Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Deb Fowler is talking with David Litwack, author of The Stuff of Stars
FQ: The major conflict in The Stuff of Stars centered around two opposing groups, the greenies and the technos. If you lived in this imperfect world, which group would you align yourself with and why?
LITWACK: Thatís a choice Iíd hate to make. Both groups are too locked into their principles, and canít appreciate whatís good in the other side. If you forced me to choose, Iíd probably pick the technos. As a math major and long term software guy, Iím too fascinated by the constant evolution of technology, and the creativity and genius that goes into it. That, and my knees couldnít take stooping to pick berries.
FQ: As the second in a trilogy, The Stuff of Stars is also a great stand-alone novel. As part of a trilogy, however, do you have the entire three books worked out in your head before you start writing the first? Or do you have a general idea of where the story will go and then develop it as you write?
LITWACK: Iíd love to say I had it all planned out in advance, but Iíd be lying. I wrote The Children of Darkness as a standalone novel (originally titled There Comes a Prophet). It was only after readers started asking for more that I considered expanding it into a trilogy. Fortunately, Orah and Nathaniel are both strong willed and were kind enough to provide me ample material for the rest of the trilogy. Once I sketched out the latter two books, I did have to go back to rewrite (and re-publish) the first, to adjust the characters a bit, and put in place some additional plot elements.
FQ: Anabel, the ragged lady, would have been deemed mad in Little Pond, yet revered by the greenies. Was she patterned after someone you know? Someone in the pages of a book?
LITWACK: My wifeís family had a cousin named Anabel, who was homeless and always dressed in rags. Relatives tried to help her, but she insisted on sticking with that lifestyle. Though I never met her, hearing her story sparked the idea.
Most things in novels have some basis in experience, but fiction does not exactly mirror reality. Sometimes, while Iím struggling to work out a plot problem, a stray comment or the most trivial event will trigger an idea, and I use the authorís craft to find a way to fit it into the story.
Anabel, the ragged lady, is a revered and wise leader of the people of the earth. The real life reference is only a minor part of her character.
FQ: Dystopian literature has been around for centuries in one form or another. Do you have a favorite, perhaps one that influenced you to write about the worlds Orah and Nathaniel find themselves in?
LITWACK: My favorite kind of dystopian is where people with good intentions have created a world gone awry, and a brave character or characters struggle to fix it. The Giver is a good exampleóthereís hardly any violence and the people seem to live a content existence, but with an undercurrent that their humanity has been suppressed.
The closest inspiration for the Seekers trilogy might be The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. While some may dispute that this is a true dystopian, to me this classic exemplifies a society that has gone off the rails in a misguided attempt to protect itself.
The City and the Stars is about a highly advanced world in the far distant future, a seemingly perfect society, but one where all progress has stopped. But ancient clues have been left revealing the truth about a much different past. A single malcontent follows those clues and discovers that his ancestors had long ago been even more advanced, but following a near cataclysm, had chosen to impose limits on themselves. It becomes the task of the main character to find the reason why, and then end the stagnation and let the growth of his people resume.
FQ: Maine. Undoubtedly those northern lights encourage many a young man or woman to write, but just when did the writing bug capture your soul?
LITWACK: The urge to write started with that daily newsletter at that one-week encampment in norther Maine, but its real roots were probably when I discovered a love of reading. Still, thereís nothing like seeing your first published work under your byline.
FQ: Science fiction is one of those genres that ignites a lifetime passion for many. Did you read until the wee hours of the night? Attend a convention or two? Or perhaps you kept your love of the genre a secret. Tell us a bit about what you love about the fantastic world of science fiction.
LITWACK: To tell the truth, I never attended conventions because few existed when I began reading scifi, but I did read until the wee hours. My favorite authors were Asimov, Heinlein and especially Arthur C. Clarke.
FQ: People need to be encouraged, oftentimes mentored as they begin to write. Who encouraged and supported you in your journey? Tell us about those special people who believe in you.
LITWACK: I had two special mentors. The first was Dr. McNamara, an eccentric high school English teach. He believed that only one thing mattered in teaching English: giving the students a lifelong love of reading. Without that love of reading, thereís no way Iíd ever want to write.
The second was John Mathews, a playwriting professor in college. He was the first to convince me that writing was a craft to be learned over a lifetime, but never to be fully mastered. He preached that drama is conflict with something at stake; the higher the stakes, the greater the drama. Whenever my plot feels like itís bogging down, I hear his booming voice in my mind: Raise the stakes!
As far as encouragement, no one has been more important than my wife. I was writing when we first met, and through all those years when Iíd given it up, she always believed Iíd go back to it.
FQ: Tell us a bit more about Zachariah, the silent boy with the big voice. I was fascinated by him and hope to see him in the next book.
LITWACK: Zachariah, who appears in the opening scene of The Stuff of Stars, was at first nothing more than a means to introduce Orah to the strange new world on the far side of the sea. But I too became fascinated by him and included him more and more in the plot, in the end giving him a key role. Just as Zachariah had no intention of leaving Orahís side, I have no intention of leaving him out of the third and final book.