Phoenix Comic Fest Interviews Author Shannon Messenger

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We recently had some time to chat with the lovely Shannon Messenger, author of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series and the Sky Fall series! She was kind enough to share some details about her beloved series and her writing experience with us!

1. We’re excited to have you back at Phoenix Comic Fest! Is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing or doing at the event?
Eek–it’s hard to choose because there are so many amazing guests and panels! But honestly, one of my favorite things is just wandering around and seeing all of the incredible Cosplay. The amount of time, talent, and dedication people put into their costumes always blows my mind.
2. What made you want to become an author?
My head has always been filled with stories. It’s like constantly waking up from a really cool dream and wishing I’d had a chance to see how it ended. Eventually, I realized that if I wrote those stories down, I’d not only get to see where they went–but I’d get paid for it! So basically, I have the coolest job ever.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about Keeper?
The quick pitch I always give is that it’s The Lord of the Rings meets X Men, because it immerses you in a world of fantasy creatures–but it’s set on our planet, in modern times, and instead of relying on magic, the characters have abilities that read more like super powers. But at its heart, it’s the story of a girl who’s found herself caught between two fracturing worlds, trying to figure out how far she’s willing to go in order to save them.
4. You’ve mentioned that you re-wrote Keeper #1 twenty times before it was published, what motivated you to keep going through all those revisions?
Ha–besides pure stubbornness? It mostly came down to the fact that I truly loved my characters and I could feel that there was something special about them. I’d started and stopped several other books without ever giving it a second thought. But Keeper wouldn’t let me put it aside, no matter how tempted I was at times. And I had to believe that if I could just figure out how to tell the story properly, other people would love it as much as I did.
5. I hear that Keefe is a fan favorite, do you have a favorite character?
Well, aside from Sophie–who will always hold a special place in my heart–my favorite character is probably Silveny (I say “probably” because it’s so hard picking favorites!) She’s basically the embodiment of 12-year-old Shannon’s unicorn-filled dreams. And really, what could be more fun than spending time in the head of a sparkly alicorn–who thinks in all-caps with lots of exclamation marks!
6. Which character is the most fun to write?
Probably Ro–which is a new character I introduced in NIGHTFALL (book 6). I knew I would need a big personality to handle the job of Keefe’s bodyguard, and somehow I ended up with a sort of punk-rock ogre who always speaks her mind about everything. She’s hilarious. And it’s especially fun writing her opinions on the Lost Cities because she has such a different take on the elvin world. Spoiler alert: she’s not a fan of sparkles.
7. Your books are longer than most standard Middle Grade, do you receive pushback about that?
Not so much anymore, now that the series has taken off. But in the beginning, I definitely got some rejections that were related to the length. And even after the first couple of books came out, I’d hear some people say things like, “kids don’t read long books” which always made me super angry–not from a career standpoint, but because I knew they were seriously underestimating kid readers. Fortunately, I work with an editor who always tells me that it’s not about length, it’s about what the story needs. And my readers have really stepped up and proven all those doubters wrong.
8. Can you tell us a little about your YA trilogy Sky Fall?
Yes! I’ve always called the series my “Dude in Distress” because the main guy needs to be rescued a lot, and the main girl is super kick-butt and amazing. They’re both sylphs–or air elementals–caught up in the middle of a deadly war for control of all four languages of the wind. But Vane would much rather spend his time flirting with the cute girl who has to train him. So there’s a little bit of kissing. A whole lot of wind battles. And tons of humor.
9. What were some of the challenges with switching between Middle Grade and YA?
Honestly, the biggest challenge was the schedule–and not just the dual deadlines (though that definitely was tricky). Because of the quirkiness of publishing, I was always on an opposite schedule, meaning I would be out promoting one series while having to write the next book in the other, and trying to channel both age categories for such different reasons (marketing vs storytelling) at the same time seriously hurt my brain.
10. In Sky Fall, the POV changes from male to female. What was the hardest thing about writing from both points of view
I’ve always been lucky that character voice comes pretty naturally to me, so switching between the two wasn’t that difficult. BUT, it was really hard to decide which POV we should experience certain moments through–especially since I’m also super Type A and wanted it to switch back and forth every chapter. So I had to constantly ask myself, “which character will this mean more to?” and make sure I was in the right POV.
Make sure to come say hello to Shannon Messenger at Phoenix Comic Fest this May 24-27th at the Phoenix Convention Center. You can also find her online on Twitter, Instagram, and on her website!

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