What inspired you to write Chiara in the Dark?
I have OCD myself, though I put my main character Chiara into a different situation with different triggers. There are some great YA books about OCD like John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down, but I wanted to write a book that followed the main character through the process of figuring out what’s going on and getting treatment for the first time.
What was the most challenging aspect of developing Chiara as a character?
Chiara is really into sports, specifically figure skating. Her goal is not to get into the most academically prestigious college, but to go somewhere where she can continue to be an athlete. Getting into her mindset about athleticism was sometimes a challenge, even though I have some figure skating experience.
What is your favorite part of Chiara in the Dark?
I like the latter parts of the book where Chiara is aware her intrusive thoughts are irrational and caused by OCD, but still struggles to cope with them. It’s very human that just knowing what’s going on doesn’t automatically fix it.
How did writing in verse affect your writing process?
It helped me break down the story and structure it. I’ve written and published a lot of poetry as well as a historical novel, Stranger on the Home Front, but never a novel in verse, so this was a new experience.
What are some of your favorite books? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Currently I’m really into the Tanaz Bhathena’s contemporary books including A Girl Like That, Elizabeth Wein’s World War II fiction and her amazing lesser-known Arthurian book The Winter Prince, and Melissa Bashardoust’s fairy tale retellings like Girl, Serpent, Thorn. And shout-out to my friend and fellow writer Ennis Rook Bashe, whose queer Jewish fantasy A Scheme of Sorcery came out last year.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I hope Chiara’s story is helpful not only to those struggling with mental health issues, but to the people around them who may judge them for having frightening or violent thoughts. OCD is a very misunderstood condition and I want this book to shed light on it.
Learn more about author Maya Chhabra: