Author and MFAC alum Megan Atwood talks about her YA novel, The Devil’s You Know (published October 3, 2017). In this riveting debut, equal parts Cabin in the Woods and The Breakfast Club, five teens will discover what lies within a local, infamous house is darker, and more personal, than any urban legend.
What inspired The Devils You Know?
I am in love with The House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI, so I wanted to set a book there. It’s just such a unique, amazing, imaginative, and deeply weird place and I go as often as I can. I changed the name to Boulder House in the book and changed many other things, but the inspiration was absolutely from House on the Rock. If you can? Go there! It’s an amazing experience.
What were the challenges (literary, psychological, logistical, etc) in bringing this book to life?
Agh . . . Time! Fortitude! Money! The writer trifecta, right? This book took me seven years to get out into the world. Four to write, one to sell, two to wait for it to come out. One of the hardest things to do with this book was have patience: patience that the revisions needed to happen, patience with having to work on other things for my actual livelihood, patience for the story to come together, patience for others to read it. It’s the worst part of writing for me. But it’s crucial—I couldn’t have gotten this incarnation if I’d tried to cut corners during the writing process.
How has writing for young adults differed from your writing for young readers?
The handcuffs were off! My soul is dark and heavy and so YA fits perfectly with that. J Honestly, I love writing for this audience because of the issues of identity and understanding of the world that happen at these ages. So this is where I naturally want to write.
What did you edit out of this book?
Do you have about 7 years for me to explain? LOL The interstitial parts changed dramatically from revision to revision. It started with a god as the narrator. Then the house itself. Then an impartial narrator. In fact, the idea that the interstitials came from a book and from a character in the book didn’t happen until the very, very, very last edit with my editor and copyeditor.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Work! I’m a professor so there is literally always something I should be doing. But, having said that . . . I love horror movies and awesome TV. I consider that research though.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Oh, man, hang in there. It feels like it will never happen, I remember. But have faith. I’d also say this: try not to compare yourself to others. There are so many ways to feel “less than” as a writer. Forget others, forget the industry even, and do your thing. You write because you love to write, so don’t forget that.
What is next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m working haphazardly on a sci-fi YA novel. But I am finishing up my middle grade series so that comes first.
What else would you like to add?
How about a haiku?
Writing can be hard.
You must take care of yourself.
Adopt some cats, yo.
Megan Atwood is a writer, editor, and professor in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When she’s not writing books for kids of all ages, she’s making new friends, going on zombie hayrides, and eating as much ice cream as she can. And, always, petting her two adorable cats who “help” her write every book.