I saw a post about THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS by Heather Kassner on Twitter and completely fell in love with the cover. Even though it came out in August, this spine-chilling middle grade novel is perfect for Halloween:
In order to survive on her own, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded thing that’s been disappearing children in the night.
When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone’s children.
Where did your interest in hummingbirds come from?
I will always associate hummingbirds with my grandmother, who loves them dearly. I was with her (in Wisconsin) the first time I ever saw one, a beautiful ruby throated hummingbird (which for some reason I always called a gorgan when I was little). They always seemed like such magical creatures to me, and they still do. Now that I’m in Arizona, the most common type I see flitting around is the Anna’s hummingbird, so even though my gram is miles and miles away, whenever I see one she feels closer.
Wonderful! And speaking of magical creatures, THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS has some really unique world-building. What were the most challenging aspects of creating Rooney’s world?
Thank you! Creating the atmosphere for a story is one of my favorite parts of writing, but it is only one small piece of world building. One of the most challenging things for me while imagining The Plentiful Darkness was maintaining that claustrophobic feeling while still ensuring there was enough world for Rooney and her friends to explore. One way I approached this was by twisting the ordinary into the strange—impossibly tall leafless trees that just might snatch you up, a dark magical river that frosts over if you fight the current, and a moonless sky with no stars for you to wish upon. Also, as the kids sneaked around (and got themselves into trouble), they discovered that parts of the darkness had been destroyed. This maintained the sense of a tight, enclosed space, while also building the mystery of what was happening to the dark realm to make it shrink all the closer around them.
Ooh, spooky! Another of your books, THE BONE GARDEN, grapples with the theme of what is and isn’t real. How did you know this was a story you needed to tell?
When I sat down to write The Bone Garden, I knew I wanted to tell a strange and magical story, and I started writing without knowing exactly where it would lead. But the more I learned about the main character, Irréelle (a girl made from dust and bone and imagination), the more I saw the heart of her hopes and fears. And her greatest fear was that she wasn’t real.
The main reason this idea was even in her head at all is because her cruel creator, Miss Vesper, told her so: “Remember, my dear, you do not really and truly exist. You are a figment of my imagination, tethered here by the finest thread.” And it was awful for Irréelle to hear this.
So often we see ourselves as a reflection of what others see, not the real and whole truth. And I wanted this story to explore perception—for Irréelle (and for readers) to see their own worth untouched by the perception of others.
What a lovely, and necessary, book for us all. What are some of your current projects?
Right now, my mind is chaos! I have so many ideas swirling around, and they are all asking for attention at once. I can’t complain though, because having multiple ideas is definitely a good thing, but it’s been harder for me to focus and commit to any one project. However, the story that I’ve been playing around with the most recently is another middle grade fantasy, and it’s about a soft boy with ink-stained fingers, a fearless girl with a stony heart, and dark, dark nightmares. I’m really excited about this one!
For Heather Kassner’s other books, go to https://www.heatherkassner.com/books