by Emily McKay
(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)
Books can take you many places, and after reading How Willa Got Her Groove Back, I physically wanted to go to Austin! I enjoyed reading this book and easily escaped into Willa’s head, with a few Finn chapters thrown in there. This is a great coming of age story, watching as Willa figures out who she is and maneuvers around her new and unwanted fame! I’m so glad I had the opportunity to ask Ms. McKay some questions about this book, the entire series, her writing process, and—lest we forget—the importance of those happily-ever-afters! You’re sure to enjoy her answers just as much as I did!
- Welcome to A Leisure Moment, Emily! We’re so glad you’re here. I’m new to this series and actually read this book out of sequence—a rarity for me. But before we talk about how exactly Willa Got Her Groove Back, what is your writing process like?
Oh, my writing process is a mess! It involves a lot of chocolate and even more popcorn. And a lot of lying on my bed starring at the ceiling, or wandering around my house talking to myself trying to get the dialogue right. Oh, and a lot of revisions! It’s tough.
Thankfully, this book is part of a series with three other great writers (Tera Lynn Childs, Shellee Roberts, and Tracy Deebs). We’re all really good friends, so I have talented people to help me plot, work on world building, and generally hold my hand when things go badly.
- I’m a hopeless romantic, a sucker for a good love story. What is your opinion on love and happily-ever-afters? What are some of your favorite love stories?
Well, I met my now-husband when I was eighteen and we’ve been together ever since, so I’m pretty fond of happily-ever-afters. Sure, there are ups and downs. That’s part of life. But there’s real joy in feeling like you’re with someone for the long haul.
And when you’re talking about stories (books, movies, etc), I am all about the romance! All the stories I really love have a romance in them. Probably my all time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. That’s such the easy answer, because it’s a classic, but I really do love it. It’s a story that can be retold a thousand different ways and still resonate, whether it’s Bride and Prejudice or The Lizzie Bennett Diaries or Twilight or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s just always a great story.
As for books that I love right now … I read The Illuminae over Christmas and I’m obsessed with it. It’s still on my bedside table. Also Ann Brashares’s My Name Is Memory, which just popped into my head. It’s another one of my all-time favorite books. I think it’s really underrated. I’m probably thinking of it, because I read it the same way I read The Illuminae: way into the night, over Christmas, when I absolutely should have been sleeping, but I just could not stop reading.
- Since this is a relatively new series, can you tell us a little about it?
The Creative HeArts series is a twelve book series written by four authors, all set in Austin at an arts-centric high school. Tera, Shellee, Tracy and I are all good friends, so we had a ton of fun building this world. Each author has three books in the series and all three books follow a pair of characters over the course of their senior year.
There’s a lot of overlap between the stories. So Sloan and Tru (from Tera’s book Ten Things Sloan Hates about Tru) pop up in my book. My heroine, Willa, is best friends with Mariely from Shellee’s book (Crazy, Stupid Fauxmance) … that kind of thing.
We want the books to feel like real high school, where you’re very much involved in one another’s lives.
- Graffiti Park had me so intrigued that I had to look it up and make sure it was real, and if it was real, that I had the correct picture in my head. I loved this scene with Finn and Willa, obviously. Did you have a specific purpose for making this the place Willa took Finn after their first encounter?
Graffiti Park is completely awesome, right?
Tracy Deebs is the person who turned me on to it a couple of years ago. It is such a wonderfully, weird, Austin kind of place, I just knew I had to have a scene set there. In fact, I’m trying to talk Tera, Shellee, and Tracy into setting scenes there too, because I think that would be a fun thread to carry through all the books. I think Tracy is still a little mad at me for putting it in a book before she did.
My only ulterior motive in setting the scene there is that I wanted the reader (and Finn!) to see what a great city Austin is.
- How did you do it? I must know. How did you create someone as awesome, raw, and swoon-worthy as Finn McCain (translation: what was your inspiration for his character)?
Aw … I’m *so* glad you love Finn!!! Because I really love him too!
