Monday, March 22, 2021

TBR: Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


Body of Stars explores fate and female agency in a world where the markings on women’s bodies reveal the future. When Celeste Morton discovers a prediction that will forever change her family, she conceals the secret at all costs and sets out to create a future that is truly her own. Body of Stars is an inventive and urgent read about what happens when women are objectified and stripped of choice—and what happens when they fight back.


Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?


It’s probably a given that I’d say Celeste, the narrator, was my favorite character to develop, but I’ll also put in a plug for Julia, a markings interpreter who serves as a mentor and teacher. She might not be the most prominent character in the book, but she plays an important role, and I’ve spent a lot of time off the page considering her backstory and motivations. Julia is tough, independent, self-assured, confident, and kind—and her commitment to justice inspires Celeste.


Miles, Celeste’s brother, proved the most challenging to write. In earlier drafts, Miles was harsher than he is now, perhaps because I thought the novel’s conflict would arise from a fraught brother-sister relationship. Over time, however, I came to see that there are many other sources of tension in the world of this novel, and by making Miles a bit more sympathetic, he could actually become more complex, not less.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


The “lows” could be represented by the years I spent immersed in revision and self-doubt. This was the first time I’d worked on a speculative novel, and the learning curve was high. I had to learn not only how to create the world seamlessly without too much explanation, but to grasp the implications of a society that can predict the future. While I can see now that I needed that time to let the story evolve, I sent many a panicked email to my writing friends because I was afraid the novel wouldn’t ever rise to meet my vision. Thanks to the magic of revision, time, persistence, and a lot of hard work, Body of Stars is making its way into the world, and I couldn’t be happier.


The highs came into play every time I returned to the manuscript and discovered new ways to revise and make it better. Time and time again, I thought I was finished only to learn there were more layers to uncover—which I love, because it points to the depths and surprises inherent in the writing process. Finally, I won’t lie: It was the highest of highs to talk to editors and then hear good news from my agent. That’s when I knew this book would become a reality at long last.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Even though I just talked about how exciting it was to receive publishing offers, I most often reflect on the advice that the writing process itself is what makes up a writing life—not publication, reviews, accolades, or any other form of external validation. All of that is wonderful, but if authors aren’t in this for the writing itself, they’ll have a tough road ahead of them. The writing is truly all we have and all that ultimately matters. It comes down to embracing the process, as difficult and exhausting and uncertain as it can sometimes be—because that process is also deeply gratifying and fulfilling.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


Everything! Really, this novel was a journey. I don’t outline before I write, so I’m exploring the world of the novel as I go. Body of Stars went through many revisions and rewrites, and I suppose what surprised me most was how the world grew more concrete in my mind over time. During the earliest drafts, for example, I couldn’t articulate how the markings on women’s bodies predict the future—it was all very mysterious and nebulous, even to me. Later in the process, however, I was mapping out predictions and creating an authoritative guidebook centered on markings interpretation. This novel revealed itself to me in layers; it wasn’t something I could learn all at once. Once I had a contract, I was able to continue this process with my amazing editor at Dutton, whose insight and suggestions helped me see the fictional world more clearly all the way through the final proofreading stage.


How did you find the title of your book?


Body of Stars originally had a different title, one I won’t share here but that I clung to for years. At one point, my agent questioned whether the title was the best fit. She wasn’t telling me to change it; she just asked me to think about it. That gentle prompting was all I needed to know that I could do better.


It was difficult to consider a new title when I’d become so accustomed to the first one, but I went for it. I read books about space and fortune telling to get ideas, and I made list after list of potential titles, many of which were terrible. When I first came upon Body of Stars as an option, I didn’t immediately recognize it as the winner. It took some time for the title to sink in and to realize it fits my novel perfectly. This title speaks to not only how women’s physical bodies carry the weight of the future, but it also alludes to an overarching celestial metaphor. Now, Body of Stars seems like such an obvious choice that I can’t imagine the novel with any other title.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


Gibson Oakley was kind enough to create a custom cocktail and mocktail just for Body of Stars:



Inspired by a starry sky, the Celestial Shimmer lives up to its name with the addition of luster dust, a powder that, when added to a drink, creates a unique cocktail worthy of any interpreter. 


8-10 Blackberries

3 Mint Leaves

2 oz Gin

1/8 tsp of Silver or Pearl Luster Dust* (Optional)

6 oz Sparkling Lemonade

Mint and Blackberries, for garnish


In a shaker, muddle the blackberries and mint. Add the gin, ice and shake. Strain the mixture into a glass, mix in the luster dust, more ice, and top with sparkling lemonade. Stir to combine, and garnish with additional berries and mint. 


*Food grade, edible luster dust is available online or at most cake decorating stores. 



HIGH LUCIDITY (Non-Alcoholic)

While it may not provide the same heightened senses as the period of “high lucidity,” this beverage will keep your senses sharp with its tart yet sweet flavors (and antioxidants and vitamin C for good measure).


4 oz Pomegranate Juice

2 oz Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

2 oz Sparkling Water

Orange Twist, for garnish


In a glass filled with ice, add the pomegranate juice, orange juice, and sparkling water. Garnish with an orange twist. For a sweeter variation, add 0.5 oz simple syrup.












DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.