Aliens

The Story in the Stars

The Story in the Stars - Yvonne Anderson

Adding religion into a book, especially a science fiction book, is a bold move for any author to make. Not only does it seem like spirituality is taking a back seat these days, but fewer and fewer people are willing to openly talk about it for fear of offending someone or drawing unwanted and controversial attention to their work or posts. 

I was not aware of the Christian subtext when I began this book, but it very quickly made a strong and intriguing appearance. But unlike some reviewers, I didn't have an issue with it being woven into the plot. I enjoy seeing various adaptations of religion, especially differing perspectives on Christianity, brought into fictional works. 

Yvonne does so in a way that did not offend me, did not detract from the plot (in my opinion), and further enhanced the strong character of Dassa. She is a determine woman on a mission and her deep faith enhanced those points. 

I thought this book was very well written. I enjoyed the progress of the plot. The one drawback, for me, was the character of Pik. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he was poorly written. I'd argue the exact opposite actually. He brought out emotion in me, which I feel is the very definition of a well written character. I simply didn't like him. He was too volatile and rash in his decisions. And his angry outbursts would have scared me a lot, had I been a character in the story. 

But this did not make me dislike the book. I enjoyed reading it and am interested to see where she takes Pik and Dassa in the rest of the series. 


Some Bio Information

Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.

The Story in the Stars, the first in the Gateway to Gannah series as well as her debut novel, was a Carol Award finalist in 2012. The adventure continues with Words in the Wind and Ransom in the Rock and concludes with The Last Toqeph.

She lives in Western Maryland with her husband of almost forty years and shares the occasional wise word on her personal site, YsWords. She’s been with The Borrowed Book blog for a couple of years now and coordinated Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest for unpublished novelists since the beginning of time. (Or at least, since the contest’s inception.)

Oh, yeah: she also does freelance editing.


Q&A

1. Who is your favorite author? 

You would ask that question, wouldn’t you? Here’s the problem: I don’t have a favorite author – nor a favorite color, food, movie, song, or anything else. I don’t know if I’m terribly wishy-washy, or if I simply enjoy too many things. But I find it impossible to pick a favorite among so many great choices.

That said, here is an alphabetical list of some of the authors whose books I’ve enjoyed: Maeve Binchy, Athol Dickson, Ken Follett, Neil Gaiman, Graham Greene, Khaled Hosseini, Stephen King, Wally Lamb, Ann LaMott, C. S. Lewis, Chaim Potok, Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, James Alexander Thomp, J. R. R. Tolkein, and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.

2. What would you like readers to take away from your book? 

Other than an enjoyable read? A clearer understanding of the Christian gospel. 

There seem to be a number of misconceptions about that, even among people whose belief system falls under the heading of “Christian.” So when I wrote about the gospel message that some say God told in the stars, I wanted to be unambiguous as to what that story is. Certainly the reader is free to reject it, but at least she’ll know what she’s turning her back on.

3. What does this book say about you? 

I hope it shows the object of my faith. It might also be evident that I’m not a big fan of science fiction. Quite a few readers say they’ve never read anything quite like this, that it doesn’t seem to be derivative of anything. Not having read much in the genre, I haven’t been influenced by things I’ve read.

4. Describe your favorite place. 

Home. Wherever that happens to be.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

I think about a story for quite a while before I write it, but I don’t do any “pre-writing” (outlining, character sketches, that sort of thing). I generally have a beginning and a destination in mind, and I know a couple of the high points that will have to occur along the way. I also know my main character inside and out before I write the first word. For the most part, though, I don’t know what’s going to happen until I start writing. 

In the case of The Story in the Stars, it all started when I read about the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He put the constellations in skies to write the gospel message for early man to “read.” (Kind of like the original graphic novel, once you think about it!) I thought it would be fun to write a book in which the characters discovered this story in the stars. I started with creating the planet on which the story would take place, and it all took off from there.

6. What’s your dream vacation?

If you’re paying, I’d enjoy going just about anywhere. 

