Interview with Katie McGarry

Posted by Goodreads on December 9, 2014
Katie McGarry Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits series is a genuine sensation that ratchets up the emotion and heartbreak with each entry. Fans love the way that each book stays in the same world, telling the story of a couple whom they've already gotten a glimpse of in an earlier story. In Breaking the Rules, Katie goes back to the couple who started it all—Echo and Noah! The two are still just as complex, troubled, and soulful as ever when we meet them at the beginning of their postgraduation road trip.

Ready for some exclusive info on Katie's next project? "I can't discuss too much yet about the first novel in the Thunder Road series, Nowhere But Here," says Katie, "but because I love my readers so much, I'll share the names of the first featured couple: Oz and Emily." What do you think? Good names for a new series set in the thrilling world of teens who are raised in a motorcycle club?

Read on for Katie's answers to your questions!


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Haley: "How were you even able to come up with such an ingenious series? Is it hard to set the books within the same circle of friends and be able to further develop the characters?"

I never looked at these books as a series as much as I continually found characters who jumped off the page and demanded that their story be told.

When I set out to write Pushing the Limits, I always thought of Echo and Noah's story as a stand-alone, and then I met Noah's sort-of foster sister, Beth. There's a scene in Pushing the Limits where Noah walks in to find that Beth has been abused by her mom's boyfriend. I wrote this sentence:

"Beth's voice broke. 'I can't lose you guys.' And there it was. She sat here bleeding because she loved me and Isaiah."

And as soon as I'd written it, I knew immediately that Beth had a story that needed to be told.

When I meet new characters with each story, it's one of the most amazing experiences. There is so much depth to each of them. So many wonderful traits and so many hurts. I want each of them to find their happy-ever-after.

Ryan: "Why did Echo forgive her dad and stepmom so easily? I mean, I get that she didn't want to be like her mom, but her mom was blaming others for her problems. In Echo's case, she had every right to be mad. [His actions] speak volumes for the kind of father he is, and I don't think she should've been so quick to forgive."

Forgiveness, to me, can take time. I don't feel that Echo completely decided to forgive and forget everything as much as she decided to come to terms with the people in her life.

Part of growing up is the understanding that your parents are fallible. As children, we often look at them as the center of our universe and think they can do no wrong, and as we age, we begin to see them as they really are—as human.

They can love us, but they are still capable of making tragic mistakes.

There is no doubt in my mind that Echo's father loved her. In fact, he loved her so much that he wanted to fix her. After what happened with her mother, Echo was broken, a shell of the person she used to be. Echo's father wanted to take the pain away. He wanted her to return to who she used to be, but no matter how hard he tried to squeeze the pieces back together, Echo would never return to the girl he used to know.

Echo came to understand that no matter how hard either of them tried, they couldn't return to what used to be; instead they needed to move forward. I'm not sure she totally forgave him as much as she decided to move forward.

"My last question is, how did she learn to write so honestly, to tell the stories the way they could happen instead of what people want to believe happens? I don't know of many authors who can write with that kind of honesty and do it so well."


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There's a lot of hurt wrapped up in me. Some of it has become entwined with who I am, right down to my bone marrow. When I was younger, I was desperate for hope. I needed to know that life was going to get better. It was books like S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders that helped push me through some difficult times.

I write the books I needed when I was younger. I also write the books that I need now. I do my best to write honestly about problems that teens and adults alike are facing, and to give real credible emotions to these characters. What makes life weirdly devastating and amazingly fantastic is that we are capable of feeling so many things at one time. We can feel profoundly sad at one moment, then heartbreakingly happy the next. We can be falling in love with someone while dealing with the death of a loved one. We can be meeting our best friend for life while going home to a family member with an addiction issue.

None of us are one- or two-dimensional. We all have something going incredibly right in our lives while something is going awfully wrong. When I write, I remember this and do my best to always show that there is hope.

Stephanie: "Hi, Katie! I adore all of your books, but Crash into You has a special place in my heart, as do Isaiah and Rachel. My question is: In Crash into You, Isaiah tells Rachel about his tattoos and the reason why he gets them, to remember. He told her that he'd get one for her because she's the best memory he has. Will we find out what that tattoo is?"


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Oh, Isaiah and Rachel. I can't even begin to tell you how unbelievably happy those two make me. Yes, Isaiah will one day get a tattoo for Rachel. It will be angel wings placed right over his heart.

Brooke: "What author have you met that you totally fan-girled over?"

Simone Elkeles. I saw her walking in the food court area while I was talking with my editor at Book Expo of America. I totally freaked out when I saw her. My editor told me to go introduce myself, and I became paralyzed. I mean, I was me and she was Simone Elkeles, and I couldn't just walk up to her.

My editor basically took me by the hand and introduced us. I was so nervous, I thought I was going to explode, but Simone was so super nice and amazing! I'm pretty sure I stuttered through the whole conversation, but that was a BEA highlight for me!

Lucila: "How did you know that writing was what you were meant to do? Was it always your first choice or something you discovered as a grown-up?"

I've always been a storyteller. Since I was a small child, I've been spinning stories in my head, but I didn't attempt to write my first novel until I was in my early thirties. To give some perspective, I'm 38 now.

In high school I pushed aside what I naturally enjoyed and decided I wanted to become a family court judge so I could right every wrong I saw in my neighborhood.

To be honest, the reason I didn't write down my stories when I was younger is because I didn't feel like I was special enough to be a writer. Being a writer sounded awesome and big and beyond my reach, so I didn't even try.

