Thursday, November 26, 2020

Megan Bannen

Megan Bannen is the author of Soulswift and The Bird and the Blade, a Kirkus Best Young Adult Book of 2018 and an Indies Introduce selection. An avid coffee drinker and mediocre ukulele player, Bannen lives in the Kansas City area with her husband and their two children. She's a full-time writer, but her librarian heart will always belong to the reference desk.

My Q&A with the author:
How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I specifically wrote Soulswift for my seventeen-year-old self--a girl who was beginning to doubt what everyone around her held as absolute and unquestionable truth--so I don't think my teenage reader self would be so much surprised as relieved. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of young adults who are a lot like I was. I hope they feel a little less alone in the world as they see their own struggle with faith reflected back to them through Gelya's thoughts and experiences.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I almost always know exactly how the book is going to end before I ever begin writing it. The ending of a novel is like your closing argument. It's the moment that illustrates the entire reason you spent years of your life toiling over these words. The beginning is a lot trickier, especially in fantasy. Not only must you introduce the characters and their internal struggles, you also have to build a new world in the reader's imagination. There's a struggle to figure out how to dole out important information, how to figure out what readers need to know and when. For that reason, almost all of my major revisions throughout the editorial process of Soulswift focused on the first third of the book.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think all characters are fragments of the author, or, at least, that's true in my case. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote Soulswift for my teenage self who struggled with faith, so Gelya, the main character, feels very much as I felt at age seventeen. Tavik, the other major character in the book, might seem like her polar opposite, but in many ways, he's more me than even Gelya is. His tendency to cut tension and cloak insecurity with a robust sense of humor is 100% Megan. Even the Goodson, the novel's antagonist, has a certain amount wisdom and experience that comes from a writer who is, herself, middle-aged. I don't know that I could have written him as convincingly ten years ago, but now he's a character who makes a lot of sense to me, even if I very much disagree with his worldview.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Soulswift was heavily inspired by music. I began with the premise that I wanted to write a book that had the same emotional tone as Ralph Vaughn Williams's "The Lark Ascending," full of bittersweet longing. I listened to it over and over until, one day, I got the idea for the ending of the book. It's a strange moment, though, and I asked myself, "What would make that happen?" The whole book was basically me answering that question. There is also a dance scene in the book that was inspired by "My Heart, My Life" by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook, and a major fight scene that was choreographed to Aloe Blacc's "The Man" (which I consider Tavik's theme song). But the music that set the overall tone of the book was a collection of Scandinavian folk songs sung in medieval polyphony by Trio Mediaeval.
Visit Megan Bannen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Megan Bannen & Brontë.

The Page 69 Test: The Bird and the Blade.

--Marshal Zeringue