Seriously, I don’t dream about any sort of vacation; I like my life and don’t usually feel a hankering to get away from it. However, I’m working with a lady in Tasmania to help her with a nonfiction book she’s writing, to get it ready for publication. We’ve been communicating via email and in real-time on Skype, but it would be wonderful to visit Tasmania and meet her face-to-face. While I’m in that part of the world, I’d also like to visit other regions of Australia and also Middle-Earth – I mean, New Zealand.

 7. Is the story over for Pik and Dassa? 

The Story in the Stars is the first in a four-book series. It was originally published in 2011 by a small publisher, Risen Books. They also published the second title, Words in the Wind, in 2012. I self-published the last two titles, Ransom in the Rock and The Last Toqeph, in 2014. Risen Books has now released me from my contract, and I’m republishing the first two titles myself with a few minor tweaks – and more importantly, new cover art. I was never wild about the original covers.

Readers who want to know what happens next for Pik and Dassa can follow all their adventures in the Gateway to Gannah series. Each title can stand alone, but put together, they tell one epic tale. All four are currently available in both print and e-book formats.

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse - Pam Stucky

This was a charming and entertaining story about a brother and sister and the adventure they find themselves stuck in the middle of.

I loved that while this book fits into the science fiction genre, it felt a little like a fantasy as well. There were some whimsical qualities and overall good feelings instead of the typical edgy feel of science fiction. 

It was also heart warming to read a story about siblings who are very close and aren't constantly bickering. I loved the dynamic between Emma and Charlie and enjoyed watching them mature throughout the plot as they faced challenge after challenge. They stand as strong role models for younger readers. 

I also really enjoyed the deviation from the typical plot point that I expected. When the twins go running to tell the adults about their story, THE ADULTS BELIEVE THEM. It's fantastic! That leaves so much more room for adventure instead of spending half the book trying to convince their family that they're not making the story up. 

It's a fantastic young adult science fiction story and I hope to see more adventures of Emma and Charlie.


Some Bio Information

Pam Stucky, a native of the Pacific Northwest, is the author of the Wishing Rock series (novels with recipes), starting with Letters from Wishing Rock, and the Pam on the Map travelogue series, books that take readers along on Pam's journeys and adventures around the world.The Universes Inside the Lighthouse, Pam's eighth book, is Pam's first foray into both YA and sci-fi. 


Q&A

1. What (or who) gives you inspiration?

Curiosity is one of my strongest traits, and I'd say my curiosity gives me inspiration. I write, in general, to explore ideas, and see where they take me. For example, in my latest book, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse. I've always been fascinated with the idea that there must—absolutely must—be intelligent life on other planets. But I'm pretty certain that we'll never meet them (and fairly certain they're not here on Earth, but who knows?!). Nonetheless, I'm curious. What is life on other planets like? What would it be like to travel and meet those other beings? What might their worlds be like? In writing a book about this topic, I got to make up the answers for myself. It's not the same as finding out the "truth," but still I had a great time imagining the possibilities. 


2. Who’s your favorite author? 

I admire so many authors for so many reasons! Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing writer. Jodi Picoult is a fascinating storyteller. But as far as Best In Show, I'd have to go with J.K. Rowling. I love the Harry Potter books—but the thing is, they're not just books. Do you know what I mean? It's a world, a world that Rowling gave us a window into. It feels so unbelievably real ... like it must actually be real somewhere in the multiverse. Her ability to create something so magical (no pun intended) and vivid and engaging, that struck a chord with millions of people—or is it billions yet?—is amazing. Plus, I've heard and read some of her talks, and I really appreciate a lot of what she has to say in her speeches as well, of course, as in her books. For example:

“Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

 “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

3. Do you have a long term series planned for Charlie and Emma? 

I do! I'm working on the next book right now. I absolutely love this series and these characters. They're still a little new to me yet, so they still surprise me from time to time, and I'm not quite sure where we're going. When everything is possible, that opens things up to pretty much everything! But I am working to create some sort of arc. At first I had in mind a series sort of like Nancy Drew, where every book is standalone. The more I work on ideas for the story, though, the more I'm not sure that's feasible. Because of the nature of exploring the universes, the characters learn more and more all the time. I can't just take them back to not knowing how to travel through space and time, at the beginning of every book. So, a more cohesive storyline is becoming more likely, though it'll probably have elements both of continuing plot, and standalone plot in each book.

