Back in November, I did an interview with two authors who have written both middle grade and young adult books. It was fascinating to see their different and similar experiences in writing for two audiences. Today, I’m interviewing Corey Ann Haydu, the YA writer of three books. Her first first middle-grade novel, Rules for Stealing Stars, is in stores today!
ALLY: Are you in a different mindset when writing MG and YA? How do you think differently about your audience?
Corey: I’ve found there’s a bit of a mysterious, lovely thing that happens in my brain when I’m writing MG. It opens up a new little pocket of imagination for me that has its own life and really took me by surprise. It’s reflexive– writing MG loosens up my mind a little bit. I think it freed up my writing and gave me access to a whole new set of stories and worlds. It was a total surprise– like a path I stumbled upon in the woods.
I always write topics that are more difficult– a little scary and challenging and uncomfortable– but in MG I think my awareness of my audience has to do with my desire to have hope play a role. I want to write honestly for young readers, but I also want to encourage whatever brightness is growing in them. I think there’s room for both. Mostly, I want my audience to feel feelings, whatever they are. And I want them to grasp that inner spirit can be more powerful than outer troubles.
ALLY: Do you think you will continue to write both YA and MG? What’s next up?
Corey: I’ll absolutely continue to write both. At the moment I’m working on a new YA project AND a new MG project, so I’m really working both muscles in tandem at the moment. It’s really liberating. I’m interested in challenging myself, and I’m a big believer in the power of getting out of my comfort zone. So readers can expect me to continue to push my own boundaries as a writer– as well as theirs as a reader, hopefully.
ALLY: You started in publishing with YA. What was it like to make the transition to MG, both in your writing, and in terms of the way your book was received by the kidlit community? Does it feel very different?
Corey: Like I said, in terms of writing, I found transitioning to MG to be exactly what I needed– it freed me up, it got me out of my head, it let me explore new feelings, stories, textures, and sides of myself. It was sort of like falling in love with writing all over again.
In terms of the response from the kidlit community, I think I’ve gotten support across the board from the kidlit community for all my books, but it’s been wonderful to get support as I shift gears a little this fall. On a personal level, playing around with genres and age ranges lets me breathe a little, and that helps me be a better member of the community as well. But most of all I am thrilled I’m getting a chance to visit schools, talk to kids, and connect with a new readership. I think there’s something really special about younger readers– for me, 4th, 5th, 6th grades were when I really discovered the total joy of books. In that way, writing MG is unique, because I’m writing with the distinct memory of the books that shaped my life as a reader and a person — The Giver, Mandy, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, A Little Princess, Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, Sideways Stories from Wayside School. It adds sort of this magical thrill to the whole process, because I forget a lot of books I’ve read over my long career as a writer, but I never ever forget the books I loved when I was ten.
ALLY: Your first MG is out today! Can you give us a quick synopsis?
Corey: Rules for Stealing Stars is the story of four sisters who are trying to cope as their mother struggles with addiction and their family loses its balance. When Silly, the youngest sister, discovers her sister’s magical escape, a new world opens up to her. It seems like the solution to their problems– when things are difficult at home they can hide away in a world of magic. But even the fantastical world scares Silly and her sisters, and the magic they hope is fixing their broken parts might not be everything it seemed, or everything they need.
Corey’s middle-grade novel, Rules for Stealing Stars, is out today!
You can find her on twitter at @CoreyAnnHaydu!
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a Library Consultant at the Mississippi Library Commission.