The writer has a degree in Shakespeare, the press materials reference Bridgerton, and the hero’s name unintentionally recalls a certain dark knight’s favorite reporter. But in the following email interview about the romantic young adult sci-fi space opera novel The Stars Between Us (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), the aforementioned author, Cristin Terrill, cites Charles Dickens more than the bard, those Brits, or Batman.
Photo Credit: Cassie Wilson
To start, what is The Stars Between Us about, and when and where does it take place?
The Stars Between Us is about Vika Hale, a poor girl from an impoverished planet who learns that she’s been included in the will of a billionaire who recently died, throwing her into the high society world of the neighboring affluent planet. She thinks her dreams have come true until a serial bomber starts targeting heirs of the will. Vika is forced to team up with a young man who’s hiding a dangerous secret from her in order to find the bomber before she becomes his next victim. It’s set on two distant planets some time in the future.
Where did you get the idea for The Stars Between Us?
It’s actually an idea I’ve been playing with on and off for over a decade, and its time finally came. At its core, it’s a retelling of a Dickens novel called Our Mutual Friend that almost no one has read, except my version is space-flavored and, in the grand tradition of YA, has lots more explosions and kissing.
Is there a significance to Vika Hale being a barmaid as opposed to, say, a bartender or waitress or holding some other job?
Not especially. I just wanted to give her a job that she would hate, and one where she has to wait on other people and be nice to them what is basically her worst nightmare.
Also, is there a significance to her name being really close to Vicki Vale, the reporter from Batman?
I never even thought of that! No, there’s no connection. I wanted her first name to be something elegant that also provided a more utilitarian nickname for her to go by. Viktoria / Vika fit the bill, especially with all those hard, sharp consonants to go with my hard, sharp girl. Like most of the characters in the book, her surname comes from something space-related. In this case, the inspiration came from astronomer Alan Hale, who discovered the Hale-Bopp comet and specializes in finding planetary systems outside of our solar system, the kind of planets the book is set on.
The Stars Between Us sounds like it’s a science fiction space opera novel. But you said it’s YA, while the cover line, “An unforgiving planet. An unforgettable love,” makes me think it’s romantic. How do you describe it?
Like in Star Wars, the science fiction aspects of the story, like spaceships and different planets, are really more window dressing than actually central to the plot. In the Dickens’ novel, the poor characters live south of the River Thames and the rich characters north of it. I just turned the Thames into the ribbon of space separating my poor planet from the rich one. Ultimately, it’s really a love story with some mystery thrown in.
So, how romantic is it? Like if someone is, say, dead inside, do you think he, I mean they will still enjoy it?
I guess that would depend on how much you enjoy silent pining and Victorian-style hand porn where a brush of the fingers while handing over a cup of tea is about as racy as things get.
And in a similar vein, is it a young adult in the sense that it’s only for young adults, or is it the kind of YA novel that doesn’t have anything inappropriate for teens, but can still be enjoyed by, say, someone who’s 54…and dead inside?
It’s young adult because the main characters are young adults. I think it’s suitable for reading by those of us who are old and dead-hearted, though.
The Stars Between Us is your third novel after Here Lies Daniel Tate and All Our Yesterdays. Are there any writers or stories that had a big influence on The Stars Between Us but not on any of your other books?
I believe Charles Dickens is the only person I truly ripped off for this particular book.
What about your buddy Bill Shakespeare? You do, after all, have an MA in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Ha! I do indeed. The world’s most useless and pretentious post-graduate degree and it is all mine.
So far, I haven’t stolen much from Bill except the title of my first novel (“all our yesterdays” comes from Macbeth), but I’m working on another book right now that’s a bit of a twist on one of his classics.
And what about the “many cats” that you live with? What influence did they have on The Stars Between Us?
Very little other than distracting me as I tried to write it. I’m up to five now, really leaning right into that crazy cat lady cliché. I’ve been fostering kittens for five or six years, and this is just something that happens to those of us involved in animal rescue.
Top: Zoe, Eli, Toby; Bottom: Milo, Ellie
Now, as you know, sci-fi space opera novels — even ones that are romantic and / or YA — are sometimes stand-alone stories, and sometimes they’re part of larger sagas. What is The Stars Between Us?
As of now, it’s a stand-alone. But my favorite supporting character, a girl named Ariel, originally had a much larger story in my head that didn’t make it into this book. At some point in the future I may write the rest of Ariel’s story.
Sci-fi space opera novels — even ones that are romantic and / or YA — are also sometimes adapted into movies, TV shows, or games. Do you think this story would work as a movie, show, or game?
I would love to see it as any of those things, but I think it would work best as a movie or TV show. There are a lot of stories that could be told about these two planets and the people living on them that I either couldn’t get into in the book or was only able to touch upon, so I think getting to explore all of that through a few seasons of TV would be awesome.
And if that happened, who do you think they should get to play Vika — assuming, of course, that Kim Basinger isn’t available — and the other main characters?
Kim might be getting just touch long in the tooth for my teenage protagonist, but I’m game if she is! If I were a Hollywood casting agent making this movie, though, my first call would be to Zendaya [Euphoria].
Finally, if someone enjoys The Stars Between Us, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next, and once they’ve done that, what romantic YA sci-fi space opera novel of someone else’s would you recommend they read?
I would definitely recommend their next read of mine would be All Our Yesterdays, since it’s also a science-flavored love story. And then I’d point them toward the swoony YA space classics Across The Universe by Beth Revis and These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.