For me, a hero lives or dies (that is, becomes swoon-worthy or not) by how he treats the people he loves. A hero can have selfish moments, for sure, but in the end, he has to be willing to give up what he wants to protect the people he cares about.
The moment I fell in love with Finn was when I wrote that scene outside of Starbucks when he’s texting his mom and then on the phone with her. He’s just found out that she’s rushing into to this marriage and he’s so sure it’s a mistake but he can’t talk her out of it. She’s disappointed him a lot, but he’s still trying to protect her. It just killed me.
Of course, as the book and the series progress, poor Finn is going to be constantly torn between wanting to protect his mom and wanting to protect Willa. His loyalties are going to be tested.
- Willa was an infectious character, as well. Her voice is quirky and honest. What inspired her character?
Oh, I’m so glad you liked her!!! I always worry (obsess?) about my heroines being relatable, so I’m glad you “got” her.
As for what inspired her, I think there’s a lot of me in Willa. (Does that sound braggy now that I know you like her? I hope not!)
There’s always some of me in my heroines, but I felt a real connection with Willa. Partly because she’s a writer, but also because humor is always her first defense, which is something I always do, too.
I don’t come from a single parent family (both my parents are alive and well and they are still together.) But my mother has had a disability for my entire life, so I’m very familiar with how that shifts the child/parent relationship. How it changes things when the child feels responsible for the parent. So I think that informed Willa’s personality, too.
- Did you have an trouble separating the two voices in your book, Finn and Willa? And why did you choose to have them tell their story from different points of view, first v. third person?
The decision about POV was made by all four of us in the Creative HeArts series. We wanted all twelve books to be consistent, but when it came down to it, one of us wanted only the girl’s first person and one of us wanted first person for both characters, so this seemed like a compromise, with the girls’ POV being first person and the guys’ being third.
It’s a technique I used in my Farm series and really liked. I do think it makes it easier to write distinct POVs that way. Plus, it gives the guys a little bit of mystery. I like that.
- Fame is a key component in this book. How does the promise of fame—in the school—and the new-coming fame that Willa experiences differ?
I love celebrity gossip. Straight up love it.
I love the drama! The romance! The scandal! It’s all so delicious!
But as much as I love it, sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, because I do think it takes a horrible toll on people and on relationships. It must be so hard to live under that microscope, especially if you don’t want it and aren’t prepared for it. There is something truly terrible about the power of fame.
And, as wonderful a world as Tera, Shellee, Tracy and I have created at Austin NextGen, I think it would be the worst place to have that kind of fame. Because so many of students at Austin NextGen crave fame. It would be so hard. And, I’m afraid it’s only going to get harder for Willa.
- Loss is also integral to Willa getting back her groove. How she handles the loss of her mother, the way she perceives that woman she was, was a lot different than anything I had ever read. You incorporated a heavy-laden topic into a book that constantly had me laughing. Finn also suffered from loss, but a different kind. Do you think that loss can also serve as another type of connection and did for Willa and Finn?
Personally, I love mixing humor with the tough stuff. Frankly, I think it’s the only way to deal with the tough stuff. When thing are really bad, you need that occasional joke to keep you going, you know?
And I definitely think loss will bring Willa and Finn together in the end. They have so much in common, but they just haven’t seen it yet!
- This question has been wearing thin on my mind since I finished your book late into the night, not being able to put it down: will there be more Finn and Willa?
I’m actually about to dive into the next Willa and Finn book. There will be more tension, more drama, more humor. If you thought things were bad for them before, imagine what it will be like when they’re actually living together!
Plus, we still have the actual wedding to get through! I can’t wait to start writing!
And…we’re going to revisit the beautiful Tom Felton (yes, this is as wonderful as Finn), featured on A Leisure Moment’s Goodreads review! Don’t forget to add/or follow us for direct links to all the books you love or that one that you haven’t fallen in love with yet! (FYI: You won’t be able to resist Finn)