Last year, I was ecstatic to feature Jessica Khoury’s MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT, a middle grade fantasy that features a relatable main character and a great plot! The sequel, THE MIDNIGHT ORCHESTRA, came out on June 14, 2022:
Things are finally looking up for Amelia Jones: she’s officially a Mystwick student, and she even has a teacher to help her learn how to use her rare Composing magic. When Mystwick enters an international magic competition, it’s Amelia’s chance to Compose something that will help them win the day. The only problem is that she still doesn’t understand how her powers work. But then she hears about a super exclusive Midnight Orchestra—half performance, half magical black market—and Amelia is sure that’s where she’ll find the answer to her Composing problem.
But the Midnight Orchestra is far more sinister than it initially appears and if Amelia can’t unlock her Composing powers, not only will Mystwick lose the musicraft competition, she won’t be able to rescue her friends from the danger unleashed in this thrilling adventure.
In our last interview, you said, “I’m working on two simultaneously running middle grade series–Mystwick, from Audible/HMH, and Skyborn, my fantasy series from Scholastic.” What is your favorite aspect of each series and why?
In Mystwick, I love the deep dive into Amelia’s difficult childhood, and the way music is a part of her healing. Music is her way of expressing the emotions she doesn’t yet have words for. It’s a powerful magic not just for the literal spells it creates in her world, but for the very real therapeutic magic it brings to her soul. In Skyborn, my favorite thing is the relationship between the main characters, Ellie and Nox, and how they are complete opposites to one another and yet each has exactly the perspective and strength that the other needs. The story is an exploration of empathy and belonging, and how dramatically our lives and worldviews can transform as the result of a friend who will believe in us no matter what. Friendship is a strong theme in both books, and I suppose it will be in every middle grade story I write.
Friendship is such an important theme, too–especially in Middle Grade. I love the introduction of the Midnight Orchestra in this second installment of Mystwick. How did you know this needed to be a part of Amelia’s world?
The Midnight Orchestra–a mysterious, teleporting orchestra of unsurpassed skill–is a kind of counterthesis to Mystwick School and the values of Musicraft in general. There’s an openness to magic in this world. It’s accessible to all, it’s free, it’s collaborative. But the Midnight Orchestra is none of these things. I can’t give too much away for fear of spoilers, but I knew I wanted to bring in a dark, mysterious foil to Mystwick’s light and warmth, something that would pull at a darker side of Amelia. Everything in the books, to various degrees, is designed to interact with her internal journey.
Fascinating! What do you feel is the most challenging part of writing a sequel?
Goodness, there is so much! I think that the most difficult thing to navigate was keeping everything consistent with book one. I actually wrote book 2 about three years after I wrote book 1, and still I was surprised by how much I’d forgotten. There are a lot of world rules about the ways the magic works, the layout of the Mystwick campus, little character backstory tidbits–I had to do a lot of rereading to be sure I wasn’t contradicting myself.
I’ll bet! What is one of your most memorable responses from one of your readers?
I have to say, I have the best readers in the world. Its scientific fact! And they constantly blow me away with their creativity. I think the highest compliment I hear is when a reader (often children, but actually quite a few adults too) tell me they began flute or violin or piano lessons because of Mystwick. That’s the ultimate response, I think–to be inspired by one person’s art enough that you feel moved to create your own. It always makes me emotional!
For more of Jessica Khoury’s books, go to https://www.jessicakhoury.com/books