Katie McGarry doesn’t shy away from addressing difficult situations in her Pushing the Limits series. The latest addition, Crash Into You, involves teens participating in the dangerous sport of illegal car racing. McGarry shares with Zola that these circumstances aren’t a dramatic plot device; they’re a way of letting her teenage fans know to never give up no matter what they’re facing.
Zola: Crash Into You is your fourth YA novel in less than a year and a half. For how long have you been working on the Pushing the Limits series?
Katie McGarry: I first began writing Pushing the Limits in the late fall of 2009. My agent sold Pushing the Limits to Harlequin Teen the following fall and it was published in July of 2012. As soon as we sold, I began brainstorming with my fabulous editor and we decided to go forward with books for supporting characters like Beth (Dare You To) and Isaiah (Crash Into You).
Zola: What has your writing process been like for each of the first four installments?
KM: I’m a plotter by nature, but I have yet to write a book like I had planned. Each of my characters loves to spring off the page, stage mutiny against the story, and tell it exactly the way they feel it should be told. While sometimes this frustrates me, I’m always happy with how the books turn out.
Zola: Rachel and Isaiah, Crash Into You‘s protagonists, meet at the scene of an illegal car race. Where does your extensive knowledge of souped-up car engines and racing come from? What kind of research did you have to do to write the technical mechanics so flawlessly?
KM: I get to know my characters pretty well—in fact they often feel alive in my mind. When it came to Isaiah, he flat out told me that his story would involve cars and drag racing. I’ll admit, I panicked. Beyond the basics of how to drive, I know nothing about cars and I’m clueless on drag racing.
At first, I did a lot of reading research, spending lots of time familiarizing myself with cars and the drag racing world. The summer I was plotting Crash Into You, I took a road trip with my family. While I drove, my husband read car magazines aloud to me.
After that, I met some fantastic guys at my local legal dragway and they were awesome enough to talk to me. It was their knowledge that made Crash Into You come alive.
Zola: Rachel doesn’t have the best relationship with her parents, particularly with her mother. Her mother tends to have expectations that Rachel can’t possibly live up to — including her hope that Rachel will be like her deceased older sister Colleen. As a mother yourself, what was it like writing a strained mother/daughter relationship, as well as a story of a child lost to a terminal disease?
KG: We’re human. All of us. Mother, fathers, daughters, sons, friends. In any context we will be flawed and make mistakes. No one is perfect and we all carry some sort of baggage. It’s a theme I like to write about in my stories. Things happen to us in life that will affect us, positively and negatively, and how we handle the fallout of emotions from those events will affect how we treat others.
Because of these themes, my books can be emotionally draining to write. I often have to visit places within myself that aren’t exactly happy, but in the end, it’s worth it. I’m very proud of my books and how my characters grow throughout the story.
Zola: Your novels tend to fuse romance and every day hardships that many teens go through. When writing, do you consciously make an effort to address issues such as broken homes, drug use, and reckless decision-making? What message do you hope to send YA readers with topics raised in Crash Into You?
With that said, I do consciously make an effort to address difficult situations in my books. When I was a teenager, books were a source of hope for me. It has been my goal to write the sort of books I wanted more of when I was younger. It has also been my goal to help teenagers understand that they are not alone and that no matter the circumstances they are facing, there is always hope.
Zola: In college you studied political science, history, and philosophy. How did you get into novel writing? Did you always dream of becoming a writer, or did you have other career plans while you were a student?
KG: I enjoyed writing when I was in high school, but I never imagined that someone like me would become a published author. That dream just seemed out of reach.
When I went to college, I wanted to become a family court judge. I had it in my head that I could somehow right every wrong I had ever encountered in my neighborhood. Somewhere in my junior year of college, I decided I didn’t want to pursue that path anymore so I took on jobs in the business world.
I returned to novel writing about six years ago once my youngest started sleeping through the night. When I started writing again, I never imagined I would become published, but I decided to try it anyhow. Imagine my shock and joy when I sold my first book a few years later.
KG: Yes! I’m so excited about Take Me On! This story will follow West. He’s Rachel’s brother and a character readers will meet in Crash Into You. He is an absolute hot mess and I love every inch of him! What happens when one of the richest boys in the state ends up taking on an MMA fight in the honor of a girl who saved him during an unfortunate situation? Find out when Take Me On is released in May 2014!
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This article originally appeared on Zola Books.