Last month, I shared with you everything I loved about Haydu’s debut novel, OCD Love Story, in a blogpost you can read here. Since first reading it, Bea is a character that has stuck with me, and I’ve actually used her as a topic and example in my classroom already this year. OCD Love Story is a unique book full of characters that demand to be remembered.
Today, it’s my honor to get to share with you some Q&A about the story, the characters, and Corey Ann’s writing journey through OCD Love Story. And make sure you read all the way through… I love what she’s done with her old middle and high school journals, and I think you will too. :)
1. What made you decide to get into young adult fiction writing?
In 2009 I made a major career change, and left acting to pursue writing. I’d been writing a long time, mostly short stories and plays, but never had considered novel writing or YA fiction. In order to get some experience and commit to my big life change, I took an internship with an agency. The internship I landed happened to specialize in young adult literature. I had to get familiar with the YA and middle-grade scene pretty quickly, and I truly fell in love. My boss at the time handed me The Hunger Games, Savvy, and Little Brother. I was blown away.
I still sort of can’t believe how lucky it was that I happened into young adult literature, which I know I was meant to write. Funny how small things, like saying yes to an internship, can really change the shape of your life. I was also applying to graduate schools at the time, and I applied to both classic Fiction MFA programs, as well as MFA programs that had specializations in Writing for Children. I surprised myself when I chose to forgo the more traditional MFA in Fiction that I’d always wanted to accept a spot in The New School’s Writing for Children program. Best decision I ever made. I wrote OCD LOVE STORY during my second semester at school!
2. OCD Love Story is your first novel published. What about Bea made her story the first one you wanted to tell?
I really wanted to write an unconventional love story. I felt there was space for a book about how complicated falling in love is when you’re deeply struggling with your own issues.
I’ve been pretty open about the fact that I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety, and when I started learning about OCD I really felt a kinship with the disorder, which is an anxiety disorder. I felt I could get into Bea’s skin and write from a very raw and honest place. I also know, from experience, that dealing with an anxiety disorder and new, exciting, overwhelming feelings of love at the same time is a tense, joyful, terrifying, exciting, confusing combination. Everything I personally want in a love story!
3. What message are you hoping your teenage readers take from it?
I hope teenagers gain a greater understanding of OCD, of anxiety disorders, and from mental illness in general. I hope they gain compassion if they are unfamiliar with anxiety disorders, or feel less alone if anxiety is something they themselves are dealing with. I couldn’t ask for much more than that. I don’t write with a message in mind, but compassion is a place I write from and I think is a great quality in a reader, too.
4. Did you set out with the intent to write a story with an unreliable narrator, or did it just happen because of who Bea is?
I think all narrators are unreliable, if they’re three-dimensional. Or at least I think mine will always be. I mean, we’re all unreliable narrators! A first person narrator is always only telling their side of the story, and as far as I know no one has a totally clear, perfect perspective on life. I’m not sure Bea’s any more unreliable than any other first person narrator, her perspective is just a little less familiar to some readers. But she’s quite honest about her feelings, and even honest about the fact that some of her feelings are probably unfounded. She’s self aware, and that’s as reliable as any of us get, I think!
5. Do you think the cover of the book represents Bea’s story well?
I really do. I’m deeply in love with my cover. I know that for some readers the difficult subject matter doesn’t quite match with the bright happy color. But Bea herself isn’t a “dark” character in my opinion. She has a lightness and a sense of humor. Her heart is big and open and hopeful.
I think Bea is quirky (do people totally hate that word these days?) and the cover gives a sense of that.
I also like that the cover may bring in readers who don’t usually read about things like anxiety or therapy or rocky romances. I’m glad I’m getting readers who are uncomfortable with the subject matter. I like surprising readers.
6. I’ve read the blurb for your next book, Life By Committee, and I can’t wait to read it. The premise sounds fascinating. Are there any hints or teasers you’d like to share with readers?
Oh I’m so excited about this book (and really nervous about it too!). My narrator for LIFE BY COMMITTEE, Tabitha, is a teen who is struggling with a very particular brand of loneliness. That loneliness and deep desire for connection leads her to enter into a very seductive online community. She makes a lot of mistakes, of course, and the community turns a little dangerous. It’s a book about secrets, loneliness, the meaning of community, and the desire to have an exciting, meaningful life.
It’s set in Vermont, where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up, and Tabitha and I have a lot in common, so I’m particularly close to this book. It’s similar to OCD LOVE STORY in some ways, I hope—honest, complicated, messy—but it’s also a little faster-paced, and has a lot of twists and turns and shocks, I hope.
7. I think the Former Self Project is great – it even kind of makes me want to dig up any old diaries I can find. Why did you decide to share your teenage journal entries online? What do you hope your audience will take from that? How has it helped you as a writer?
Thank you! I started my blog, Former Self Project (www.formerselfproject.blogspot.com) around the same time as I started working in YA literature, funny enough. Although the impetus was unrelated. I was experiencing a “quarter-life crisis” in my mid-twenties, and I was sort of interested to see how far I’d come… and maybe how far I HADN’T come as a person. I’m lucky to have dozens and dozens of journals, starting at age 9. It’s truly a gift, and also humiliating and hilarious. I thought maybe I could learn something from posting and commenting on these old entries. It’s been such a joy to have people reading my old diaries and laughing with me (or at me). Plus it’s cathartic to share something so embarrassing and to let it go in that way. I hope more people check it out!
I really hope you guys all check out OCD Love Story. It’s available from Barnes and Noble
, and your favorite local bookstores as well. And thanks, Corey Ann, for being with us here at Pimples, Popularity, and Protagonists today!