Friday, July 12, 2019

Ava Morgyn Author Interview


Photo Content from Ava Morgyn

Ava Morgyn is a long-time avid reader and writer of young adult fiction. She studied English Writing & Rhetoric at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX, and now lives in Houston—city with the most rain, best food, and worst traffic—with her family. When she isn’t at her laptop spinning darkly hypnotic tales, she can be found making fairy houses, talking to her crystals and plants, hunting for delicious new vegan recipes, or bothering her dog. She also blogs regularly about the devastating journey of child loss at ForLoveofEvelyn.com.

Her novel, Resurrection Girls (Albert Whitman), releases fall 2019.

        
  


What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I wrote RESURRECTION GIRLS before my daughter died. I think when people find my website or my blog on grief, it’s a common assumption that I wrote this novel as a result of losing a child since it’s about a family dealing with just that. But in fact, I wrote it before we lost Evelyn, and she was instrumental in my writing process. She read it and advised me on it. She helped me think of ideas and let me bounce things off of her. She often sat across from me when I was writing, and I’d stop so we could drink tea and chat. To be honest, I don’t think I could have written it after. Even the editing process was very triggering for me.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I think I was about eight years old when I started announcing that I was going to be an author. I had a teacher who read to us every day in second grade from James Howe’s book, Howliday Inn, and I fell in love with stories. The second I realized I could do that—I could write books and not just read them—I was sold.

But my love of books was evident even earlier. I memorized all of The Night Before Christmas when I was around four, and I would recite it while turning the pages at the right time so that people thought I was reading. As I got older, it just never left. I started writing my first novels in late elementary and early middle school. They were terrible and I didn’t finish any of them, but it’s become a habit I can’t break.

If you could be a character in any novel you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?
It’s not a novel, but a myth. I would be Demeter. And I would make the world stand still until death gave my daughter back to me. Or if there’s a novel where a mother brings her daughter back to life, I’d be that character. Maybe I’ll write that novel someday.

Can you tell us when you started RESURRECTION GIRLS, how that came about?
I carried the idea for RESURRECTION GIRLS for years. Originally, I imagined it as an adult novel told from the perspective of the mother in the family, but I prefer writing YA. Eventually, I started toying with the idea of shifting the focus of the main character to the daughter. That’s when things began to spark. Olivia was born and the rest really grew out of her.

At the time I started it, I’d been writing more obvious speculative fiction and paranormal romance and was getting nowhere. I took a long break from writing, not knowing if I had it in me to try again. I’d been through a string of disappointments and was discouraged. When I did start writing again, it was on RESURRECTION GIRLS. I remember telling my agent, “I don’t know what this is or if it’s any good.” But I was just so glad to be writing. I didn’t second guess it.

For those who are unfamiliar with Olivia, how would you introduce her?
This is how I would describe Olivia—start with an every-girl, then put her through one of the most devastating traumas you can imagine and lock her in a house with nothing but her pain for company.

At the beginning of the novel, Olivia’s most defining feature is how disconnected she is—from the outside world, from her family, and even from herself. She is spectacularly sad, and yet very unaware of it. I think that is something that resonates with a lot of people—young or old—that feeling of having to stuff a world full of hurt so far down that you lose sight of it. But that doesn’t mean it goes away. We just stop realizing how it is affecting us.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Kara?
That sometimes the most difficult people in our life are exactly the people we need in that moment. Everyone has something to teach us. Kara is a deeply flawed character, there’s no doubt. But she’s exactly what Olivia needs. It’s easy to pigeonhole Kara as a trope, a typical bad girl or a toxic friend. But she’s really so much more complex than that, and I think all of her dimensions are on display by the end of the novel.

It’s our nature to flatten people around us to two-dimensions, to stereotype and peg someone based on one or two elements of their being. That’s what our brains are good at—detecting patterns, categorizing. But everyone has a story, a multitude of stories that make up who they are. I think it’s important to remember what we see is only one or two pieces of a person, and that our judgments are based solely on those one or two pieces.

In your novel; RESURRECTION GIRLS, can you tell my Nerd community a little about it?
At its heart, RESURRECTION GIRLS is a story about a family who’s given up on life, whose grief is so overwhelming, they’ve become these cardboard versions of themselves. It’s a novel about connection, about how much we need each other, and about how love and friendship give life meaning, even and especially in the face of our worst losses and our deepest pain.

