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Cori McCarthy talks about her new book that features The Ridges.

Q&A: Successful Ohio University grad Cori McCarthy sets third young adult fiction novel at The Ridges

The Post asked Cori McCarthy how Athens became the setting of her third published young adult fiction novel.

Inspired by working in the unrenovated sections of The Ridges, Cori McCarthy, an Ohio University alumna, included the former asylum as a setting in her latest novel, You Were Here.

McCarthy graduated from OU in 2005 with a Bachelor’s Degree in creative writing. Her love of writing began when she was just 13-years-old, and she has since turned her passion into a profession.

Her newest novel, You Were Here, is her third young adult novel and was published in March. McCarthy’s other young adult works include The Color Rain and Breaking Sky, the latter of which is currently being developed into a movie by Sony Pictures.

The Post chatted with McCarthy via email about her latest work and what inspired her to set the book Athens.

The Post: Tell us a little about the plot of You Were Here.

Cori McCarthy: "You Were Here" is a latent grief story about urban exploring. Years after the death of a friend and brother, five teenagers hike around real-life urbex settings (like The Ridges and Moonville Tunnel) while further exploring their feelings of loss. The novel is also told in mixed format, containing prose, word art poetry and graphic novel panels illustrated by Sonia Liao.

P: Did someone or something in particular inspire the plot?

CM: Two days before the last day of eighth grade, my friend passed away suddenly. While his initial death was a terrible shock, I didn’t process his absence until after high school graduation when the college transition stirred up old feelings and questions about mortality.

P: Why did you decide to set the novel in Athens?

CM: After I graduated from OU in 2005, I stayed in Athens for several years, working with AmeriCorps and local elementary schools. One of the programs I worked for — Kids On Campus — had a storage unit in the unrenovated halls of The Ridges. Every time I went up there, my imagination fired up. It’s an exquisitely broken landscape full of eerie, stagnant emotions.

P: Why did you decide to write young adult fiction?

CM: I write young adult because all of my favorite stories are young adult — The Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre and The Lord of the Rings are a few examples.

P: Have you always wanted to be an author?

CM: Yes. I studied creative writing at OU and screenwriting at UCLA before I discovered the Writing for Children & Young Adults MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. This program helped me focus my writing into a career choice.

P: What advice would you give to someone interested in being a writer or novelist?

CM: To be a writer, you must write. A lot. That might seem oversimplified, but it isn’t. The difference between a writer and an author is continuous practice. I have met far too many writers who only commit an hour or two a week to their stories. That’s not enough. If you write an hour or two a day for several years, your writing will become strong. You will learn and improve, and one day, your stories will find a publisher.

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