Shari: Hi Briana! Welcome to MG Book Village! I’m thrilled to chat with you about your new book that just came out, The Secrets of Stone Creek! Tell us about your book!
Briana: Thanks so much for having me, Shari! I’m excited to share a bit about The Secrets of Stone Creek, a middle grade adventure about an aspiring explorer who – while visiting an estranged relative in a small, strange tourist town – sets out to find an adventurer who went missing there two decades ago. The protagonist, Finley, enlists the help of her brothers and sets out to solve Stone Creek’s decades’ long mystery in the hopes of becoming a great explorer herself – and, through that, to prove to her mom, overbearing brother and ex-best friend that she’s worth taking seriously.
Shari: Finley, the main character, is an adventurer who is inspired by real-life female adventurers! Who or what inspired the creation of Finley’s character, and what do you love most about her?
Briana: Finley was such a fun character to write, because she is so gung-ho and never hesitates to take on a challenge! I had so much fun researching real female adventures and weaving their stories into the narrative whenever Finley referenced them for inspiration.
But Finley’s character arc is also about exploring whether she needs to, or should dedicate herself to achieving “greatness.” Finley feels overlooked by her mom, and like she’s not taken seriously by her brothers or her friends at school. She is driven by a need to prove herself to others, and is convinced that unless she accomplishes something incredible like the female adventurers in her favorite book, she’ll continue to be overlooked and left behind.
I loved writing Finley because her goals make her such a driven, fun character, but also reflect what I believe are very real and relatable insecurities. I hope her journey to self-love and realization is as cathartic to readers as it was for me.
Shari: Finley’s brothers, Oliver and Griffin, are important characters too. What was it like writing a story with sibling relationships at its core?
Briana: When writing Stone Creek, it was important to me that even though Finley is the protagonist, both Oliver and Griffin had character arcs of their own, too, and went through challenges and changes in each chapter. The Walsh siblings are all dealing with the aftermath of their father leaving a few years ago, but they all experienced it differently and faced unique roles and expectations from their mom – and each other – after the divorce. Coming together to solve the mystery of Meggie’s disappearance brings this all to a head but also gives them the opportunity to try working together despite their differences and misunderstandings, too.
As a writer, it was fun to play with the way the three siblings’ goals aligned and conflicted – both for the purpose of tension and plot, but also because of all the fun banter that ensued, too! Even when they’re disagreeing, there’s a lot of love between the Walsh siblings, and embracing that is ultimately what makes them capable of solving the mystery.
Shari: The setting of Stone Creek is very unsettling and strange. Tell us more about Stone Creek, its inhabitants, and what makes it such an important element in the story.
Briana: Setting is always important in my books, but it takes on more of a life of its own in The Secrets of Stone Creek than in my previous work. Stone Creek is a tourist town dedicated to the legacy of Meggie Riley, a local adventurer who went missing decades ago. All the characters (and suspects!) are connected to Meggie’s legacy somehow, and – because of that – are invested in the mystery of her disappearance, whether they’re hoping for her return, hoping to clear their name as a suspect, or hoping to take advantage of her story for a profit.
In a way, the town itself goes through a character arc of its own as the sensationalized mystery surrounding Meggie’s disappearance is explored and critiqued over the course of the novel. As much as the story is about Finley hoping to become a legendary adventurer, it’s also about the dark side of legacies and an exploration of who can – and should – be able to tell someone’s story.
Shari: Wow, what an fascinating perspective! What types of readers do you hope find Stone Creek, and what message would you want them to take from it?
Briana: I hope any reader with a love of adventure finds and enjoys Stone Creek. But at its heart, Stone Creek is for anyone who has ever felt like they’re not enough, or feels they need to prove they’re worthy of love or acceptance. The Secrets of Stone Creek is an action-packed and twisty adventure – but it’s mainly about a girl who’s afraid of failure and her journey to discovering that what makes her great isn’t what she accomplishes, but the person she is and chooses to be.
Shari: How was writing Stone Creek different from your first novel, Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing? What can you tell us about upcoming projects?
Briana: Stone Creek and Pepper both have mystery and action elements to them, but Pepper was solving a murder that just occurred whereas Finley is working on what is essentially a cold case. So the clues aren’t fresh, and the story of Stone Creek relies heavily on the unique things Finley and her brothers are able to uncover because of their distinct point of views and experiences. The settings of the two stories are quite different, too: Stone Creek is a town full of quirky locals and suspects, while Pepper only interacts with people who live directly in her cul-de-sac. They are similar, though, in that they’re both stories about stubbornly determined girls who have something to prove!
I can’t say too much about what’s coming next, but I have a third book with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers that will be coming soon. It’s another adventure, like my first two books, but this time…it’s set in space! I’m very excited to share more with readers soon.
Shari: What are your favorite books/ types of books to read?
Briana: I love mysteries and adventures. The more action and twists, the better! Some of my favorites from the past year are The Clackity by Lora Senf and The Fright Watch series by Lorien Lawrence.
Shari: Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Briana: My website is www.brianarosemcdonald.com, and I am @BrianaRMcDonald on Instagram and Twitter. I love hearing from readers and educators, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Shari: Thank you so much for joining us today, Briana, to share about your fantastic book!
Briana: Thanks so much for having me, and I hope everyone enjoys The Secrets of Stone Creek!
Briana McDonald writes diverse and adventurous books for young readers. She studied writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and her short fiction has appeared in several literary journals. When she’s not writing, Briana works at Columbia University and lives in New York City with her wife and their dog, Rex. She is the author of Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing and The Secrets of Stone Creek. Find out more at BrianaRoseMcDonald.com.