YEM Author Interview: Michelle A. Barry chats about involving magic in his book Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden

Michelle A. Barry is the author of Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden. Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden follows Myra Hodger as she begins her second year at the elite Scientific Lunar Academy of Magic. The novel explores climate change warnings and a determination to fight against the status quo. YEM was able to speak with Michelle which parts of the book was inspired by her real life, writing a series, what is coming up in the future.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?

Michelle A. Barry: I think I always knew on some level that I wanted books and storytelling to be a part of my life in a big way – I used to take out stacks of books from the library, write my own stories, etc., when I was little – but it wasn’t until I was an adult, working in the marketing department at a manufacturing company, that I realized that I could actually try to write my own book and get it published. At the time, it was a necessary creative outlet after writing fairly dry, technical marketing copy all day, but since, it’s bloomed into a passion. 

YEM: Your book Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden involves a lot of magic, is this something you have always been fascinated with?

Michelle: Absolutely! I’ve always been drawn to stories of magic and outer space, I think because I love the mystery and wonder of things beyond the normal day-to-day of life on Earth. This made the sci-fi and fantasy blend of the Plotting the Stars books a natural combination. 

YEM: Was any part of your book inspired by your real life?

Michelle: Some of my earliest memories of my grandmother are spending time with her in her garden. In particular, I remember her showing me a patch of lily of the valley growing over her fence, and wondering if I touched them, if they would chime like bells. When Myra discovers the secret garden in her school, she’d never seen plants before, so I called on my own recollections of discovering flowers with my grandmother to write Myra’s own amazement in those scenes. There’s even a moment when she comes across a bell-shaped flower and wonders if they will jingle, a nod to that memory with my grandmother. 

YEM: Did you always know that these books would be a series from the moment you started?

Michelle: When I first started writing Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden, I tried to frame the first book so that it could be a standalone story, but with enough open doors that Myra’s adventures could continue. I always knew there would be more story to tell than just the first book and hoped I would have the chance to tell all of Myra’s story, and it’s so exciting to be writing the full story arc I’d planned originally now. 

YEM: What does your writing process look like?

Michelle: Building an outline before drafting is immensely helpful to my writing process. The story often ends up taking some twists and turns from my original plan but having a blueprint to refer back to definitely keeps me on track. Being strict with writing time is also really important. I work full time, so to meet my deadlines, I am fairly militant about making sure I squeeze in writing time in the early morning and late evening.

YEM: Do you already have an idea of how the series is going to end or do you think of the story as you are writing?

Michelle: With the Plotting the Stars series, I always had a very clear idea of how I wanted the second and third books to start and end, but how to get there, I figured out along the way.

YEM: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading your book?

Michelle: Besides the underlying messages about climate change, and taking care of our planet, I really hope the friendship themes resonate with readers. As kids grow older, and especially in the middle school timespan, friendships evolve and change, which can be difficult to navigate. I hope readers see their own friendship journeys in Myra’s changing relationships. 

YEM: Do you have advice for those who want to be authors one day?

Michelle: Just start getting words on the page and don’t worry about how good or not so good they are – that’s what revisions are for. Writing a whole book can feel intimidating, but if you set small goals, take it one page at a time, and don’t worry about the story being perfect in the first draft, before you know it, you’ll have a whole book written!

YEM: How would you describe Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden in three words?

Michelle: Adapting. Conspiracy. Betrayal. 

YEM: What do you enjoy the most about writing for a middle grade audience?

Michelle: I love the hopefulness of writing for young readers. Everything is new and exciting and the future is full of possibilities. 

YEM: What is a genre you hope to write eventually?

Michelle: I have a spooky middle grade novel in the works, which is a new genre for me, but one I’m having a lot of fun writing.

YEM: Do you have any books that you are working on now or that will be coming out in the future?

Michelle: Plotting the Stars 2: Seagarden is arriving on the third of October, and book 3 in the Plotting the Stars series will follow in 2024. Besides Plotting the Stars, I’m also working on the spooky novel I mentioned, and another science fantasy retelling. 

Follow YEM on Twitter to see Michelle A. Barry take over our account!