Do you ever feel like your identity is split in two? Not quite as dramatic as Jekyll and Hyde, Morgan Matson found herself at a crossroads when the two types of novels she wanted to write were thematically very different. Rather than forcing them together, she called upon her middle name and created Katie Finn. Matson shares with us the benefits of using two personas when writing, as well as an exclusive video where she interviews alter ego Katie Finn on Finn’s summer novel, Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend.
Pretty much as soon as I started writing books, I was writing in two distinct styles. I was 24, and working on a serious book about road trips and loss and death and moving on… but I was also reading a lot of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella and sketching out ideas for fun, funny, plot-driven books that you’d want to take with you to the beach or the pool. I never thought anything was strange about the fact I was doing both—it just felt normal to me. After working on something serious and sad, all I wanted to do was write something fun and funny. And after spending too much time figuring out hijinks, I just wanted to describe some trees for a while.
The first book I ever published was a book under my middle name, Katie Finn. I was working in publishing, at Scholastic, and we were talking about what a social networking, internet-focused book would look like. I volunteered to write it, since I wasn’t doing much that summer. I thought about framing the story as a whodunit, with Madison MacDonald (sporting Morgan Matson’s initials as a little easter egg) trying to figure out who hacked her social network. As soon as I started thinking about the story, I knew it would have a different feel to it than Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, the road trip-grief book I was currently working on. So I used my two middle names, and it didn’t feel like I was creating a persona… it still felt like me.
The easiest way to describe the difference between the two names and how it feels to me is probably where the story starts from. With the Katie Finn books, it’s the plot that drives the story. These are stories with twists and turns and cliffhangers that (hopefully!) keep you turning pages. The plot is always a little bit heightened, which allows for drama, and hijinks, and humor. In Katie Finn books, a girl goes under her best friend’s name to try and right a wrong from years before, or tries to pull off a heist at the prom, or finds herself in an escalating revenge battle. In Morgan Matson books… well, not all that much actually happens, except a girl gets a better sense of herself, comes to terms with something, has the courage to face a relationship. The characters tend to drive the story, not the plot (because there usually isn’t much of one). Far fewer hijinks, in other words.
And if you’ve read the books under both names, you’ll see similarities—they both share a universe, with the same towns, bands, and restaurants. I love doing this–it lets me imagine that two of my heroines might just bump into each other someday. (Though I’m not sure they’d have all that much to say to each other!)
I love writing under both names–I feel like it helps to keep me sane, since these are the two sides of my personality. And usually, the timing works out perfectly–after writing a long, slower-paced book, I usually want to jump into a book where there are twists and secrets and betrayals and people getting trapped together in very small spaces with their crush (or ex). And after a few months of writing one of those books, I’m ready for a more meandering story. While it can sometimes get a little confusing, and occasionally makes me feel like a have a split personality, for the most part, it all balances out.
Morgan Matson received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. She was named aPublishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at MorganMatson.com.
Katie Finn is the author of Top 8, What’s Your Status?, and Unfriended. She lives, writes, and drinks far too much coffee in Los Angeles, California. Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and say hi online at www.katiefinn.com.