
I’m passionate about the environment and doing what we can to protect this amazing planet we’ve been given stewardship of. I mean, we have solar panels, and drive electric cars, and that’s why we have chickens. All that stuff. I this ridiculous compost box of black soldier fly grubs that carefully tend, because they will eat almost anything. So it’s a way of cutting down on food waste … I mean, I take the environmentalism things to a bit of an extreme. Like, my devotion to these grubs is not a sign of my mental stability. But, it’s my way of making a dent in this huge problem we’re facing as a species. And it’s really important to me to feel like I’m making the effort.
I’m also really passionate about giving kids (from all backgrounds) opportunities to fall in love with STEM. I spend a lot of time volunteering with an organization called FIRST, which promotes robotics and STEM for kids from kinder through high school. For years now, I’ve coached FIRST LEGO Robotics teams. My daughter’s all girl’s FLL team competed in the World Championship a couple of years ago and they won 2nd place. Which is amazing, because there are around 30,000 teams world wide each year. The FIRST community is amazing, because, yes, it’s about robots, but it’s also about communication and respect and helping others.
I’m also really passionate about finding connections with other people. It’s so important that we recognize our similarities. All the things that unite us.
Okay, I feel like I could talk about all this stuff for hours. And maybe this is also an answer to the earlier question about advice for teenagers?
Because people always tell teenagers, “Find something you’re passionate about and do that!” But that’s bad advice. Don’t find one thing you’re passionate about! Find all the things you can be passionate about. And then be passionate about all of them. They don’t have match or dovetail together in anyway that makes sense to anyone but you.
My answer of “I’m passionate about story and black soldier fly grubs and legos and robots and connection!” Well, that’s just a stupid answer. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
GLITTER: What are you working on right now?
EMILY: I have several projects I’m working on. I have some fun romance novels I’m working on. And I’m also working on the sequel to Storybound, which will be called Stormbound. I have so many more fun things to do this world, I can’t wait!
Thank you for having me!
Photo Credit: Lara Lynn Kennedy
Emily McKay writes the kinds of books she wants to read—fast-paced with snarky heroines and swoony heroes who inhabit fascinating worlds you want to get lost in. She loves stories, pop culture, celebrity gossip, and baked goods. She’s a modern-day hippie and certified LEGO nerd.
Emily lives in the Texas Hill Country with her geeky husband and their two extremely geeky kids. They have dogs, chickens, cats, and more LEGOs than should be allowed by law. Oh, and she stress bakes. So if her characters talk about food a lot, that’s why.