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  • Writer's pictureRen

Ask Ren: Q&A #1

You asked, I answer! I got some fantastic questions about writing Under Fortunate Stars in the Q&A for my newsletter!

Ask Ren: Q&A

What was the hardest part of writing Under Fortunate Stars?

Definitely deciding on the ordering of the flashbacks & finding the perfect transitions between the past & present timelines! UFS is told in four points of view across two timelines, so figuring out how and when I wanted to switch POVs & where to best situate each flashback took a lot of pondering. And a lot of cue cards on the floor. (Yes, this is what happens when you draft out of order AND work with non-linear plots.)

Did you always want to write a multi-POV story?

Yes! Most of the stories I write are multi-POV, and this one especially needed it because of the way it spans several time periods -- there's no single POV character who could see & know everything that needed to be shown on the page. At one point in an early draft, the book had six or seven POVs! But I ended up trimming it down to just the main four, the characters who have a consistent storyline that spans the book & who need their own focus and resolution!

What was the first spark of an idea for Under Fortunate Stars?

One of the central questions in this book is "What if you somehow met your historical heroes, and had to deal with the reality of what they were actually like as living, breathing people?" This is a theme I've been writing on for a long time, and a concept I've been coming back to again and again (like, I'm talking all the way back to early 2000s fanfic!)

But the true spark of this book in its current incarnation — the novel idea that eventually became Under Fortunate Stars — started with a conversation I had with my best friend about weird ships. We talked about the Philadelphia Experiment and the urban legends about a teleporting ship. That spun into an idea for a NaNoWriMo project about a time-travelling ship full of nerdy historical re-enactors/LARPers that meets the real ship whose journey they're re-creating.

That particular storyline is looong gone to the zero-draft graveyard, and UFS became a completely different book (although one of the main characters is still a history nerd!) but some vestiges of that ancient draft remain. Like, fun fact: Eldric is named Eldric because his character was originally named after the Eldridge, the supposed teleporting ship in the Philadelphia Experiment. "Eldric" was a very different character in that original NaNo draft (he also went through a phase in draft 2 when he was called Eldram!), but the ghost of drafts past is still there in his name :)

Ren, why is the famous ship in your book called the Jonah?

WELL. Thank you, Kate, for sending in this incredible question & sharing this esoteric knowledge with the world. Speaking of names that got in there during the zero draft and never left, this is probably the best one:

A screenshot of a chat conversation between Ren (earlgreyhot) and Kate.   earlgreyhot — 12/08/2021 ha, so, for the record: Is the ship called "Jonah" because of the biblical allusion to being swallowed by the whale aka the void? (NO)  Did you know when you first wrote it that "Jonah" is a slang term for a bad luck passenger on a vessel , and that's really clever, right? (NO) When you went to type a placeholder name for the ship during zero drafting, did you happen to look at a picture of Jonah Hill on your desktop? (CHECK) This may be one of the funniest stories about this book that I will laugh about until the end of time ^  Kate — 12/08/2021 REN IM SCREAMING OMG AHAHAHAHA IVE DIED AND ASCENDED

Under Fortunate Stars will be out from Solaris on May 10, 2022 (US) / May 12, 2022 (UK). Follow me on Twitter & Instagram @voidcricket!


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