A Teen Reader Interviews MarcyKate Connolly About MONSTROUS

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Alexandra B. is an 8th grader at King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, CT. She recently read MarcyKate Connolly’s MONSTROUS and had a few questions for the author.

Alex: What part of this book is special to you and why?

MarcyKate: This is the hardest question! The whole book is special to me, but I think one of my all time favorite parts is when Kymera and Ren are just getting to know each other and he still has no idea what she’s really made of.  It’s both sweet and bittersweet because she gets to be herself with a human and gets a taste of everything she lost in her former life.

Alex: Is Kymera’s personality similar to yours? How?

MarcyKate: In some ways, yes, she’s a bit naïve like I was when I was 13, and that naiveté does get her into a bit of trouble…

Alex: How did you come up with the idea to write the book?

MarcyKate: I’d wanted to write a fairy-tale-inspired book for a while, but hadn’t quite found the right concept. Then one day, while stuck in gridlock traffic and literally parked on the highway, the first line of Monstrous popped into my head. I had to write that line and the rest of the first page down immediately, and for the rest of the day I could not stop wondering who would say that and why. The plot pretty much came together that day, and I was so taken with the idea and the character that I had to begin writing the book right away.

Alex: To you, is Kymera more a monster or a human?

MarcyKate: I think Kymera is a better person than most of the people who are physically human in the book, which was intentional. What we look like does not define our character or whether we’re good or bad.

Alex: What made you decide to end the book the way you did?

MarcyKate: I’m glad you asked this, and I’m going to try to answer without spoiling the book J

The ending is something I wrestled with a lot in the first few drafts. I tried writing a pat little Disney-fied ending but it was so wrong and completely out of character for Kymera. The final epilogue went through many iterations and tweaks along the way (its current form was the result of 11th hour line edits that had me rewriting the entire epilogue!).

First, the book is more like a Grimm’s fairy tale than a Disney one – it’s dark, and some characters do die. At the end of the book, the main character makes a decision to do something very dangerous to protect her friends and the result is…unexpected (I know what you’re thinking and no, Kymera does not die – it’s something else entirely!). She actually gets exactly what she wants, but in a way that never occurred to her. While it might sound like it would be easier to let an adult character do the difficult task or to change the rules of magic in the world, it’s crucial to the story and her character that it be her. Monstrous is Kymera’s story, her battle – letting someone else make the hard choices in her stead would take away her hard won agency. It would be a huge let down, and, really, kind of a cop-out.

Part of Kym’s struggle throughout the book is that she needs to realize she must step outside the barriers that others would set around her to protect her. She has to take responsibilities – and the responsibility of protecting her city belongs to her. At the start of the story, she only has inklings of what that entails. A big part of her internal arc is discovering what that truly means. Her character may be a monster but she is constantly caged by others. Her father gives her restrictions, her dragon friend would whisk her away to hide her in his mountain home, and even when she finally breaks free, she’s captured and caged by others who would do her harm. It isn’t until the end of the story that Kym has true freedom and agency and the ability to finally succeed at the mission she’s had from the very beginning.

In other words, having anyone or anything else complete her mission for her would send a rather negative message to readers, especially young girls. It’s critical to Kymera’s story and character that when she has real agency, she makes the choice to bear the full weight and cost of the responsibility she’s taken on. Importantly, her actions are not done out of hate (which she was acting on in the beginning), but out of love – because the love she has for her city, family, and friends has grown so much larger than that hate and they’re more important to her than anything else. Kymera may be a monster in physical sense, but she is truly the best person in the book.

MONSTROUS is available wherever books are sold, including:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

MarcyKate Connolly is an author and arts administrator who lives in New England with her husband and pugs and writes weird little books. She’s also a coffee addict, voracious reader, and recurring commuter. She blogs about all those things and more at MarcyKate.com, and can often be found on Twitter. Her debut upper MG/Tween fantasy novel,MONSTROUS, released with HarperCollins Children’s Books in Winter 2015.
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