Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday spotlight on Middle Grade and Young Adult author Shannon Messenger. Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned—among other things—that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She’s studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but she realized her real passion was writing stories for children. Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her family—and an embarrassing number of cats. Find her online at ShannonMessenger.com.
Welcome to Annie’s, Shannon. Can you please tell us briefly a little more about yourself and your writing?
I’m Shannon Messenger and I write fantasy for both middle grade and YA readers. My middle grade series is called Keeper of the Lost Cities and it’s about a telepathic girl who finds out she belongs to a secret world hidden on our planet—and might be the key to saving everyone. And my YA series is called Sky Fall and is about air elementals and wind wars—with a dash of light romance for fun.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester–though they should totally check here first!)
Yes, they should definitely check Annie’s first. But my books are generally available wherever books are sold, in hard cover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
Best place to find me is my website: shannonmessenger.com. But I’m also on social media: @SW_Messenger on Instagram and Twitter.
What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out Stellarlune? How did you overcome that challenge?
Stellarlune is the ninth book in the Keeper series, so I’m slowly winding down toward the end of story, and I realized that meant I needed to be much more organized than I usually am. I’ve never been a successful outliner. Something about the process makes me drain all the life out of the story. But I knew the only way make sure I was tying up all the ongoing plot lines and answering all the unanswered questions was to have a clear plan for each of the final books. Thankfully, my editor is a genius at outlining and offered to guide me through the process. So, every week we’d jump on a Zoom (along with my assistant editor) and talk through all the scenes that needed to happen, troubleshoot any plot holes, and figure out how best to arrange everything—while still leaving me room to let the story unfold more naturally. I seriously couldn’t have gotten through this book without all of that help, and the series is going to have a much stronger ending because of it.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I knew I wanted to write for a younger audience because that was the time in my life when reading was everything. Obviously, I still love to read as an adult—but it’s different. I can only carve out small pockets of reading time these days, so I rarely reread anything, no matter how much I enjoy it. But when I was a kid, I would read the books I loved over and over and over. I wanted to write something that twelve-year-old me wouldn’t have been able to put down or stop thinking about. And I think the trick to writing for that age group is to not let yourself think, “I’m writing for kids right now.” Instead, I focus on the fact that I’m writing about kids. I’m trying to capture the authentic thoughts, feelings, and choices of my characters, that way my readers can see themselves in the story. And since I have such a huge cast—of all different ages—it’s given the series a really wide readership. In fact, I hear from tons of parents who are just as big of fans of the books as their kids are.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
To always trust the story. It’s so easy to get lost in worries about what readers might want to have happen in a book or whether you’re living up to those expectations. But you can’t write to please someone because it ends up making the story feel forced (plus readers all want different things). The only thing you can do is trust the story—even when the characters make decisions that surprise you (or even if they ruin all of your plot plans). It can feel terrifying, but the funny thing is, all of the most beloved scenes or twists in my books are always the ones that happen when I step back and think, “okay, so what are my characters going to do now?” and just let the story unfold from there?
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
STELLARLUNE is definitely not the end of the KEEPER series (I would never leave my readers with a cliffhanger like that. So, I’m hard at work on book 10 right now. I’m not 100% sure when it’ll be releasing since I’m still writing it, but as soon as I have more details on that I’ll announce on my social media.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Shannon. And good luck with Stellarlune and the rest of the Keeper series.