A. L. Kaplan’s debut novel, Star Touched, is about Tatiana, a young woman seeking to survive in a world devastated by a meteor eight years before. As a “star-touched” person with special powers, she flees the persecution of those like her and seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. It had been a haven before, but it is now oppressed by powerful thugs that rule and exploit the townspeople.
Kaplan’s stories and poems have been included in several anthologies and magazines, and her novel, Star Touched, was published last October. She is a board member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and its Howard County Chapter. She holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and works as props manager for a local theater.
1. What sparked your interest in writing fantasy / science fiction?
I grew up reading James Herriot, Jack London, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Albert Payson Turhune, and other historical and animal fiction. It wasn’t until I read Lord of the Rings in high school that I recognized my love of science fiction and fantasy. Blame my brother. He gave me the books. That’s also when I finally tried to write one of the many stories I had banging in my head. At the time, I leaned toward watching science fiction and reading fantasy. So naturally, the first novel I wrote was a sci fi. Go figure.
2. What inspired you to write this particular novel?
Star Touched was born from a series of nightmares. Huge waves of water, giant fireballs – I probably shouldn’t have had that spicy food before bedtime. Then again, it did create a great world for my story. I had no idea that we’d have so many natural disasters or that huge asteroids would be flying so close to earth this year when I wrote Star Touched. It’s rather frightening how many similarities there are to what’s going on now both environmentally and politically.
3. Do you see this book as the beginning of a series?
Although I wrote Star Touched as a standalone, there is definitely the potential for sequels. There is a whole lot of my world that hasn’t been explored yet.
4. What are you working on now?
I have several short stories in the works and a sequel to Star Touched. There’s even a story about Fifi – Well, sort of.
5. How do you proceed in your writing? Do you outline your novel first or are you a “Pantser”?
I tend to be somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. The beginning and end is usually set, but what happens between them evolves as I write. I’m also flexible to what my characters tell me.
6. What kind of research did you do?
Research for Star Touched took me on an interesting tour. I needed to know just how big to make my meteor so that it wiped out most but not all of the human population, where it needed to hit to get the geological reaction I needed, and how long life could survive without sun. Clear Sky Day is precisely timed. I also needed to know the location of all fault lines no matter how small, and active and inactive volcanoes. Those wonderful geysers in Yellowstone National Park are there because the park is on a super volcano. You don’t want to be visiting when it blows. I also researched places at risk for rising water levels and climate change. Then there was the issue of nuclear reactors, gun and ammunition factories… I’m pretty sure I’m on a few watch lists.
7. What has been most helpful to you in writing your book? What have you enjoyed most?
Having a good critique group is important. They point out all the things that work well and let you know when they don’t. (Like when a mug of beer mysteriously refills itself in a scene that is not fantasy.) I also enjoy writing flash fiction. Limiting yourself to a small word count teaches you to be more concise. It helped me breach the gap between novel length and short story length stories.
8. What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Ideas are easy and writing is a labor of love. Finding time is always a challenge. Marketing is a pain in the butt. I’d rather be writing.