4. The elevator between worlds is a unique and fascinating concept. Can you share, at least a hint, of what led you to this idea? 

The elevator was one of those ideas that just come just fully formed, actually. I suppose the part of my brain that has watched a lot of Doctor Who got involved somehow, the idea that you step in something box-like and it transports you to anywhere and everywhere. And as I thought about the idea of universes being "layered" on one another, the idea that you could travel through them like an elevator, at a thin spot, just seemed to make sense. Note, however, that in the next book we'll discover that there's more to universes than we just thought. ;) It's all quite complex. And since the scientists don't all agree—every other day, it seems, there's a new hypothesis out there about the universes—who's to say I'm not right?

5. Describe the perfect writing environment. 

I wish I could say I can listen to music when I'm writing, but I can't. My brain is very single-task. Music, even instrumental, is too dynamic for me to listen to while I'm trying to create new ideas. So, when I write, the music is off. Other than that, I'm pretty flexible. Right now I'm on the couch with my laptop on my lap. Often I'll wake up in the morning and just pull my laptop right onto my bed and start writing before I even turn the light on. (I do not recommend any of these methods ergonomically!) I also love to go to my favorite Happy Hour place, where they know me very well, and sit at my favorite table in the corner, looking out over the Puget Sound, sip a lemon drop, and let the creative juices flow. In fact, when I'm really stuck, that's one of my best and favorite methods to get unstuck. Although when I go there, I don't take my laptop—the lemon drop would get the keys sticky. :) Anyway, for me, the main ingredient is quiet. Beyond that, writing really is just a matter of sitting down and writing. As they say, you can't edit a blank page. Even if what you write is complete rubbish, you still can edit rubbish better than you can edit a blank page. So just write something, start there!

6. What’s your favorite part of writing? 

There are so many things I love about writing, but one of my favorite things is probably figuring out the backstory of the characters. When I sit with pen and paper (I always create new ideas with pen and paper, and then do the actual writing on the computer), and think about the characters, it really does feel sometimes like they're speaking to me, opening up their lives to me, introducing themselves to me. So much of the backstory never makes it into the book, but knowing the little things about the characters makes me happy. Like, for Universes (all my books have way-too-long titles, so I have to shorten them!), I know how all the main characters' parents met, where they went to school, and so on. Knowing these things makes the characters so real that I just feel like I'm telling stories someone else told me, not creating something entirely new.

Having said that, I also love creating something entirely new. I love that when I'm done, I have a story that I would love to read. I do wish there were some way I could go back and read my own stories objectively, for the first time, to see if I'd actually like them. The more books I write, the better I like them, I think. It's fun to create whole worlds and have them feel real to me, and more fun when people tell me the worlds are real to them. I ran into someone the other day who told me she reads my Wishing Rock books over and over. That's insane! And amazing! To know I've created something that is meaningful in some way to other people is the most fantastic feeling. 

I could go on, really. So much I love about writing. What I don't love: naming characters. They won't let me rest until I have the right names for them, but at the same time they don't tell me their names easily. And everyone needs to have a name, even if I don't use it in the book. First name, middle name, last name, and then there's also all the place names—which has become exponentially more difficult now that I'm writing about other planets and universes. I don't want the names to be so weird that they throw the reader out of the story, but I want them to have some alien flavor. Thank goodness for parallel Earths, where I can give people Earth names! 

7. What is your ultimate writing goal/dream?

I have a lot of goals ... which is the ultimate goal? Well, I'd love to make a good living as a writer. I'm sure that will happen. Fingers crossed it's soon! I would love to see my Wishing Rock series made into a TV show. I think it would do better for TV than a movie. It's very Northern Exposure-esque, or a little like the current show Cedar Cove, with maybe a little more spice. I could see the Balky Point Adventures (my current YA sci-fi series, which starts with Universes) becoming something bigger in some way. But mostly, finances aside, I'd love to just have the opportunity to continue to explore ideas through writing. It makes me come alive. When I'm not writing, I get edgy. Writing keeps me sane. Well, as sane as I get, anyway.