Story in the Stars: Interview of Yvonne Anderson, SciFi Author

The Story in the Stars, By Yvonne Anderson

The Story in the Stars, By Yvonne Anderson

I’m thrilled to have science fiction author, Yvonne Anderson, join us today for an interview. Her novel, The Story in the Stars, was an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) 2012 Carol Award finalist in the Speculative Fiction category. Words in the Wind, released August 2012,continues the saga. Book #3, Ransom in the Rock, is in the publishing pipeline, and Yvonne is currently drafting the fourth and last in the series.

Yvonne is the contest administrator for the Launch Pad Contest: Launching You Out of the Slush Pile. This is a contest for unpublished writers sponsored by Novel Rocket, named four times to Writer’s Digest list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. Please join me in welcoming this talented writer!

Silverberry:

Initially, you didn’t care for Science Fiction. What led you to write in this genre?

Yvonne Anderson:

I never took it into my head to write anything until I was well into my forties. Then, I plunged in with great seriousness but no idea of what I was doing. My first few manuscripts were all over the place as far as genre, because I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Everything came to a head in late 2005 as I stood in a bookstore looking for titles similar to the one I was currently pitching. You know how proposals are supposed to include comparative titles? Well, I drew a complete blank when I came to that section, so I scoured the shelves—yes, a physical bookstore, not Amazon—looking for something I could compare my story to. Not only did I find nothing satisfactory, but I didn’t find a single book I’d want to spend my money on. With this came the realization that I couldn’t, in good conscience, expect people to spend their money on the drivel I wrote, either. I felt like flinging books off the shelves and throwing them through the front window. Since this didn’t seem a wise move, I chose instead to leave the store. And to swear off fiction. I was done with it. Forever.

While diligently avoiding novels, I ran across an interesting little nonfiction book called The Gospel in the Stars by Joseph Seiss, which proposed the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He positioned the stars in constellations that pictured the gospel message for early man to “read.” It was a fascinating concept, but I had a hard time with the book. It was originally written in the 1800s and the language was stiff and archaic. Moreover, it discussed a subject (the stars) that I knew nothing about. But still, the idea intrigued me, so I decided to write a story (oops – so much for that no-fiction resolution) in which the characters discovered this story in the stars. I could have given it any sort of setting—the characters could have been cavemen, or whatever. But I guess because I’d been doing so much reading about stars, I gave the story an outer-space setting. I hadn’t gone very far into it before I was having more writing fun than ever before. Despite the fact that I’d never liked science fiction and had always turned up my snobby little nose at Christian fiction, I found my niche writing Christian sci-fi. God has a great sense of humor.

Silverberry:

In five words or less, what’s Story in the Stars about?

Yvonne Anderson:

Redemption.

Silverberry:

What do your main characters, Dassa and Dr. Pik, yearn for?

Yvonne Anderson:

Dassa has lost her home, her family, everything she’d ever known. What she yearns for most is for at least some of that to be restored. Pik is an outsider at home and abroad; as the only child of the galaxy’s only union between a woman from Karkar and a man from Earth, he yearns for acceptance and a place where he truly belongs. Each is, therefore, the only one of her or his kind in existence. This gives them a point of commonality and offers potential for them to find in one another what they most desire. But since their ancestors were enemies and the ancient hatred runs deep on both sides, a relationship between them is out of the question. Don’t even think about it. Ain’t gonna happen.

Kinda like I was never going to write fiction again.

Silverberry:

What was your approach to building the world of your novel?

Yvonne Anderson:

To create a place Earth-like where I could feel at home, but different enough to be alien and exotic, I put a weird spin on common terrestrial geographical features. For instance, I created a vast forest, perhaps similar to that which covered the eastern US at one time, but with some differences: such as, the deciduous trees have different colored foliage (shades of blue, purple, red, and yellow, with the only green being firs), and they keep their leaves all winter. I drew a map of this world, with major geological features and their names. Speaking of names, since Earth history began in a garden, I named my creation Gannah (Hebrew for “garden”). With that as a starting point, all sorts of interesting details revealed themselves once I began writing the story.

Silverberry:

In what ways have your own experiences found their way into your novel?

Yvonne Anderson:

I don’t know that it’s possible for any of us as authors to completely divorce ourselves from our stories, because we write about what’s important to us and portray reality as we believe it to be—or sometimes, as we’d like it to be. In the case of my Gannah series, none of the situations reflect my own experiences, but the protagonist’s worldview reflects my beliefs.

Silverberry:

Gateway to Gannah is a series. How did you work out the plot?

Yvonne Anderson:

I’m a seat-of-the-pants plotter. When I began The Story in the Stars, the first book in the series—which, incidentally, started out to be a short story but quickly got out of hand—I had a beginning, a middle, and an end in mind, with no concept of anything else that would have to happen in order to get my protagonist from Point A to Point B. Once I started writing it, I realized there was no way I could come to the desired conclusion in just one book, so I had to choose another place to end. Though it was never in my mind to write a series (this started out to be a short story, remember), by the time I finished Stars, I not only had that still-in-the-future ending I wanted to use, but also, I’d discovered some really fun things about the planet Gannah I hadn’t been able to include. So, while I was pitching Stars to agents and publishers, I started writing a second. I was near to wrapping that one up when Risen Books offered me a three-book contract for this series I’d never planned to write.

