One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.
Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .
The concept of found family is incredibly important in The Weight of The Stars, can you talk a little more about each of the characters so that readers who haven’t read your book get a sense of who they are and how they interact with each other? I adored all their little quirks and the ways they might not have things in common with each other, one thing that might bind them, but they choose each other.
I love found families and I think that every solid friend group should feel like one. Teenagers really do use their friends as a refuge and I try to respect that while portraying them in fiction. As for my new kids:
My MC Ryann is a sweet butch girl, super tall, super strong and with a huge heart full of love. She’s one of those “resting bitch face, gruff as a football coach” type of people though.
Alexandria, her love interest, is prickly like a cactus and headstrong. She, like Ryann, is hard on the outside soft on the inside. So it is incredibly gratifying when you see both of them crack like two egg shells knocked together.
Ryann has a younger brother, James, who is selective mute and a teen father. James is responsible, but relishes being Ryann’s younger sibling and is definitely the baby of the group.
Tomas is a theatrical gay, but extremely punk rock. He has a soft spot for James and his baby, and a hard spot for anyone threatening him and his friends. Dresses in drag for homecoming and knocks someone who bothered him about it out cold.
Blake is Tomas’s best friend. He’s straight and very masc, and has taken on protecting Tomas (who barely needs it) as priority #1. He’s blunt and a boy of few words.
Ahmed is Ryann’s best friend. He’s the son of the MCs of my previous book The Wicker King. He’s tender, kind, mixed race, and exploring being a Sikh. Because of his parent’s poly marriage, and his dad’s mental health issues, he has been to tons of therapy and uses what he’s learned to help support his friends.
Shannon, Ahmed’s girlfriend, is a popular girl with a taste for adventure. Even though she has tons of cheerleader friends, she prefers to hang out with Ryann and her band of alternative kids–purposefully choosing fun over social positioning.
All of them are incredibly different from each other, but they’re all: introspective, defensive in some way, preoccupied with protecting their friends, vulnerable and willing to share their vulnerability with people they trust.
A big message in the book is that we can often be entranced by the beauty of something. We can idealize it and glamorize it, without recognizing the impact, the consequences, the full picture. Can you talk about why this theme is so important to you? It’s one that really resonated with me and is explored further on in the book.
One of the topics I enjoy writing as a whole is “children learning from their parent’s mistakes”. In The Weight of the Stars
, that concept is brought to life by the history of the adults in the book’s obsession with leaping towards something dazzling without considering the impact. Alexandria’s mother prioritizes her mission over the potential impact on her child and the reality of the longevity of the mission in the first place. The owner of the company that sent her mom on the mission prioritizes the success of his first venture over ethics. The MC’s Love interest’s father romanticizes his own sorrow and allows it to impact the way he raises his child (in isolation and bitterness).
So, unsurprisingly, for the first half of the book Alexandria idealizes her mom’s circumstances until she meets Ryann. Ryann’s entire life has been experience after experience that forces her to look reality hard in the face. To the point where she deprives herself of things and behaves only in ways that uphold her parameters. Their acquaintance and eventual friendship teaches Alexandria to slow down and really take a good hard look at the ground, while Ryann learns that its okay to look up at the sky every so often.
This trope is important to me because I think its important to tell teens: Even if your parents are this way, you have the opportunity to outpace them and make better choices.
Vulnerable teens often come from homes that exacerbate (or have created) that vulnerability, so hopefully this sort of story-line feels like such a balm in a society that callously says things like “You’re just like your father” and “You’re turning into your mother.” Because those phrases can mean very different things to different people.
Conclusively: When it comes to “not really looking before you leap”, teens looking good and hard after their parents just hurled themselves out a window is such a powerful thing.
Have you ever wanted to travel to space? Why or why not? Especially since various characters in your book ask themselves this very question.
Absolutely! I think I share a lot in common with Alexandria’s mom in this regard. If given the chance, I would choose space over and over again. Even when it would be a glorious selfishness to do so, I would burn reaching for oblivion. I would turn my back on soft and safe for cold and danger and beauty. Some people are just like that.
I think having that understanding–that kinship–with a character that only makes it to the page in bullet points and lyricism really helped me be able to make her seem real.
The best part of writing her was having her and her choices feel legendary and mythical until the end where you hear her audio journal and you realize that she was just a 17 year old with an opportunity she just couldn’t miss.
The Weight of The Stars is definitely different than your first book, The Wicker King, can you talk about your inspiration and what it was like to write your second book?
With The Wicker King, I was definitely out to prove something. A lot of debut authors are with their first books. There is very much a miasma of “If you’ve only got one shot, make it count” for debut books that sophomore books don’t really have.
I had been informed about the second novel curse (where most author’s second novels do much worse than their debuts) and decided that instead of trying to one-up The Wicker King
with intensity, I’d go a different route and provide incredible softness. Also, The Wicker King’s remarkably firm landing was almost entirely supported by WLW (and gay men, but more WLW bloggers and early readers). So I wanted to write a book that was gentle and loving and precious for this audience as a Thank You.
As for the actual story itself, I was (quite obviously) inspired by the film Interstellar and the discussions it brought up regarding time and love and distance. The film is a masterpiece and The Weight of the Stars is only an exploration of a sliver of what the film managed to convey. But the sliver I chose was such a tender piece of it, you know?
Would you like to tease or discuss any of your upcoming projects or WIPs?
I’m working on a Peter Pan reboot (shhhhhhhh) and a couple of heist thrillers. We’ll see which Imprint wants, but for the moment, I’m just happy to be working on new projects.