I’ve been a fan of Megan Shepherd since her YA novel Grim Lovelies. I’m currently devouring her Middle Grade book The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, and just ordered her newest Middle Grade, DOG STAR, on my Kindle. The beginning of DOG STAR took my breath away, as many of Megan Shepherd’s books have. Have a look:
Laika is a Cold Dog, a stray pup fighting for her life on the streets of Moscow. Then, one winter night, she is plucked from her alley to become a starflyer, a dog trained to travel into space. Distrustful of people, Laika tries to do everything she can to escape. That is, until she meets Nina.
Nina is a Cold Girl, lonely and full of questions. Her best friend has moved to America in a rush, leaving Nina to face the school bullies all by herself. Plus, her father’s work as a scientist in the Soviet Space Program grows more secretive by the day.
When the two meet in her father’s laboratory, their growing bond slowly warms the chill that has settled in each other’s hearts. As the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union grows fierce, Laika and Nina uncover shocking secrets and hard truths that will test their friendship. How will they find the courage to chase their dreams all the way to the stars?
What do you love most about the mountains in West North Carolina?
The Southern Appalachian mountains are among the oldest in the world, which makes them very cozy. I love visiting the Rockies, but to live, I prefer a place that isn’t so extreme, with moderate hikes and gentle valleys. The weather here revolves around four solid seasons, which always keeps life interesting and feeling like it’s moving forward.
Lovely. DOG STAR is based on the true story of Laika, the Space Dog. How did you know this was a story you needed to write, and what, if anything, surprised you while you wrote it?
I learned about Laika’s story in high school, but it wasn’t until I was in my 30s and read more about the real-life humans involved with her journey that I felt compelled to write it. These were people who did some horrible things but were caught in a totalitarian system and an ideology that put scientific achievement paramount. While Laika is the heart of DOG STAR, I think readers will most relate to the human characters and feel conflicted over their choices.
Definitely. You’ve written both Middle Grade and Young Adult books. What do you think is one of the key differences between books for these audiences?
Middle-grade books always feel more personal to me. Even when they’re dealing with big locations or big ideas, like DOG STAR, they are still heavily tied to the few central characters. Whereas with young adult novels, the scope can be larger and more theoretical or fantastical. It’s all about what those readers are going through in their development. Middle school aged kids are focused on family, community, and friendship. Teenagers are more concerned with their own inner journey of discovery and how they fit into the wider world.
Excellently put. What are some of your current projects?
My next book will be my adult debut, a supernatural Gothic thriller about an illustrator who finds a mysterious manuscript and decides to bring the characters to life. It is called Malice House and comes out this fall. I’m also working on a secret (for now) project based on one of my very favorite movies of all time!
For Megan Shepherd’s other books, go to https://www.meganshepherd.com/books