Michelle A. Berry has released her debut young adult novel, “Plotting the Stars, #1: Moongarden.”  

The dystopian series takes place in space, as the earth has become uninhabitable for humans. The novel follows a 12-year-old protagonist, who discovers a secret garden and begins uncovering government conspiracies. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Barry to learn more about the book and the different topics it touches upon, including suppression and the pressures of growing up.  

Hear Barry read an excerpt from Moongarden in a digital exclusive clip. 

Read the Full Transcript: 

Tony Dunne, Connecting Point: Michelle A. Barry has released her debut novel entitled, Plotting the Star’s 1:Mo on Garden. 

This dystopian story takes place in space as Earth has become uninhabitable and follows a 12 year old protagonist as she discovers a secret garden and begins uncovering government conspiracies. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Barry to learn more about the book and the different topics it touches upon.

Michelle A. Barry, Plotting the Stars 1: Moongarden: I started writing stories when I was really, really young, I think I have some like stapled together books from when I was like in kindergarten. 

So, it’s always been something I would have loved to do. I’ve always been an avid reader, so it kind of just seemed natural to kind of migrate over to telling the stories and not just reading the stories. 

So, and, having gone to school for writing, I majored in communications, and then my first job was as a newspaper reporter, which was a lot of fun. It really helped me kind of hone both my writing and also my ability to kind of stick to deadlines, which is super important, when you’re trying to get a book done.

I can definitely see how it evolved from when I was really young up till now. Definitely feels like a dream come true to be able to now have a real life book on a bookshelf somewhere.

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Right, and so, let’s talk about the book for a little bit. 

Moongarden takes place in space after Earth is uninhabitable because the plants have become deadly. And honestly, it’s really not that far fetched of an idea with the way things are going these days. 

So, tell me a little bit about the book, without spoiling it, and how the concept came for you?

Michelle A. Barry: The book is a science fiction fantasy retelling of the Secret Garden. 

So, the garden element was there from the very beginning, but I kind of wanted to see how I could kind of make it my own, and obviously climate change and pressures on the environment are a really real concern these days.

So, it kind of seemed natural that, to create a space where a garden couldn’t be like, why did that happen? Kind of like back up Why – you know, Why would that be? Why are they living on the moon? And it’s because humanity has failed in its attempts to kind of save the environment and we had to leave and move off planet to different settlements. 

And – even though the characters have moved to an off world settlement, they have this really advanced technology, they even have some magic. It’s still not a real solution for them. There’s still a lot of problems that come with that as the characters start to see. It’s not a permanent solution, it’s not a real solution. 

So, I think kind of the underlying message in the book is that we have one Earth, we need to take care of it, we don’t have magic that I know of that, you know, that’s real, to kind of solve our problems. 

So, it’s something I hope kind of communicates through the story.

Zydalis Bauer: You talked earlier about having to do different type of research, writing a fictional series, and as you mentioned, you’re talking about some topics such as suppression, corporate corruption, climate change.

So, what type of research did you do to prepare yourself to write an accurate novel, even though it’s fictional?

Michelle A. Barry: So, I definitely took a lot of liberties with the science in the novel, though I did try to do some research to see like, could this maybe one day be feasible? 

One element that I thought was pretty neat is that in the book the characters are surviving off of cloned planting materials, so they don’t have any gardens on the moon, or so they think. 

So, they use – so, a bit of magic and a bit of technology to clone the plants in order to create food, and that kind of breaks down and that creates the conflict for the novel. 

So, I did a little bit of research into that and there is real life plant cloning that does happen now using plant tissue and that sort of thing.

So, I kind of went down a rabbit hole like learning about that, and then it kind of just the fun aside, my editor actually pointed out to me because some of the characters have magic that’s associated with electricity. And she discovered through her own just researching and looking around that plants actually give off an electrical charge. 

So, I did a little bit of research into that and ended up incorporating that as kind of a plot point in the novel, which was kind of a cool thing to see.

Zydalis Bauer: That’s super cool. I always, so like, now being an adult, I’ll watch some science fiction things that I saw younger, and it always amazes me how even though it’s science fiction, like it actually replicates real life pretty closely.

So, that’s really cool that you found out those things.

Michelle A. Barry: It’s true, it really is funny how we’re not that far off from, you know, things that are in sci fi movies maybe 20 years ago.

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Right, Exactly. 

And so, you mentioned also that it’s inspired by The Secret Garden. I completely loved that movie and book as a child as well, but, you describe it as the Secret Garden for the next generation. 

