Today I am so excited to share an interview with Kara McDowell, whose new book, One Way Or Another, just came out! We talked about inspiration, publishing, writing advice, mental health, and more.
Title: One Way Or Another
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 10/6/2020
“The average person makes 35,000 decisions every single day. That’s about 34,999 too many for Paige Collins, who lives in debilitating fear of making the wrong choice. The simple act of picking an art elective is enough to send her into a spiral of what-ifs. What if she’s destined to be a famous ceramicist but wastes her talent in drama club? What if there’s a carbon monoxide leak in the ceramics studio and everyone drops dead? (Grim, but possible!)
That’s why when Paige is presented with two last-minute options for Christmas vacation, she’s paralyzed by indecision. Should she go with her best friend (and longtime crush) Fitz to his family’s romantic mountain cabin? Or should she accompany her mom to New York, a city Paige has spent her whole life dreaming about?
Just when it seems like Paige will crack from the pressure of choosing, fate steps in — in the form of a slippery grocery store floor — and Paige’s life splits into two very different parallel paths. One path leads to New York where Paige falls for the city . . . and the charms of her unexpected tour guide. The other leads to the mountains where Paige might finally get her chance with Fitz . . . until her anxiety threatens to ruin everything.
However, before Paige gets her happy ending in either destiny, she’ll have to face the truth about her struggle with anxiety — and learn that you don’t have to be “perfect” to deserve true love.”
Q: Hi Kara! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. Before I get into the questions, can you tell us a little bit about One Way or Another?
A: 17-year-old Paige Collins suffers from anxiety about making decisions. So when she has to decide whether to spend her Christmas break in a snowy mountain cabin with the boy she secretly loves, or exploring New York City for the first time, she doesn’t know what to do. Fate steps in in the form of a head bump and the story splits into two timelines, showing us the romantic adventure that follows each choice. But before Paige gets her happy ending in either destiny, she’ll have to face the truth about her struggle with anxiety—and learn that you don’t have to be “perfect” to deserve true love.
Q: What was the inspiration behind One Way or Another?
A: I’ve always had trouble making decisions, and I loved the idea of a girl who puts her life in the hands of a Magic 8 Ball. When I decided to give Paige anxiety, everything clicked. Her experiences with anxiety are heavily drawn from my own, and it was extremely cathartic to send this anxious character on a grand romantic adventure and give her a happy ending! I was also inspired by the 90s movie Sliding Doors, the feeling of unrequited love, and New York City during the holidays. I want this book to feel like a warm, cozy hug that leaves readers grinning.
Q: What did you find to be the hardest part of the publishing process?
A: Patience. Without a doubt. My anxiety plays tricks on me, so if I’m expecting news and it comes even an hour or a day later than I think it should, I immediately spin out ten disaster scenarios in my mind. I’ve wasted so many hours crying over fictional disasters! One Way or Another sold in the summer, meaning the auction last much longer than it would have if everyone had been in the office. Waiting for those offers made my physically ill. It is such a struggle for me to sit on my hands and wait for news, and unfortunately, in publishing that never ends.
Q: One Way or Another deals with mental health, what are some of your favorite books that also discuss mental health?
A: All our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton is a beautiful love story between Lennon and Kyler. The characters feel so wholly real, and the depiction of Lennon’s OCD is tender and insightful. I also love When We Collided by Emery Lord, which features a main character who has bipolar disorder.
Q: I loved all of the baking mentioned in the book. What is your favorite thing to bake and why?
A: I love to bake cinnamon rolls! They are time consuming, but a fluffy, warm, gooey cinnamon roll is worth the effort.
Q: Paige loves to travel, what’s the one place in the world you would want to visit the most, and why?
A: An impossible question! Like Paige, I want to travel everywhere. (Are you seeing a theme yet? Paige isn’t me—but she is based heavily on me in more ways than one!) Two places at the top of my list are the canals in Venice and Machu Picchu in Peru.
Q: One Way or Another is a great holiday read, what are some things you do to get yourself in holiday mood?
A: It probably comes as no surprise that I love to bake (and eat!) all the holiday treats! Where I live in Arizona, we don’t get much in the way of cold weather, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to snuggle in warm sweaters and play in the snow. Instead, I listen to an overwhelming amount of Christmas music, decorate everything, and seek out all the Christmas light displays my city has to offer. Plus, Christmas movies! Is there anything better than a slightly cheesy Christmas love story?
Q: And lastly, what advice would you give to an aspiring author?
A: One of the most important traits you need as a writer is tenacity! Almost every author I know has received hundreds of rejections and shelved several manuscripts. You must be able to dust yourself off and keep trying, even when success feels far away. My second piece of advice is to write the book you want to read—it’s a cliché for a reason! Before One Way or Another, I spent way too long writing a thriller because my first agent wanted me to. My heart wasn’t in it, and it showed. I left that agent and wrote the book of my heart, which became One Way or Another. When you put all the things you love into a book, chances are high that readers will love it too.
That’s really great advice. Thank you so much for sharing, and thank you again for answering my questions!
Born in the mountains and raised in the desert, Kara McDowell spent her childhood swimming, boating, and making up stories in her head. Now she lives in Mesa, Arizona, where she divides her time between writing, baking, and playing board games with her husband and three young sons.
Now time for you to answer a question!
What’s your favorite book that deals with mental health?