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Alum turns College Scholar honors thesis into debut novel

Writer-director Scott Mooney ’11 last year released his debut young adult novel, “Pricked,” the first in “The Tales from the Poisoned Apple” series that chronicles the adventures of 22-year-old Briar Pryce in a magical, fairy-tale world hidden within modern-day Manhattan.

“Pricked” was more than a decade in the writing – it began as Mooney’s honors thesis when he was part of the College of Arts and Science’s College Scholar Program.

Scott Mooney

“It’s been really exciting to see something that I began working on in my dorm in a different context than just an academic paper,” Mooney said. “The final manuscript went out as the polished version of the same story and ideas I submitted as my thesis.”

Mooney was 19 when he began working on the novel. By experimenting with prose writing and being exposed to different fields of study, he became interested in the College Scholar Program alongside a traditional English major.

“The course that got me interested in the College Scholar track was a class I took on the anthropology of food during my first year,” Mooney said. “One of the readings, Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey,’ really stuck with me. It opened my eyes to seeing that fairy tales aren’t just for children.”

The individualized and interdisciplinary nature of the major allowed Mooney to draw inspiration from various fields.

“I think for a school the size of Cornell, there are so many great departments and so many ways to chart your own path,” Mooney said. “For me, the College Scholar Program gave me that freedom to be able to pick and choose, to take a little Old English literature here and a bit of pop cultural analysis there, instead of being tied down.”

In addition to broadening his academic interests, the College Scholar Program was instrumental in helping Mooney refine his storytelling.

“It was very crucial to the process that I went through while writing this novel,” he said. “I wanted the novel to be a fictional representation of the ideas I had formed while engaging in my studies. I was looking at different ways in which folklore and fairy tales influence our lives as modern-day people.”

Mooney found advisers such as Kathleen Long, professor of French in the Department of Romance Studies, incredibly helpful in shaping the themes explored in “Pricked” through her influential course on monstrosity. As a visiting student at Oxford during his third year, Mooney found a mentor in British author Rebecca Gowers, his creative writing tutor.

“Cornell gave me the opportunity to fully throw myself into a project and get amazing people’s feedback,” Mooney said. “I was excited by what I was learning, and the College Scholar Program allowed me to tailor my studies to my interests – interests that would later become my career.”

Mooney’s passion for storytelling has led him in many directions. In 2018, he graduated with a master’s in film from The University of Bristol; he also writes projects for film and television and has been featured in a horror series anthology podcast.

Go to Mooney’s website for more on “Pricked” and his other works.

Amaris Janel Henderson is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Gillian Smith