Stella knew the names of the stars before she knew her alphabet. Although Stella’s mother disappeared when she was too small to remember, she grows up happy beneath bright Indiana stars in the small town of Torrance with her father, her dog, and her best friend. When a meteor lands in her father’s cornfields, Stella and her father run after the fallen star. Stella watches as her father touches the star. The moment he does, he disappears in a flash of golden starlight. Stella never sees her father again.
From that moment on, Stella is terrified of the stars she always loved. Stella leaves Torrance, her dog, and her best friend. But Stella discovers that the truth she needs is still in Torrance. As a total eclipse approaches, Stella must find the courage to face her stars.
Targeted Age Group:: 12+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
LVP Publications was creating a book of short stories centered around phobias, one for every letter of the alphabet. Looking through their list, I stumbled on one called "kosmikophobia." This was "the fear or dread of cosmic phenomenon." From there, I started wondering how a fear like that could begin and what it would look like once it took hold. LVP Publications suggested I turn my initial short story I did about this into a novella.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I always knew that my main character had to be terrified of the stars, but I also knew very quickly that she had to love those stars as much as she was scared of them. That dual love and fear had to be central to Stella. From there, I felt like Stella became a very real person to me.
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I knew the names of the stars and the constellations before I knew my alphabet. My daddy loved the stars, so I loved them too. He told me he met my mom under the influence of a particularly bright Mars, and that was why they fought so much. They’d met under Mars, he’d proposed under Venus, and I’d been conceived on a night when every star, planet, and light in the sky blazoned for all they were worth. That’s why they named me Stella.
We lost Mom on the night of the Torrance Comet. It’s called the Torrance Comet because that’s where it landed—our little town of Torrance, Indiana, not far from the farm. He and Mom had put me to bed. They went out on the big wraparound porch of the family farmhouse we’d inherited from my daddy’s parents.
My dad said that Momma’s eyes lit up when she saw the comet rip the sky in half with its golden knife. He said she’d jumped to her feet and whispered, “it’s close” before she made a run for it.
My daddy laughed for a moment and finished drinking his beer. He always said he couldn’t remember how it tasted, just that even if it had been the best beer in all of God’s Kingdom, he’d do anything to undrink it.
By the time he ran after her, she had a full minute head start. Only a minute, but only a minute is all it takes sometimes.
He never saw Momma again.
Daddy looked for an hour. When he called the sheriff, everyone came and helped search. Not just the sheriff, but all Daddy’s friends and the pastor and the O’Malleys and the Thorntons and the Wichitas and even those weird Holcombs. That’s why Daddy always said I had to be nice to everyone in town. Because when we needed them most, the whole town, no matter how strange or backward I might think them, had gotten up in the middle of the night and looked for Momma.
They never found her. They didn’t find her body or any signs of her at all.
All those families did the cooking for Daddy until he learned how to do it on his own.
For about a week, Daddy said, he thought losing Momma would break him. He thought he wouldn’t be able to live. Then late one night, he took me outside, and the two of us looked up at the stars. I was too young to remember this.
He said I reached up as high as I could and said my first word — star.
That saved him, he always said. It woke him up and he was alive again. He was my daddy.
I sensed he was hurting all the time, every day, but I also couldn’t remember Momma or a time before his grief. It didn’t stop him from smiling. It didn’t stop him from laughing. It didn’t stop him from loving me.
When we sat under the stars together, he would always say he felt like Momma was up there with them, still being a wife and mother. That’s why he never dated again. He said Momma would see and wouldn’t like it.
By the time I was in my teens, I knew Momma wouldn’t have minded, even if she was watching. When you love someone as much as my momma must have loved my daddy, you couldn’t begrudge them a little slice of happiness every once in a while.
I felt like everyone in town pitied me, but I didn’t pity me. I lived in a big house with a daddy and a great big golden retriever named Mercury, and I didn’t really know what I was missing.
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