Something changed in me in my early thirties. Instead of thinking, "I can't," I began thinking, "Why not me? Why can't I be a writer?"

It was terrifying to try, because what would it mean if I failed? Here's the truth: I did fail. I have plenty of manuscripts that were rejected, but you will never succeed unless you take a chance and fail. Failing teaches us what we need to improve.

Don't be afraid to fail. Failing only makes you stronger, and it brings you one step closer to reaching your dreams.


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Caitlyn: "What is your advice for aspiring young authors?"

Read a lot. Write a lot. Study the craft of writing. My favorite craft book is John Truby's The Anatomy of Story.

Find a critique group. Learn how to take constructive criticism. But also learn how to keep the integrity of your story intact while listening to what others have to say.

We are our own worst critic. Don't listen to the haters in your head telling you that you can't. I'm living proof that you can. There is nothing special about me. I just like to tell stories, and I finally found the courage to write them down and let other people read them. If I can do it, you can, too.

Anne: "I hope you know how much your book Pushing the Limits touched me, hurt me, helped me. I have known bullying in my life, being an outcast because of things you aren't necessarily responsible for...How do you think we as a community, on and offline, should deal with bullying? Shouldn't we stand up for one another? What about public bravery? Intervening when we see bullying happening? I think we should. What about education on bullying? Many people see kids harassing someone and look away because "they're kids! they're just playing around!" That needs to stop, doesn't it? I believe that we can do something against bullying by spreading awareness and by standing up for one another, as Noah and Lila did for Echo."

I'm so sorry to hear that you have had to deal with bullying. This absolutely breaks my heart.

I do believe that we need to stand up for each other, and this is what I teach my children. Staying silent isn't OK, but that doesn't mean that we bully back. It means that we try to speak with truth and love. I try to teach my children that when they see someone being treated badly, they should step in. If the situation is one that makes them very uncomfortable or if they feel there is physical danger, I tell them to find a person of authority, a teacher, for instance.

If it's a situation where someone is saying something nasty to someone else, I encourage them to step in and just say the simple words, "Can we all just try being nice?"

I've seen my children do this. I've done this, and it's amazing how startled that person becomes when they are called out. Often someone continues their behavior because no one will say anything. Be courageous. Be brave. I'm a believer that when people see that you want to treat people nicely, they will end up flocking to you.

Mary Wisuri: "Your books are filled with action and romance—my two favorite things. How much did you pull from your own experience to write these novels?"

All my books are fictional, but I do pull quite a bit from my past. Most of the times it is the emotions that I have experienced through my life that I end up using as inspiration.

For instance, like Echo, I experienced a memory loss. Unlike Echo, I was a child when it happened, and my memory loss was due to the trauma of being bitten by a dog. I take my past experiences and slice them up until they are no longer me, and then I use them for my stories.

Tania21kml: "Why are all the mothers in the Pushing the Limits series so careless? Or bad? In Echo's story her mom wasn't much sorry about what she did to her daughter; in Beth's story her mom was so high on drugs, she didn't care what happened to her daughter. In Crash into You Isaiah's mom abandoned her, [and] Rachel and West's mom was so in over her head in grief, she didn't really attach to them. Why is that?"

I don't set out to write bad or careless mothers. I meet my main characters first, and then I learn about their family lives as I flesh out the character.

Something I do think about as I write is that I believe a part of growing up is realizing that our parents are human, too. That they have their own emotional baggage and that they can make mistakes.

What's odd with these mothers is that if you asked them, they would say that they do love their children, but each of them was unable to get past her own issues in order to love their children properly.

Dee: "What clique did you fit into in high school? You have a great understanding of teenage drama!"

I was one of those strange people who floated. I had one best friend who knew me from the inside out and two other friends who knew me pretty well, but other than that, I bounced around from group to group, making acquaintances and getting by.

Here is my attempt to draw a picture of who I was my senior year of high school: I was class president, straight A's, co-editor of the yearbook, and voted Most Intelligent. I was number one seed on the tennis team and went to state that year, where I lost in the first round.

I only had two private tennis lessons in my life (that I had to work full-time for a month during the summer to pay for) and taught myself the rest by playing against a brick wall.

I worked at the Kmart shoe department, and because minimum wage paid crap, I was lucky to bring home enough to pay for my college applications. I was so broke that I couldn't afford real wrap for my tennis racket, so I used gray tape instead.

I smiled at school and cried a ton at home. There were circumstances in my life that were out of control, and all I wanted was to get out. College was my only hope, so I joined every club and did anything that I thought would help get me a college scholarship.

High school, at times, was a living hell, but I remember moments with my best friend that are still some of the highlights of my life. I understand and remember that high school was and is tough, and I think that helps to inform the characters and situations I write about.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Here is a list of YA authors I absolutely love. It was so tough to narrow it down.


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Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Corina (new)

Corina You have always been such an inspiration to me and so have all of your characters! Thank you for that! ❤️


message 2: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Please, please write Abby's story. I loved her in Crash into You and it was great to see her in Take me On but little glimpses aren't enough. I want a whole book about her.


message 3: by Kenna (new)

Kenna Winters Sandra wrote: "Please, please write Abby's story. I loved her in Crash into You and it was great to see her in Take me On but little glimpses aren't enough. I want a whole book about her."

Absolutely! You build her as such a dynamic character with so many layers and since we know so many of your characters know her it will just add depth!


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Sandra wrote: "Please, please write Abby's story. I loved her in Crash into You and it was great to see her in Take me On but little glimpses aren't enough. I want a whole book about her."
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