Meet the Author: Shannon Messenger

the following program was a production of the Fairfax Network Fairfax County Public Schools [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] welcome to meet the author I'm your host Emily Godfrey joining me in the studio today is fantasy fiction author and self-proclaimed cupcake addict Shannon Messinger welcome Shannon thank you so much for having me today I'm so excited to be here also joining us today via Skype are students from Kent Gardens elementary school hello Kent Gardens Shannon is here to talk about her New York Times best selling series keepers of the lost cities and her Skyfall trilogy so cupcakes are your weakness they are I mean really any baked good is my weakness but cupcakes are sort of the cream of the crop of baked goods well we found some recipes on your website and so we have here some of Fitz's favorite chocolate mint ripple fluffs I think I said that right yes you said it's quite a mouthful I know it is I'm super excited we will sample them later okay but until then so in the meantime could you tell us a little bit about the keeper of the lost cities series I've always called this series Lord of the Rings meets x-men because for me it kind of started with my love of the elves that Tolkien had in his world but I kind of wanted them to be in a world that felt more modern and that had you know things that weren't just magic that sort of had more of a scientific feel to him so I call it a Shanon science is sort of what what I've done with the series but you know I just I didn't really want to go head to head with magic systems with Harry Potter cuz that's kind of like impossible to do yeah well about Sophie like who's the main the main character tell us about her yeah Sophie she's 12 years old at the beginning of the series and she thinks that she can read minds because she fell and hit her head when she was five years old but then she finds out that it's because she's not human and that she belongs to this secret world within ours and that she's caught up in this huge sort of conspiracy called Project moon lark that you know just has the fate of the world resting on her shoulders that's not a lot of fun no that's super easy yeah I mean anyone can see the world super-quick yeah album so no pressure none at all well our Kent Gardens students are eagerly awaiting to ask you some questions so let's take a few all right who has the first question from Miss Messinger when you were a kid did you like to write I did like to write although I will admit when I was younger and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer almost always centered around art and usually it was that I wanted to be a Disney animator and then I realized that in order to do that you kind of have to be able to draw the same things over and over again and even my stick figures don't look the same so it wasn't really the right career choice so I stayed an art major and I tried to find something else in art that I could do that I liked but the way that my hands worked I can't draw from my imagination I can only draw if I can see something and that was what I really wanted to do I wanted to draw what was in my mind and so I kind of instead took a writing class on a whim in college and suddenly discovered that what was in my head came out on the page if I used words instead of trying to draw it so now art is just my hobby and writing is my job and I wish I had known that earlier because I love writing so much I would have focused on it more in school had I known that's a very interesting journey it was it was kind of a secure this route but it's fun because I learned different things about myself along the way so we have another question from Kent Gardens okay student what is your question my question is what inspired you to write keep it up velocities whoo that is a good question it came from a lot of places two of them were Lord of the Rings and x-men but it also just sort of came from my desire to tell a story where a girl got to be the hero and not just the sidekick of the story I mean there's some great female characters out there in middle grade fantasy but so often they are sort of overshadowed by the boy hero and I really really wanted to write a world where a girl could be the hero of it and also still be a girl and not have to sort of be this of really you know tough character and really just be authentically female and still be the hero of the story so it was kind of all of those things got smashed together and put into keeper at velocities well that is a very good segue into our next question from another Kent Garden student and I didn't even prepare for no student what is your question my question is did you base Sophie's character on yourself or someone you know I try not to base my characters on anybody I know because I have to sometimes let bad things happen to them and then I wouldn't have any friends anymore they would get really mad at me and as far as Sophie being based on me I mean obviously I created her so there's little bits of me in all of my characters but Sophie is way braver than I am it's kind of a running theme in the books that people are always saying like Sophie don't do the thing but things really dangerous if you do the thing you might die and she's like but I must do the thing that were me I'd be like you're right I don't want to die I'm not gonna do the thing and I'll be over there reading a book in the corner well we do have kind of like a little look-alike Oh picture okay we can put it up for a moment like there's the beautiful hand that was completely accidental like I I kind of gave her blonde hair because I had based her very very loosely on Legolas oh yeah and then I gave her brown eyes because I wanted there to be something identifiable about her appearance that would be different but I didn't want it to read like race yeah because sometimes people would say hurtful things and the last thing I wanted to do was potentially hurt a reader so I went with eye color because it felt kind of safe and I went with brown eyes because usually when you see drawings of elves they have blue eyes and I didn't even occur to me that Sophie had blond hair and brown eyes like me yeah well we got the cover art and my agents first comment was she kind of looks like you and I thought oh no should I look like everyone's gonna think I tried to mean I look like me but I was so used to seeing her that way in my head that I couldn't change her so it really was kind of completely accidental but I hear that a lot that so if he looks like ya which is a great compliment cuz ya artist has made her very very very pretty yes I did not look like that 112 was like the prime awkward phase I have begged my mom please never released pictures of I think we all feel that way a little bit oh it was bad the awkward phase was strong in this one well we have one more question member Kent Kent garden student okay the student what is your question for Miss messenger how do your Platt lists ooh how do I come up with my plot twist that's great um you know a lot of times it comes from me sort of pushing myself to go the unexpected route I feel like sometimes the first idea that I get is the most obvious and so I'll write it