I’m so excited to be a part of the book tour for Shannon in the Spotlight that is hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. I was really excited to also be able to interview the author for this book!
How would you describe Shannon in the Spotlight in one sentence?
Shannon in the Spotlight is a lively and heartwarming novel about the joys of musical theatre, the angst of middle school friendships, and the frustrating reality of being a tween with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Shannon in the Spotlight?
Shannon Carter is a twelve-year-old girl who loves spending her summers backstage at the local community theater with her two best friends. She’s an anxious kid who deals with OCD on a daily basis, but she has a supportive mom and community who help her navigate her difficult circumstances. Although Shannon feels comfortable behind the scenes (both in theater and in life), she secretly wonders what it would be like to stand center stage herself…
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I absolutely know what’s going to happen from the beginning! (And if I don’t, I figure it out before I start writing.) Like my protagonist, Shannon, I am a meticulous and obsessive person who thrives on detailed plans. I cannot fathom letting a fictional character decide their own journey. (I mean, what do they know? They’re not real!)
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
I adore a scene midway through the book when Shannon is laying in the dark theater with an older girl she doesn’t know particularly well. As a theater kid myself, I always found something magical, yet intangible, about being alone in the theater (perhaps the potential of stories not yet told?). I loved capturing that feeling on the page, and I hope other kids in the performing arts will recognize that one-of-a-kind experience.
What is something readers will find in Shannon in the Spotlight that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
There’s a hint of tween romance between Shannon and a boy named Micah who is also cast in the musical. (I can’t remember that made it into the official synopsis, if I’m totally honest.) I love a bit of young love in middle grade fiction. The feelings are so new and confusing and hopeful, which makes for excellent storytelling. But for kids who don’t like romance in their books—don’t worry! It’s only a little bit, I swear. There’s no kissing or anything like that.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from Shannon in the Spotlight?
While I want everyone to enjoy the book, I am especially hopeful that readers with OCD will connect with Shannon and her journey. I was a voracious reader when I was in middle school, but I never encountered any characters whose brains worked like mine. It’s so important and gratifying to see yourself reflected on the page, and my greatest wish is that kids who are struggling with some of the same things as Shannon maybe feel a little less alone.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Shannon in the Spotlight?
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
ABOUT THE BOOK
TITLE: Shannon in the Spotlight
AUTHOR: Kalena Miller
GENRE: Middle Grade Contemporary
RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2023
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After Shannon accidentally lands a lead role in the summer musical, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than stage fright in this contemporary middle-school novel about strained friendships, the positive power of theater, and the realities of being a tween with OCD.
Shannon Carter never considered herself much of a theater person. Not like her two BFFs, Elise, an actress, and Fatima, a techie. Shannon’s always been content to stay backstage, helping wherever she can. But when the director of the summer musical hears Shannon singing, he encourages her to step out of the wings and into the spotlight.
At first, Shannon is hesitant. As a twelve-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she depends on routine. But when she braves the audition, she discovers that center stage is the one place where she doesn’t feel anxious. She lands a lead role, and everyone in her life is ecstatic . . . except Elise.
To make matters worse, Shannon’s eccentric and opinionated grandmother moves in with her and her mom after a fluke house fire. As opening night approaches, Shannon feels pressure to save her friendship with Elise, to make Mom and Grandma Ruby act like grown-ups, and to follow the old theater adage The show must go on.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kalena Miller is a writer, teacher, editor, and scone enthusiast. She currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and lovable, if slightly neurotic, dog. When she isn’t writing, Kalena enjoys tap dancing, scrapbooking, and watching an embarrassing amount of reality television. Her debut YA novel, The Night When No One Had Sex, winner of the Minnesota Book Award, is available now! Her debut middle grade novel, Shannon in the Spotlight is forthcoming from Delacorte Press on April 25, 2023.