Olivia Foster would be a girl like any other, except she found her three-year-old brother after he drowned in their family pool. The novel opens three years later, just as a family of women moves in across the street. For Olivia, very little has changed since the day her brother died. She’s clinging to life … barely. The arrival of the Hallas women is a seismic shift in her world, a kind of technicolor intervention. The fact that they are so different, so mysterious and a little scary, is precisely the reason she’s drawn to them or even notices them at all.

On the surface, Kara Hallas represents death, with her morbid obsessions and murderabilia collection, her hobby of writing violent criminals. But the truth is, she’s the most alive thing Olivia has encountered in three long years. The inherent risk and danger that comes with being her friend is a defibrillation that jumpstarts Olivia’s pulse and pushes her back into life. As she begins to face everything her family has been avoiding the last three years, she forces her parents to do the same. But like a lot of transitions, it’s not an easy, smooth process for anyone. And I think one of the primary messages of the novel is that if you aren’t risking something, you aren’t living.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Be yourself. Unequivocally. Unapologetically. Embody your unique vibration fully. Live authentically. Diversity makes the world a beautiful place.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Work. At the time, I was working in a metaphysical bookstore, teaching classes on weekends, and doing tarot and crystal readings for clients. I was building this whole other path because I needed income and I needed reward for my efforts, which I hadn’t gotten from fiction yet. So I was diverting a lot of energy in another direction. For me personally, that’s difficult, dividing myself between creative pursuits. It was really draining in a lot of ways. I felt like I was fighting to keep this small corner of my life available for writing.

What were you doing at midnight last night?
Eating vegan chocolate cake and watching YouTube.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
I used to work as a holiday designer, which meant I would go in a with a team of people and we would decorate people’s homes and offices for Christmas and Halloween, sometimes even for Valentine’s or Easter. These were very high-end clients, and we did beautiful work. They paid a lot for our services. It was fun to see inside these enormous homes, but sometimes very weird as well. I remember one client whose bedroom was full of her doll collection. It was the downright creepiest space I’d ever been in, and I don’t know how she slept at night. All of us designers would fight over who had to decorate that room because none of us wanted to go in it.

Another client had these giant African fertility statues in their entry that they warned everyone not to touch or you’d get pregnant. A woman I worked with touched one as a joke and actually ended up pregnant a couple of months later. I swear I’m not making that up.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
I have two answers to this one.

If you want a tragedy, then a movie about losing my daughter would be that. Evelyn died in a very unusual and unexpected way. It’s called sudden cardiac death—when the heart just stops with little to no warning. It happened in her sleep, so we never even had a chance to resuscitate her. We knew she’d been having some troubling symptoms, but we had no idea she was in any real danger. And her doctor had already assured us her heart was fine. She’d literally passed a physical only days before. So we were taken by total surprise. She was eighteen and vibrant and on the cusp of making her dreams come true. It was an absolutely senseless and devastating loss that I will never be able to wrap my head around. I wish someone would make a movie of it because we need more awareness around fatal heart conditions in young people. There is no screening. It would be so easy to give kids an EKG here and there during routine checkups. That wouldn’t save everyone, but it’s a start. You can learn more about our story here.