down as sort of like a back-up plan but I will try to then dig deeper and brainstorm a little bit more and kind of play the what-if game with myself and just go hold what if I did this instead or what if I did that instead because that's usually how you get to the stuff that people don't expect because it's not even where your brain goes first and you kind of dig deeper and sometimes the story gives them to me just as I'm going along I'll realize like oh the villains are gonna do this they're so gonna do this and oh no how am I gonna get my characters out of that mess and it just kind of grows organically from it well thank you so much and thanks Kent Gardens guys those were great questions and we will come back to you in a bit later on in the show for some more questions okay so hang tight guys thank you so Shannon we've also received many emails questions for you from students across the country so let's take a few of those right now sounds good so this question is from Jefferson middle school and they write why do you like torturing your fans so much with cliffhangers ah yes the cliffhanger question you know I mean I'll admit there's a tiny part of me that when it's close to deadline time and I'm up at 4 a.m. and haven't slept in you know a month I'm thinking haha the cliffhanger will pay them that's only a tiny part it really comes down to when I've read series where they sort of wrap each book up I end up losing interest in them because it's so hard because then the next book kind of has to break everything again and it feels like the first third of each of those books is just kind of everything falling apart again and it stresses me out so I mean not that cliffhangers aren't stressful but for me I prefer a series where you don't get any real resolution until it's actually building but yeah it just builds and builds and builds and then eventually when I give you the real resolution we'll be at the end all feel good yeah instead of wrapping it up and then having it all fall apart in the next book and I also feel like the nice thing about the cliffhanger is then chapter 1 of the next book I can dive right into the story and we don't have to have that kind of slow start that sometimes happens when you don't have a cliffhanger but I do realize for my readers it requires a lot of patience when it comes to waiting for the next book and I'm writing as fast as I can I promise well that's a great clue to our like young writers and stuff that you don't have to restart each new series and retell the story over and over again so that's a very good piece of information to share with them yeah I mean it's really like I'm writing one long story and it just happens to be broken up into individual books so and I try to pick a cliffhanger that isn't like so the entire book has been about one plotline and then we don't even get any resolution on that I try to give you some resolution on that and then really the cliffhanger is kind of like getting the first chapter of the next book right then and getting a glimpse of where we're gonna go next and then we take a break and I write the next book and you guys all impatiently email me which is amazing and then we get you know the to the next cliffhanger until we get to the end so just there's gonna be a book 8 and a book 9 brace yourself just wait race yourself early another cliffhangers okay well we have a phone call right now that we're going to go to we have a question on the phone so caller what is your name and what is your question for Shanna Messinger my name is Elon um had question is wait no my question is don't get any more power oh just Sophie get any more press well I never give spoilers because I would get in a lot of trouble for that so I can't really tell you that but I will say it's something that's always in the back of my mind I'm always trying to juggle the fact that a I don't want to run into sort of like the Superman conundrum of her becoming so powerful that like nothing nothing there's no tension or of course she's gonna win because she's got all these powers and especially because now we're deep into the series I also don't want it to be that she gets an ability and it's kind of like well if they just triggered that one in book one we wouldn't immediately books two by the way like oh look you know I I just don't want it to see it I can really convenient that all of a sudden she has this power that takes out all the villains yeah so it's a juggling act but I mean I had some other things sort of planned but whether or not I actually go with them is something I'm still deciding because again I'm trying to make sure that I don't run into the Superman problem or or make it seem like I've sort of ill plotted these series well it sounds it's really interesting that you're saying these things because authors have so many choices when they write books about what happens to the characters and I feel like a lot of times that doesn't always come across to readers like the types of choices that you have right it's hard because I'm a very indecisive person and I have to make you know hundreds of thousands of decisions every book an entire world uh yeah I'm in charge of an entire world and all these lives and and you know every decision has consequences and so that's kind of sometimes when I'm making a big decision I really do try to sit down and think through okay all the ramifications of if I do this like how is that going to ripple through because I mean sometimes when you really think of a situation it's like a once I put the characters down this path like someone might die you know what I mean like once you set the trap and let the villains do their thing it's like this could really be a bad thing and is that where I want to let the story go and there's certain things where I feel like I have to just step back and let the story unfold but then there are other times where I'm just like yeah I don't want the story to become that and so I have to kind of back it up so yeah it is a lot of decision making process and really trying to weigh the pros and cons and especially with a series because I'm still dealing with decisions that I made in book one yes as I'm writing book aid and sometimes I'm just like curse you pass why why did you make this decision now I have to live with this well and when you started out had you planned the whole story arc for like all of the books in the series or do you do that book by book or at like how do you make those choices kind of all of the above I mean I had some big I I knew right away but this was a huge problem that Sophia was up against that she wasn't just up against a single villain she was up against like fundamental problems in her world her world was crumbling so I knew this was a big story but then you know publishing is a business mhm and so initially they only bought three books and so I had to kind of sit down and figure out if they'd never let me go beyond this how can I have this feel like a complete story and then when we went to them and said I would love to write more I have a lot more here they kind of said well we can do one more book and then we can do one more but and then we can do two and so for a while I kept kind of figuring out how to reshape