And so, what was your process like to put yourself in that mindset to write and cater to these future generations?

Michelle A. Barry: So I just wanted to really think about what was relevant to kids today and I am lucky, I have good source material in my household. I have an eight year old and a ten year old. 

So, you know, just hearing the things that they talk about and are concerned about and kids today, I think even really young kids like elementary school, are very aware of the environment and the effects of climate change and that sort of thing. 

So, when writing a book, a new book, about the Secret Garden, I really want – like I had said, I wanted to bring in that whole climate change environmental element because I think kids really are dialed into that and it resonates with them and they see the, the danger that’s approaching with if we don’t make changes, what could happen to us.

So, I felt like that was a really relevant topic for kids today. So, that’s kind of the direction I took with that.

Zydalis Bauer: This book is catered to ages ten and up. Why did you choose to write for this age group? Is it because you had kind of a connection with that and that’s an age group that you really see yourself connecting with?

Michelle A. Barry: That definitely helps, but, I just love the kids literature space.

I just think it’s just full of hope, and adventure, and you know, your whole life is ahead of you, and you have all of these choices to make, and people to meet, and adventures to have, and I just have always loved that – that literature space.

I just think it’s just so exciting and everything is new and open ended and it’s just a really fun space to read in and also write in.

Zydalis Bauer: So, another thing that I really enjoyed about the book is that it is STEM inspired and STEM being science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Is that something that you’ve always had an interest for – Why did you choose to kind of focus on STEM books?

Michelle A. Barry: So it’s funny, I have been asked that before, and people do think it’s because I have a natural kind of affinity for those areas, but it’s actually the total opposite.

As much as I loved those areas, I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, but then realized like math and science weren’t maybe my easiest subjects. It was more English, history, that sort of thing, but, when I would see someone do like a science experiment or explain like a complicated math equation or something, it almost seemed like magic to me. 

Like, this is so cool, it must be magic, I can’t figure it out. So, that’s kind of why I decided to make those areas the ones that are affiliated with Magic in the book. 

For example, someone asked me how to use my – how my refrigerator works or my microwave, I would have to just say, “That’s magic.” I have no idea. 

But, another piece of that was having a female main character. I really was important to me to show girls in that stem space, I still think we’re kind of lacking and showcasing that. 

So, I really wanted to combine both having my main character, her name is Myra, being in that stem space with a lot of her girlfriends in that area, like just to promote girls in STEM.

Zydalis Bauer: So, another topic that this book touches on is the pressures of growing up, and we all can relate to that. 

So, tell me about the main character, and the adventures, and kind of the trials and tribulations that she goes through with growing up in this book.

Michelle A. Barry: So, with Moongarden, obviously it’s a huge, like dramatic backdrop with being set in outer space, with magic, and this huge kind of like galactic conspiracy. 

But, at the heart of the story, I’ve always really felt like it was very much a story of self discovery and, you know, Myra is a typical 12 year old girl, even though she goes to school on the moon, she still goes to school, and the same struggles that kids have today, like she still having, you know, hundreds of years into the future where she’s trying to figure out who she is and, you know, what friends she wants to have, and how to make those kinds of friends, and how to keep those kinds of friends, and how to deal with pressures from her teachers, and also, her parents and what they expect her to grow into. 

And when that doesn’t always align, you know, how do you handle that and how do you deal with that and how do you value what you know you have inside of you that special?

Whatever your individual magic is and make that align with what other people expect of you, and how to grow your voice, and find your place in the galaxy.

Zydalis Bauer: This book is the beginning of a series. So, how do you determine where one story ends and the next one begins to set it up for sequels?

Michelle A. Barry: It’s a great question.

So, it’s kind of tricky because you – I, you know, started with kind of an end game of where I wanted the story to ultimately go, but you kind of have to dial it back and figure out like, what’s the first, like kind of opening act of the story and, you know, in the middle act, and then the final act and how to tell a complete story within each book, but still have it play into the greater three act, you know, theme of the overall story.

Zydalis Bauer: This book is described as a dystopian series. 

So, after writing the first one of the series, what do you hope for future generations? 

What should people really be mindful of when we’re reading this book?

Michelle A. Barry: I think maybe just not taking everything at face value, like, it’s okay to question things if they don’t seem to make sense, if something doesn’t seem right, maybe it’s not right. 

I think just trusting your own judgment and being able to just see if something’s wrong, maybe it’s something you can help fix as well, and having some kind of a voice and power in that, especially with the younger generation coming up,and eventually will be the ones running the show, like, it’s okay to question things and maybe find better ways to do things.