Author and MFAC alum Meg Cannistra talks about her middle grade novel, The Trouble with Shooting Stars (August 20, 2019).
Wonder meets Mary Poppins in this heartfelt debut novel about magic, healing, and the importance of family.
Twelve-year-old Luna loves the nighttime more than anything else. It’s when no one gives her “that look” about the half mask she has to wear while healing from a disfiguring car accident. It’s also the perfect time to sit outside and draw what she sees. Like the boy and girl from the new family next door…zipping out of the window in a zeppelin and up to the stars.
At first she thinks she’s dreaming. But one night they catch her watching. Now Luna spends her nights on adventures with them, as they clean full moons, arrange constellations, and catch jars of stardust. She even gets to make a wish on a shooting star they catch.
But Luna learns that no wish is strong enough to erase the past—as much as she may hope to.
What inspired The Trouble With Shooting Stars?
My family. It’s a love letter to all my cousins, aunts, and uncles. So much of them is in this story. I wanted them to have a book about Italian-Americans that they could be proud of.
What were the challenges (literary, psychological, logistical, etc.) in bringing this book to life?
I’ve never written much contemporary so that was difficult for me. And even though there are magical elements, there are moments that are very real. Writing those emotional, raw scenes where Luna feels her absolute lowest were gut-wrenching. It’s not like horror or high fantasy where you can tuck some of the more difficult plot points under monsters and dragons. The surface emotions are tricky, but so worth it once you figure it out.
If you could be friends with only one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
Oooh. Good question. I think I’d want to be friends with Chiara. She’s so magical and fun. She’d also be willing to share some of that magic with me and take me up to the stars.
How has your writing process changed now that you have been published?
I’ve become a plotter. I used to be a pantser and thought that was the only way I’d be able to write, but it only got me so far and inevitably makes things more difficult for me in the end. Plotting has helped me stay on task and tease out a few story ideas at a time versus being stuck on one and hopelessly lost.
What did you edit out of this book?
Nonna Bianchini was a lot more dramatic, meaner at times. I dialed her back quite a bit.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’ve taken up boxing and love it. I also do a lot of cooking and watch a ton of horror movies. My favorite horror movie (more art house horror, really) right now is Midsommar. I saw it months ago, but it’s all I can talk/think about. Can’t wait to watch the director’s cut.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Find your writing community. Writing doesn’t have to be lonely. Find the people who will read a quick couple pages or who you can vent to about things in your story. Most importantly, find the people who love you and will tell you to keep going even when you don’t want to.
What is next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m working on two middle-grade books. One is with CAKE and the other is my own. I’m also working on revising a young adult horror novel and fleshing out an outline for another young adult horror novel (this one contemporary).
Meg Cannistra grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where she spent her childhood chasing after older sisters and cousins and learning how to cook. After living in New York City and North Jersey for a few years, Meg now resides with her two cats, Gloom and Doom, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has a BA in English Literature from Flagler College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University. When she’s not taking pictures of her cats or wandering around grocery stores, she writes magical, mysterious, and sometimes scary stories. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MegCannistra, and learn more about her books at www.megcannistra.com.