I first learned about THE MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT when I went to The Writers’ Sanctuary Juniper Conference. This fantastic Middle Grade novel combines two of my favorite things: music and magic. Have a look:
Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?
In addition to being an author, you are also a mapmaker. What originally got you into cartography?
I’ve always loved drawing maps, and made tons of them as a kid and teen. But it was when my fourth book, The Forbidden Wish, released, that I started cartography in earnest. I wanted to give readers a map of the Syrian-inspired fantasy world of the story, and had intended to hire an artist to do it. But when I started the sketch I would send to them, I just… kept drawing and perfecting it until I realized I’d drawn my own map! I loved working on it so much that I launched Lizard Ink Maps, my cartography service, in 2018, and I’ve been fully booked ever since.
I’ll bet you have! I love the premise of MYSTWICK SCHOOL OF MUSICRAFT. How did you know this was a story you needed to write?
Mystwick had actually been percolating for years before I finally wrote it. The idea came to me when I saw Evita on tour. I’d scored front row tickets, right above the orchestra pit. I remember watching the conductor direct all the musicians and thought it looked like they were creating some kind of magic spell together. The idea of music-as-magic was born that moment, and I knew I wanted to write about a world like that. But for years, I tried to make it a Young Adult story and it just never worked. Then one day, it just clicked–this book is Middle Grade! Once I realized that, I was able to write the entire first draft in two weeks. That’s how I knew it was finally working.
Yup, I’ve definitely written a few Young Adult stories that were Middle Grade the whole time! What do you feel has been the most challenging part of your writing career so far and why?
The hardest part of my career has definitely been finding my confidence as a writer. My second book, Vitro, was incredibly hard to write, and there were moments I seriously doubted I could do it. It was the first time I was writing under heavy publisher and reader expectations, and those derailed me for a while. But I fought hard for that book, learned SO much about craft and story I’d never known, and ended up a much stronger writer after that.
It helps to know that these kinds of struggles can also strengthen us. What are some of your current projects?
Currently I’m working on two simultaneously running middle grade series–Mystwick, from Audible/HMH, and Skyborn, my upcoming fantasy series from Scholastic. Juggling the two is certainly a challenge, but they are definitely projects that go hand in hand and appeal to the same reader, so in that sense, it’s not too bad going back and forth between them!
For Jessica Khoury’s other books, go to https://www.jessicakhoury.com/books