Michigan native Erin McCahan recently returned home to promote her new book, "The Lake Effect." Described as "A funny, bracing, poignant YA romance and coming-of-age for fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and The Beginning of Everything," this novel is an exciting read for Michiganders or anyone in search of a fun, beachy getaway.
McCahan sat down with our editor to discuss her new book and writing career in this development news Q&A.
Tell me about your road to publishing. How and when did you publish your first book?
My road to publishing was like most people’s—long and rocky, with wrong turns, dead-ends and more than one meltdown. My very first agent turned out to be a con artist. Turns out she bilked thousands of writers out of millions of dollars and ended up in prison.
After that, it was a few years before I found another, legitimate agent, who tried for three or four years to sell a mainstream adult manuscript of mine. And I kept getting close, having small successes without the thing ever being published. It was optioned by a movie producer for a couple of years. It never became a movie, but the option was enough encouragement for me to keep writing.
Throughout that time, I was working as a youth minister, surrounded by 12- to 18-year-olds, and one day it occurred to me that I had a ton of fodder for novels right in front of me. So I wrote my first YA novel, found a new agent and sold the book in a relatively short amount of time.
Why YA? What attracts you to this particular genre?
It really was my work with teens that led me to it. Once I began reading all the really fabulous novels available—that weren’t when I was a teenager—I fell in love with it.
Do you perceive any challenges or benefits to forging your writing career while growing up in Ohio?
I grew up in landlocked Columbus, Ohio, wholly against my will. My father died young, and, after my mother re-married, my step-dad’s career took us to Columbus when I was nearly 5. Had I been accorded a vote at the time, it would have been a resounding no. Except we were Episcopalian, so that would have been, no, thank you. I’m from Grand Rapids, which is about 30 miles east of Grand Haven, where my family and I spent chunks of every summer even after we moved. My mother’s family had a cottage there. Even though I resided — and still reside—in Columbus —Michigan has always been home. It’s in my blood. Something about that lake. And for me, family and life’s experiences influence my writing more than location or anything else, really.
Any specific references to South Haven that the locals would recognize?
Yes, anyone who has been to South Haven will recognize North Beach, the snack bar, the drawbridge over the Black River, the town and South Pier Lighthouse.
What do you miss most about living in Michigan year round?
My grandparents first and foremost. Second, the lake. Every lake, but especially the Big Lake. It’s even gorgeous in the winter.
Any advice for would-be Michigan authors?
Don’t move! And please invite me up for the weekend. I’ll bring wine and sunscreen.