Silverberry:

Tell us about Risen Books, and how you landed a three-book contract with them.

Yvonne Anderson:

In December 2010, a writer friend told me she’d been offered a contract for her latest manuscript by a publisher I’d never heard of before, Risen Books. I checked out their website, saw they were taking submissions for science fiction, and sent them a proposal. Very soon thereafter, they asked for the complete manuscript. I saw that as an encouraging sign, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls over it. I’d been asked for a complete before, but it had never gone any farther.

The fact was, I considered The Story in the Stars unpublishable. It has a strong Christian theme and lays out the gospel in clear, unmistakable terms, thus making it too “religious” for the secular market. But it contains enough mild profanity and worldly behavior on the part of the characters that I didn’t figure any traditional Christian publisher would touch it.

Though willing to make necessary editorial changes, I was determined to neither clean it up for the Christian market nor water down the message for the secular publishers. To begin with, the story in the stars is, as I explained earlier, the gospel story; and there’s such uncertainty and misconception about what that is, exactly, that it seemed important to spell it out; retaining an unambiguous explanation of the Christian gospel was non-negotiable. As far as cleaning it up? Well, that would just be ridiculous. I included nothing sensational, but I wanted to portray the life and language and attitude of a person who’s not a Christian as realistically as possible, given the fantastic setting and events.

Risen Books was a small Christian publisher, and a new one, but I figured once their acquisitions editor saw that scene in Chapter 2 where Dr. Pik views pornography on his computer, he’d give my manuscript the old heave-ho in short order. I nearly had a stroke, therefore, when he contacted me in mid-January 2011 to talk about contracting a series.

Silverberry:

You’re busy! Contest administrator for the Launch Pad Contest, bi-weekly contributor to the Speculative Faith blog, and you work with the blog The Borrowed Book.Tell us about these activities.

Yvonne Anderson:

I started working with Novel Rocket (fka Novel Journey) a number of years ago, initially doing monthly articles about various and sundry writing awards. That eventually evolved into organizing and administering a contest for unpublished novelists, now known as the Launch Pad Contest. We don’t guarantee the winner publication, but we do line them up with an agent, circumventing the slush pile. The first two years, we charged no entry fee. But when contestants started asking for detailed feedback on their entries, we instituted a fee so we could give the judges nominal remuneration for their efforts. Nowadays, each entrant receives two professional critiques, so win or lose, everyone gets his or her money’s worth.

The Speculative Faith blog is about Christian speculative fiction. Last summer, they asked me to do a guest post, which appeared in September 2012. Awhile later, they had an opening in their regular roster and asked if I’d be willing to contribute a post every two weeks. It sounded like a good way to get my name out there and let more readers know about my books, so I agreed. It’s interesting to come up with something on topic that hasn’t already been covered.

About the same time, a critique group buddy invited me to join the team at The Borrowed Book. I hesitated. For one thing, I worried it might be too much to add two new responsibilities at the same time. For another, the audience is primarily romance readers and writers. I neither write nor read romance, and for the most part, romance fans don’t read sci-fi, so I wasn’t sure it was a good fit. But eventually I agreed, figuring if they wanted me, it couldn’t hurt for publicity purposes. On that blog, though, my duties don’t involve writing anything, just lining up and posting author interviews. Although I’ve already started to get things organized, I won’t be posting until February.

Silverberry:

What’s ahead for you?

Yvonne Anderson:

I hope to finish the 4th and final book in the Gannah series early in 2013 and then move on to my next project. I have some ideas percolating, but until I wrap up Gannah, I won’t distract myself by visiting other worlds.

If the new year is anything like the old, it’s likely to have some surprises. For instance, this past fall we welcomed three new family members (two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law), and I spent a few weeks caring for my 86-year-old mother-in-law after she broke her arm. What made it interesting was the fact that all this happened at the same time. So what’s ahead for me? Only God knows. But with writing as well as life, I’m in it for the long haul, and I take each the same way: one step at a time, following Him wherever He leads.

Silverberry:

Thanks so much for joining us. People interested in purchasing The Story in the Stars, and learning more about you and the series, can follow the links below.

Purchase Links for Gateway to Gannah:

Book #1, The Story in the Stars (2012 ACFW Carol Award Finalist in Speculative Fiction)

 

Book #2, Words in the Wind

Follow Yvonne Anderson:

 

Fiction That Takes You Out of This World

 

www.YsWords.com

 

www.NovelRocket.com

 

www.SpeculativeFaith.com

 

www.TheBorrowedBook.blogspot.com

Follow Yvonne on Twitter: @YAnderson

Words in the Wind, by Yvonne Anderson

Words in the Wind, by Yvonne Anderson

 

 

 

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  1. By Backstory and Characterization | Y's Words on March 1, 2014 at 8:03 am

    […] virtually through Twitter and The Independent Author Network, and he interviewed me on his blog last year. So I thought it would be fun to return the […]

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