things so that's why certain things have been revealed gradually like new villains have come in those were things that I had always planned would be part of it but I wasn't I had to sort of gradually ease them in once I knew I would have the story space and I feel like in some ways that made the series better yeah cuz instead of me info dumping you know five olives at once or whatever it's like we sort of got to watch the problem get bigger and bigger and I always leave myself room for the fact that your first ideas are rarely your best ideas so I mean there's been certain things that I things and stuff that I will hold true to forever but as for like the very specific back and forth of the of the problems and the solutions and stuff I usually come up with much better ideas along the way and that's really good for our listeners to hear – is that our first draft is not our final draft oh no I mean the published version of keeper the so the first book in the series is actually my 20th draft I know over and over and over trying to figure out how to tell it the right way the other books are not that many drafts they're all either the third draft or the second draft but I would never want my first draft published ever because I can always make it better always well we have a phone call now this color is from Houston caller what is your question for Miss messenger my name is Henry and I'm from Houston Texas hi I mean perylene Texas huh my my question is for is how many more books is she gonna make are you gonna make oh yes that is the question on lots of people's minds um well for right now I am under contract for book 8 and book 9 and my publisher has let me know that they are open to letting me go beyond that if I want to I just want to make sure that we end the series on a high I don't want to stretch the story and make it thinner than it needs to be so I kind of just said when we were having that conversation about whether there would be a book ten it was like I hadn't even written a word of book seven yet and so trying to figure seven eight nine ten that's a lot of books to figure out so I just said can we just I know I can do nine for sure and then can we just wait until I've written seven and eight and see how much how many questions I've answered how many mysteries I've solved all that kind of thing before I decide whether or not there will be a book ten so it's kind of a big maybe right now I promise I will give you as many books as I can but I also want to make sure that they are as good as they can be and that the last book really feels like we go out with a bang and not like she stretched that story a little bit then well that's a nice promise like that yeah I mean I want to give them as many books as like as as the series means and I guess is the answer so do you have a question for Shannon Messinger join the conversation jot down the information at the bottom of your screen we welcome your calls and tweets sometimes when you read a book that you just can't put down you just have to share what you know let's take a look in our book project is the keeper of velocities website so this is our home page and we wanted to introduce the series before we got started on the first book when fifth graders explain their thinking about fantasy fiction a good place to start is keeper of the Lost Cities a series by Shannon Messinger with a dose of ingenuity a dash of imagination a bit of Technology students dig deep to understand themes of loyalty and friendship we used Lego figures to represent Fritz and Sophie this shows that they are always stronger together and whenever they're apart they're always like weaker not wrong using a variety of platforms some high-tech some low-tech students explore how characters develop how plots run and ways readers can engage their audience we try to tie in our projects with portrait of a graduates they have the collaboration skills they have to work together in groups they need to be able to communicate properly to express what they felt was important about the books and they also had to exhibit creativity and critical thinking waking notes we made a newspaper website the eternal of times for the keeper of the lost cities books one to four and a half from inspired but highly made up social media posts to 3d art students work together to communicate their ideas about a world of fantasy with real-life situations Wow those projects are not what they used to be no I never did anything that amazing in school I'm feeling really bad about past shannond in school now like I never did anything that cool well Shannon based on your experience as a writer why do you think fantasy resonate so much with kids you know for me as a kid when I was a reader I always wanted books that would sort of take me somewhere that I couldn't you know be a lot of times a kid you kind of limited cuz you can't drive yet you can't you know so you're kind of within the four walls of your bedroom and fantasy takes you out of that it takes you to a place that you can't even begin to imagine you know and so I think it's kind of an escape you know you just want to go somewhere where people can do things that you wish you could do and where creatures exist that you wish existed and just kind of you know I and I think just when you're young your imagination is so active that there's just something fun about watching someone else's imagination really coming alive on the page you want to get lost in it well we have some more questions from our Kent Garden students and so we are gonna go ahead and go to them Kent Gardens who has our next question who's your favorite character whoo I love this question I I can never pick between the kid characters because they're like my kids so I but it's actually this isn't just me like saying oh I don't want to pick a favorite cake here my favorite character is Sylvan II the alicorn because I mean you think about it my job is to get paid to spend my time figuring out what it's like to be in the head of a sparkly flying alicorn like this is actually what I get paid for it's the best job ever and Sylvan II thinks in all caps and exclamation marks which is so the way that I would text everyone all the time if my friends wouldn't get mad at me for it so it's really fun when I get to do that with Sylvan II and just you know single words and all that exuberance and everything it's it and yet it's funny because you know even with the fact that she does the repetitive words and all of that there's still emotion there and so many actually is character and so that really is fun for me thank you students who has our next question for Miss messenger hi my name is Mackenzie in your opinion what is the best ability hi I'm Mackenzie you know I think the best ability is a little bit hard for me to side but I know if I was going to have one that I could choose I would choose to teleport and that's because for one thing if I tried to light leap I have very scattered concentration I'm kind of like the dog in that movie up like squirrel I get distracted very easily so if I tried to light leap I would completely fade away and yet I hate airports I hate airplanes I hate that whole thing and I have to do it a lot for my job so if I could just jump off