We interviewed McCall Hoyle about The Thing With Feathers and Epilepsy Awareness Month. Read below for this special Q&A!
What inspired you to write The Thing with Feathers?
As a teacher and mom, I see so many teenage girls hiding their true selves from their peers. So I wanted to write a hopeful story about a girl learning that true acceptance always starts on the inside and works its way out.
A few years ago, I taught a student who struggled deeply with the stress and worry caused by her sister’s epilepsy. At about the same time in a lucky twist of fate, my family inherited a golden retriever who was bred to do therapy work. The dog was more human than many humans. I began working with this amazing dog training him for agility and obedience. I became fascinated by golden retrievers and assistant dogs and did lots and lots of research and reading on the subject. I was especially intrigued by seizure alert dogs as seizure alerting cannot truly be taught and is greatly affected by the bond between the owner and dog.
I knew I had to write a story about a girl with epilepsy learning to love herself unconditionally the way her golden retriever did.
How does The Thing with Feathers tie in to Epilepsy Awareness month?
Sixteen-year-old, Emilie Day, the main character in The Thing with Feathers, believes that she will never truly belong anywhere because of her epilepsy. She’s good at playing it safe and flying under the radar until she’s forced from the safety of homeschool into the perils of public high school. It’s much harder to hide when she’s surrounded by people. Emilie must eventually learn that a true sense of belonging can only come from inside. Only then will she be able to love and be loved the way her assistant dog, Hitch, loves her.
The Thing with Feathers is a hopeful book meant to inspire all readers but especially teenage girls with epilepsy and the family and friends who love them.
What can our readers do to help support Epilepsy Awareness month?
For starters, visit the Epilepsy Foundation website at https://www.epilepsy.com/ for an almost endless number of ways to donate money and/or volunteer time.
One thing my students and I will be doing is participating in the #MyShotAtEpilepsy social media campaign to raise awareness for those struggling with epilepsy. Here’s a link for information on how to participate: http://myshotatepilepsy.org/
And of course, wear purple ribbons or anything purple for that matter in an effort to start conversations about Epilepsy Awareness Month in November.
Can you share a bit more about why this cause is so important to you?
Because I see so many girls struggling with anxiety, depression, and a wide array of other medical issues, it’s really important to me to deliver messages of hope. Being a teenage girl was difficult for me. It was difficult for my daughter, and it’s difficult for many of the girls I teach.
I want girls to know that no matter what they’re struggling with, whether it’s visible on the outside or hidden on the inside, there is always a reason to remain hopeful about the future and to try to make the world a better place for ourselves and for others.
The epilepsy theme especially resonated with me because it is a neurological disorder that many, many people struggle with in silence. One of the greatest joys of writing the book has been the outpouring of love and gratitude from friends who either have epilepsy themselves or who have a child or other loved one with epilepsy.
What can readers expect to see from you in the next few months?
The next year is going to be super busy—just the way I like it. I’m conducting school, bookstore, library, and Girl Scout visits all over the Southeast. I’ll be presenting at a couple of state and national teacher and reader conferences. Readers can follow me on social media or check out mccallhoyle.com for more details.
Most importantly, a follow-up book to The Thing with Feathers will release this fall. The cover for Meet the Sky will be revealed any day now, and the book will be available for pre-order most everywhere books are sold.
It’s gearing up to be an amazing 2018. I look forward to sharing it with lots