If you want a comedy, however, then a movie about my college years would suffice. It’s where I met my husband and formed the best friendships of my life. It was Austin in the nineties which was a fantastic place to be at a fantastic time. And we were just ridiculous. We were absolutely mad. I wouldn’t recommend anyone emulate us, but it was a blast. I really started coming into myself at that time, a little behind the curve. I’ve thought about setting a novel then, but frankly I think my friends would sue if I committed some of our antics to paper. That was still really pre-cellphones, so you could get away with making a boatload of terrible judgments and there would be no internet hangover to face in the morning, no pictures to haunt you forever. I feel sorry that kids have lost that, the ability to screw up privately. Everything is public now. I can’t imagine growing up like that.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
Losing my daughter has completely shifted my perspective on just about everything. That kind of loss, that level of trauma, rewires the brain. I am literally a different person than I was standing outside her door that morning. Everything changed the second I stepped in her room. Sometimes I really miss the woman I was, but mostly I just miss Evelyn. And like it or not, some of the changes I’ve experienced as a result of my grief have been good. I have so much more compassion now. I know what truly matters. Things like that. But those changes don’t necessarily make life easier. And it’s a mixed bag. There are some changes I’ve experienced that are worse. I have PTSD now, so that means I can be triggered in ways I never was before. I can go to a very dark place very fast. I have to navigate my life very differently as a result because I am experiencing it very differently.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
One of my favorite memories as a writer was when I was working on a novel several years ago that my daughters were reading as I wrote it. They would come home from school each day and literally race to the computer to read the chapter I wrote, trying to beat each other to get to it first. I think that was the moment I realized my work had shifted into a different stratosphere. And that was the first novel I signed with an agent.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
After my daughter died, I really didn’t know how I’d go on. Everyone kept telling me I was so strong, but I felt so fragile and very, very alone. It was isolating to have people applaud me when I needed them see how broken I was, how desperate for help and support. Grieving people don’t want to be complimented; they want to be validated. It felt like I was starving and begging for food, and people just kept telling me how full I was instead of feeding me. I’d lived with depressive episodes since I was twelve, but I’d never been suicidal. In the wake of Evelyn’s death, I struggled with a lot suicidal ideation and it was terrifying. I didn’t know if I could trust myself, and I had two beautiful children to live for still. I have so much compassion and respect for people who battle depression and suicidality, and for other grieving parents and siblings. Until you’ve been that low, you just have no idea what it takes to keep breathing. I’ve made progress in the last two years, but I am still very aware of how fragile my mental health is, and that of my family. I’m very protective of us that way. I think our culture still has a long way to go toward understanding and nurturing mental health, toward prioritizing it.

TEN QUOTES FROM RESURRECTION GIRLS
  • Looking back, maybe I should have known. Maybe the heat and the drought—the boil—were all signs, if you believe in such things.
  • I don’t love. My heart is missing a vital piece, and it’s hard to fall when you’re already lying at rock bottom.
  • “When we try to hold on to the dead, we lose pieces of ourselves.”She took another drag. “Not all in a rush, no. Gradually, like leaves falling from a tree.”
  • It seemed I cared about nothing until the Hallases showed up. And then, I cared about all the wrong things …
  • I gasped and the air came, and it was a thousand times more painful than the want of it. Living shattered me.
  • I was death’s sister.She was murder’s daughter.
  • “I think anyone is capable of love, but broken people love in broken ways.”
  • If Kara were punctuation, she’d be an exclamation, never a period. I…I would be an ellipsis, a thought waiting to happen, to complete itself, but never fully arriving.
  • Dead kids are the modern leprosy; they render you untouchable. People don’t know what to do with that kind of pain, so they keep a wide berth…very wide.
  • There are a thousand kinds of pain. We don’t have names for them all, but we know them individually, each by its own unique ache.

Olivia Foster hasn’t felt alive since her little brother drowned in the backyard pool three years ago. Then Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her mother and grandmother, and Olivia is immediately drawn to these three generations of women. Kara is particularly intoxicating, so much so that Olivia not only comes to accept Kara's morbid habit of writing to men on death row, she helps her do it. They sign their letters as the Resurrection Girls.

But as Kara’s friendship pulls Olivia out of the dark fog she’s been living in, Olivia realizes that a different kind of darkness taints the otherwise lively Hallas women—an impulse that is strange, magical, and possibly deadly.

Praise for RESURRECTION GIRLS

"Ava Morgyn's passion and tenderness shine like a candle, guiding readers through the darkness of Olivia's story. Her compelling characters are made all the more real by the eerie undertow of myth. A beautiful, deeply emotional debut!" —Sarah Porter, author of Vassa in the Night and Never-Contented Things

"Resurrection Girls is a powerful examination of grief and loss, captivatingly woven with magic and ultimately hope. A compassionately rendered debut." —Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

"Resurrection Girls is a heartbreak of a book, where love and loss write letters to the strange things that lurk in the darkness. It's a stunning story that blends the inexplicable and the beautiful with the bittersweet." —Rin Chupeco, author of "The Bone Witch" trilogy and The Never Tilting World

You can purchase Resurrection Girls at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you AVA MORGYN for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive an ARC Copy of Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn. 

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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7 comments:

  1. That's a good one! My cats! Thank you

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  2. The https://usabookreviewers.com community is fair and transparent with their reviews, responsive to collaboration, and an invaluable resource for generating early reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, and social media which carry a lot of weight with general consumers. We value our relationship with https://usabookreviewers.com and their members very highly.

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  3. That's difficult. I don't place a lot of value on objects. Maybe my laptop.

    ReplyDelete