a building and teleport somewhere that would be amazing as far as like value to the abilities I do think the one that I gave Sophie I gave that to her because I think being able to get into someone's head and and see past the lies and get to the truth of it is a very very valuable ability but I mean all the abilities that they have are super cool I would be happy with any of them if the universe decided to give me one of them alright we're ready for our next question from Kent Gardens in the first book Sophie index for in France and they went to that one lamppost why'd you set the scene in France oh I love this question and my French publisher will have you know Paris is one of my favorite cities and it I do best when I'm writing a place that I've been to so that I can really sort of captured the feel of it but it was also because Paris is often called the city of light and light plays a huge role in the Elven world and so it just sort of made sense to me that the human city of light would be a place where the elves would might maybe have a bit of a stronger presence than other cities and so it just kind of made sense and and that that lantern and that bridge is my favorite spot in Paris and it's the place that I always go and all of a sudden when I was trying to figure out where to set that see I just all of a sudden realized a bridge with nothing but these amazing lanterns is the perfect place and so I have gone as a nerdy author and taken pictures of me holding my book with the lantern in front of the lantern because you got to do it and I just I love that that place got to be incorporated into the books when we have one more question from our students via Skype so what is there your question is there going to be an eighth book in the in the keeper of the last cities series yes there definitely is going to be an eighth book I have yet to write a word of it but I will be like starting next month once I'm done with the book tour I will be writing book eight so I I don't know the title of it yet I don't know anything about it because I haven't started writing it yet but it's gonna happen well thank you so much Kent Gardens thank you yeah thank you we have another phone call this one is from Houston so caller what is your name and what is your question hello caller what's your question I heard that you're from Texas but I don't know that I heard the question can you try one more time caller Peron Texas and I'm Tyler Lee who was your role model growing up wonderful question thank you question you know I really looked up to my mom growing up I I know there are lots of celebrities and things like that but my mom was such a great mom and what was so great about both my mom and my dad honestly was that they always supported every you know dream that I tried to chase when I wanted to be an art major they let me talk my way into independent study so that I could graduate high school a year early so that I could get into art school at 16 and they let me when I decided I didn't want to be an art major and I decided that I wanted to be a film major which you know is chasing Hollywood that's not a scary dream to have a child want to pursue at all and they I mean they never did that whole like hey maybe you want to have a job that would pay money they believed innkeeper like from the moment I told them the idea they were just like you need to write that book and so they were all my mom has always been my role model so we have another email question for you this email question is from Providence elementary school okay oh this way I'm sorry this one is from Lindenwold middle school and it says did you go through a similar experience that Sophie did did you write this book to teach her readers anything well sadly I've never found out that I belong to a secret world or the super powers but you know there are bits and pieces of my life and I think the theme of that Sophie's struggle is sort of she starts out really just hoping that she's gonna find a perfect place to belong because she's never fit in with humans and then she gets to the lost cities and she feels like okay I finally found the place where I belong and then she realizes that she's very different there too and so for me I think that's kind of an important journey that I've had to take in my life is that instead of finding a place where you you fit exactly with everybody instead learning to be comfortable with who you are and that's kind of what sophie has to do is she has to say all right I'm different from humans I'm different from elves I'm different from everybody but that's okay and I'm okay with being me and I think that has been something that I have wrestled with my whole life as well and you know sort of draw upon in Sophie's journey the universal theme yeah you know I mean I think honestly very few people actually 100% fit in with anyone it's more about sort of figuring out who you are and and being true to yourself well Shannon before we go briefly could you tell us what advice do you have for aspiring writers oh I love this question you know it sounds so obvious but I the advice I always give young writers is to focus on writing for as long as you can because so often the question that I get isn't how do I write a book but it's how do I get published how do I become a published author and people don't realize that writing and publishing are two separate things and that honestly of the two of them the publishing is the less fun side that's the side where you start getting rich action sometimes where you know it's that's where all the pressure is riding is the fun part and so often I'll get a kid of this leg comes up to me all excited like how do I get my book published I'm like have you written it yet and they're like no and so you know focus on being a writer writing the absolute best book that you possibly can finishing it that puts you lightyears ahead of most other writers out there because finishing a book is not an easy thing to do it's why most authors even now like we still on our Instagram as we post that picture of our laptop screen where we typed the end yeah look we did it we made it to the end so make it your goal to finish a book revise it make it the best that it can possibly be and then when you have that then you can start worrying about how to get it published how to be an author all of that stuff and then when that time comes Google is your friend everything that I needed to know about how to get published by Google and in the meantime just focus on writing because the writing is the fun part well we'd like to thank our Kent garden students for joining us via Skype today thank you guys great questions thank you guys and Shannon we have one parting email okay this one is from your fans in Arlington Virginia and it says you are so amazing yeah I never get tired of hearing that she we completely agree thank you so much for joining us today it's been wonderful chatting with you this has been so much fun thank you for having me awesome if you would like to learn more about Shannon messenger visit her website to learn more about our upcoming programs visit the Fairfax Network for the Fairfax Network I'm Emily Godfrey keep reading keep writing and keep dreaming thanks for watching

