I had the privilege to ask debut author Josephine Angelini a few questions about herself, her writing, and of course her debut novel Starcrossed.
BookBandit (BB): Could you tell me a little about yourself, your background as a writer, and your writing in general?
Josephine Angelini (JA): I’ve always written. I started keeping a journal when I was ten years old and I wrote in it faithfully every day, but I never considered myself good enough to be a writer. To me, a writer had to be so much smarter, so much worldlier than I could ever be. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that my husband pointed out that I wasn’t happy unless I was writing every day and that I should knuckle up and do if for real. He was right.
BB: Starcrossed is your debut novel. How long has the story lived in your head and what is the inspiration behind it?
JA: I came up with the idea for Starcrossed in a flash. I guess that was over two years ago now. I was pitching a different idea for a supernatural YA series to my husband, who is a screenwriter. For the life of me I couldn’t spit out a logline or sum up that other series is two or three concise sentences. He told me to start with a simpler idea for my first book, as I had never written a novel before. Of course I started bawling my eyes out immediately.
I was convinced that I was never going to be a writer. Then, in the middle of my pity-party, I saw a copy of Romeo and Juliet sitting next to The Iliad on my bookshelf, and it hit me. What if I took Homer’s amazing characters and set it up so that if two teenagers fell in love they would start a war? Then I took the opening line of Romeo and Juliet, which begins: Two Households. And I started writing.
BB: When naming it did you ever fear that people may associate it with two other star-crossed lovers: Romeo and Juliet. Do you feel the association would help or hinder your own story?
JA: would be more than happy if people associated Romeo and Juliet with Starcrossed, as it was my inspiration.
BB: What is your writing process like? Do you tend to outline or jump right into it?
JA: I am a meticulous outliner (is that a word?) and planner. I do complete character bios, timelines, plot arcs. I even do something that I learned from screenwriting, called beats. What that means is that I do a list of every single action before I start writing. I map out every moment, “Helen wakes up, goes downstairs, sees her father cooking breakfast’ before I write Chapter One, Page One. I’m so obsessive I even continue to outline as I write. If I discover something along the way and need to add it, I go back to my outline and alter it, making sure it doesn’t cause any conflict. This may sound like a waste of time, but it makes the rewriting process so much easier. I have a blueprint of sorts that lets me know if I can knock down one wall or add another room someplace else.
BB: You must have done a lot of research for Starcrossed. What kind of research did you have to do? What was the best and worst part of research in this case?
JA: For me, the research was so much fun! I love The Iliad and The Odyssey and all the Greek myths, so although I was “working”, or so I told my husband, really what I was doing was having a blast reading. The only thing about research that I consider not so fun is when you can?t get the pieces to fit together the way you want.
BB: Starcrossed is the first book in a trilogy, can you tell what readers can expect from the upcoming books in the series?
JA: Danger! Love! Torment! Heroism! You know? the works, of course. It wouldn’t be Greek if it didn?t have all those elements.
BB: Your characters are exceptionally well-developed and realistic. Did you face any challenges in creating them? With that, it seems like a lot of authors base their characters on themselves or people they know. Did you create any characters with specific people in mind?
JA: My characters always start with a realistic anchor, someone who I can visualize perfectly because I know them on some level, but they always grow from there. I spend a lot of time working on my character bios, and the longer I think about them the more they become unique.
BB: What young adult books and/or authors do you read and like?
JA: There are a lot of YA authors out there that I admire. I can’t really pick favorites, but I love Phillip Pullman, Suzanne Collins is amazing, and there’s a debut author named Amy Plum who I think is just fantastic. Of course I’m leaving out about a gazillion people.
BB: Do you have any tips for any aspiring writers?
JA: Don’t get discouraged in the middle of a rewrite! Rewriting is hard, but it’s so important. My writing skills in general ,not just my stories, get better every time I rewrite. Notes are hard to take, but they are the fastest way to grow. Keep going.