Interview with Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities & Exile


Today Shannon Messenger, author of two series (one MG, one YA) visits The Hiding Spot to chat about the most recent release in her MG series, Exile. Keep reading to learn more about Shannon, including the MG authors that inspire her writing, her favorite happy word (which gives a sunny description to something not-so-sunny), and her personal non-spot hiding spot.

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Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write? 


It’s funny, because the answer to both questions is the same: Keefe scenes! On the one hand he’s an incredibly easy character to write dialogue for. I could write page after page after page without needing to pause. But that’s also extremely problematic, because he’s a side character and rarely the focus of a scene. So I have to constantly go back and chop so I can actually advance the plot.

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 


Oh titles… why can’t we be friends? Don’t get me wrong—I love my titles. But they were NOT easily come by. Keeper of the Lost Cities took us six months and hundreds of rejected titles to come up with. And  was Exile the same—which is especially crazy considering it’s only one little word. All I can say is: titles are haaaaard. And thank goodness for patient marketing departments who slog through my horrible lists of suggestions.

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general? 


Hm, that’s hard, because I can’t really say there’s any ONE book or author who influences me. I think I’m more of an amalgam. For middle grade, I love the way Rick Riordan uses humor to temper the brutal things he puts his characters through. I love the worlds Brandon Mull creates, how they’re both so incredibly fantastical and yet feel so plausible and real. I love the whimsical feel of Roald Dahl. I could go on and on, but I think that gives you an idea.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing? 


I had two kinds of jobs: the steady, I-need-a-paycheck jobs, which involved exciting things like answering phones and making copies and filing. And I had the chasing-the-wrong-dream jobs when I was trying to work my way into Hollywood. I hated both—for different reasons of course. But they were also what pushed me to stay up late writing, and not give up during the long road toward publication.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 


Kerfuffle! It’s such a fun word to say. Plus I love that it has such a sunny, happy feel despite describing something stressful and rather unpleasant.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 


This will probably sound weird but… pretty much anywhere. I’m a huge daydreamer—which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great as a writer, because I’m always imagining new things. But it’s bad when I have to be a functioning human being, because I get called out a lot for tuning people out without meaning to, or staring into space.
Find out more about Shannon and her books here!
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