28 thoughts on “Meet the Author: Shannon Messenger

  1. Coming from someone who read The Hobbit in 2 days as a seven year old, Shannon’s books are inexplicably addicting. I rarely read a book more than once.. but I can always pick up a Kotlc. Though it is rather painful to read a book I waited a year for, in about eight hours.. they’re definitely up there on my shelf with Narnia, Harry Potter, and Lotr.

  2. Aw, Shannon, you are so lovely! And I find myself having the same problem- I’m an artist, but things in my head don’t always translate well to the page. So I’ve been trying to write more.

  3. Kotlc is the best series in da world. I luv it soooooo much. It opened my world and I will now never find any other book thats better… i cant wait for book 8. Ima just rant about KOTLC. everything basically revolves around Kotlc in my world. Yas shannon Messanger!!!

  4. I LOVE YOUR SERIES!!! I recommended it to my best friend and she's on book five or six and I finished the whole series so far and me and my best friend love it!!!🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉🙂🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗

  5. I know most interviews are like this, but can we just appreciate how awkward this is? I don't know the interviewer's name but she seems like she can't stop smiling and she always looks at the camera directly for long periods of time which scares me. Also at 19:08 you can see the pain in their eyes. Sitting there smiling at nothing waiting until they were allowed to speak once the camera zoomed out.

  6. Sameeeeeeee Shannon! The books without cliffhangers in your series made me cry so hard, not that the stuff in your books haven’t made me cry thou!

  7. I LOVE YOU SHARON!! I SO WISH I COULD MEET YOU IN PERSON!!!! This book series should totally have its own show!!!!!

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