Friday, November 18, 2022

Q&A with Meaghan McIsaac




Meaghan McIsaac is the author of The Bear House: Scales and Stardust, a new novel for older kids. It's a sequel to her novel The Bear House. She is also an illustrator for graphic novels and picture books.


Q: This is the second novel in your Bear House series--did you know when you started the first novel that there would be a sequel?


A: I did not! The first book was such a big undertaking that I wasn’t even sure I’d make it to the end of that book. But by the time the story was done, the world had become so big and the characters were so real to me with so much story left for them that I was very excited to write a second and see where their adventures went.


I really love Aster and the whole Highen crew so I’m certain I’ll be thinking up more stories about them for a long time. 


Q: How did you create your character Aster, and do you think she's changed from one book to the next?


A: I knew from the onset that I wanted a fiery, difficult princess. But that was all I knew. As I wrote her story, scene by scene, she became so much more complex. She’s been raised by a beloved warrior king! That’s a lot of strength and courage to live up to, and the pressure of that became more apparent as the story developed.


On top of living in her father’s impressive shadow, Aster is the younger sister – it’s Ursula, the big sister, who is expected to take her father’s throne someday. Not much is expected of Aster, not in the same important way. What does that do to a person’s self-esteem? A person’s ambition? The world that was built up around her really had a strong influence on who Aster was and how she went about navigating that world.


Do I think she changed? Oh yes, big time. She grows up a lot from the beginning of the story to the end, and becomes much more aware of the world outside of herself. But she’s still very much herself, even after everything.


Q: What inspired the plot of Scales and Stardust?


A: The OnHigh! The OnHigh are the stars over the Bear Highen that are central to their faith. The OnHigh were so present in the first Bear House story, and they are a central part of so much of everyday life in the Highen that I really wanted to explore this system and its players more – not just the stars, but the moon demons and how it all works together.


I was really inspired by the idea of “guiding lights” and the North star and finding your way. What happens when that guiding light goes out? What happens when the person you look to lead you and give you guidance isn’t there anymore? How do you find your way? As a new queen, without her father, that’s something Aster has to figure out.


Q: Do you know how your novels will end before you start writing them, or do you make many changes along the way?


A: I usually have a very vague idea of how I THINK the story will end. But I am always aware that what I think will happen might not happen at all. So I put my vague idea to one side while I write the first draft – I usually plan out about five chapters at a time – always keeping my eye on that ending.


But if something in the story deviates from where I thought it should go, I definitely don’t fight it. So many things grow and change as a story takes shape that I really don’t want to close myself off to other possible endings. If I’m surprised, then the reader will be too!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now, I am working on my first ever graphic novel about a fantasy card game that comes to life! I’ve been really enjoying the change to my usual writing process because it’s a completely different style of writing, and I get to draw more! I am also working on a new MG story inspired by the Wizard of Oz. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I like to draw! I doodled a lot in my world-building notebooks for The Bear House: Scales and Stardust, as well as digitally for my graphic novel project. I’m actually sharing these doodles and my process in my newsletter, Authorstrator, along with writing tips and what I’m working on, if you’d like to check it out! Thanks so much for having me!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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