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#RuinYourBookInOneLetter

Our Child of the Stars might be:

 

Our Chili of the Stars

(‘This taco is as hot as Aldebaran’)

 

Our Child of the Starks

(Bloody Game of Thrones…)

 

Our Child of the Stays

(Rewritten in corsets.  Hmmm, Victorian era not such a bad idea.)

 

Our Child of the Stares

(Oh, creepy. Or maybe a gloomy teen.)

 

Our Child of the Stabs

(More Game of Thrones)

 

Our Child of the Stags

(Deer shapeshifters anyone?)

 

Why is Our Child of the Stars based in the 1960s?

Smartphones.  The first novel I completed was a modern adventure with teen protagonists, and I was fed up with smartphones.

No, that’s not a problem, they’d Google.  No, they’d message each other.  No, they have time to text the Mayor that they’re in danger.  No, you can’t use signal problems or running out of battery AGAIN. 

I would’ve gotten away with it – if it wasn’t for those pesky smartphones…

In Our Child of the Stars, it’s true that law enforcement with modern tech would mess with the plot.  But that’s fixable.

Stories come to me, and the setting and period is one of the things that come unbidden.  Sometimes, I need take a step back and challenge my subconscious for being boring or obvious.  This kept feeling like a period piece.

The original short story was written after reading Ray Bradbury, a writer who is nostalgic even when writing about the future.

We mythologise the past, and the Sixties in particular.  It was another country, and they did things differently there.  The novel is posed at that point of high idealism souring, at a time when the wave of change was reaching into further corners.

To write about the past is not to be backward looking.  The book is first and foremost about family. It isn’t a preachy book, but I knew that it would touch on difference – sex, race and sexuality.  It’s about the morality of violence – peace and war, and the dishonesty and power of the state.  The Sixties was a time when all those issues were in ferment, even in out of the way places like Amber Grove.  Arguments exploded and if you look at the news, the pieces haven’t landed yet. Our Child of the Stars does have a nostalgic streak, but also it might make people think, could we have done better?  Can we now do better?  It remembers what we gained as well as what we lost.

Why small town America?  Biggest, it would be easier to hide Cory.  And, I didn’t want to write about radicals in a big city, but peaceniks living in a small town.  Inclusion mattered to me, which is why there are honest, decent people, friends of Gene and Molly, who support the Vietnam war, however reluctantly.  That was part of the tragedy of that conflict.

A book needs a soundtrack.  I write to music.  I knew whose records Gene and Molly are listening to in the original story.  The more I listened to the classics of the era, particularly the folk-protest tradition, the more music became important. It quickly became central to Gene’s character, and the framing of the tale.

There were so many good reasons to go with when I did.  But, also, smartphones.

 

Books I would love to have written

A few years back, I sat down and wrote, unprompted and off the top of my head, in five minutes, the books I wished I had written.   Are these favourites?   They are certainly not perfect, there are cogent criticisms of each of them.  If I had written them, they would have had different faults.  But these were the books that came to mind, without perusing lists of the canon.

  • Northern Lights – (Philip Pullman)
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Left Hand of Darkness – (Ursula K Le Guin)
  • Player of Games – (Iain M Banks)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – (Margaret Atwood)
  • The Persian Boy, and The King Must Die – (Mary Renault)
  • 1984 and Animal Farm – (George Orwell)
  • Easter – (Michael Arditti)
  • The Sparrow – (Maria Doria Russell)

Revisiting this list recently I added

  • The Girl with all the Gifts – (M R Carey)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – (Neil Gaiman)
  • The Name of the Rose – (Umberto Eco)
  • Binti – Nnedi Okorafor

Commentary on this

  • These immerse you in their world with complete authority
  • Nearly all have great characters you care about.
  • They do tend to address issues however obliquely
  • The only ‘contemporary novel’ is Easter, a satire.  Well, an everything.
  • None of the thrillers, spy fiction, or detective stories make it in.

It is interesting that writers I really rate and recommend do not have a single work that leaps out.

To take some examples, Saki, Borges, Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter I think of as short story writers.  No P G Woodhouse book or story is strikingly better than the next one.

Remember this list is books where I thought, I wish I had written this.  That’s not ‘fave read’ (many are), or ‘most impressed by’.