Samantha Heuwagen’s debut novel, Dawn Among the Stars, released May 21st, 2018. A therapist, activist, blogger, and author, Samantha combined her feminist ideologies, mental health expertise, and love for science fiction to craft a compelling novel about life, love, and humanity’s place in the universe. The book, which tells the story of three young humans struggling to survive an intergalactic war, is the first in a series detailing humanity’s induction into the galactic community.
1. What was your life like pre-publishing contract?
My life was a dark and lonely place, filled with cold nights in front of a smouldering fire… I joke, but really I don’t feel like much has changed. I still wake up with my partner and dog, go to work, come back and write, and then go back to work. Only to come home and start the whole process over again. I think the slight difference is that I feel more apart of the writing community now. Somehow I feel more legit, if that’s even possible, and also invited into the conversation about writing. Before I felt like an outsider looking in. Now, I think I can add my two cents without feeling like a schmuck.
2. Who were your favorite writers as a child?
I became a reader later in life, but the first thing I read was The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and then shortly after diving into Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I know for someone who didn’t read a lot, these were two big literary works to digest, but I loved them and still do.
3. Is there a book(s) that inspired you to be a writer or that’s influenced the characters you created for Dawn Among the Stars? If not, what influenced you?
I think it was the Toni Morrison’s quote, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” That gave me permission to write openly about what I wanted to see. I wanted to read about Latinas fighting for something bigger than themselves. I wanted characters I could relate to, with a love story or two thrown in there that was based on healthy relationships, not abusive ones. I just wanted to share a piece of my feminism and be more inclusive in the literary world. I think readers are ready for such a story.
4. Tell us about your novel and characters.
Set against the backdrop of intergalactic politics and war, Dawn Among the Stars follows the stories of three Humans, Kayin, Melissa, and Henry, as they struggle to understand the universe on a cosmic scale. Kayin is a sassy Latina who deals with crippling panic attacks and terrible PTSD from the coming of aliens, the Shielders, while Melissa is a big fan of these beautiful beings, she’ll have to figure out if following her heart is going to save her family. Henry wants nothing more than to get back together with Kayin, but since the world is in chaos, he might’ve missed his chance. Can these three work with the Shielders to save Earth or will they lose the only home they’ve ever known?
5. Where do you write?
I write mainly at home in my office, but I’ve been known to hit up a cafe or two when I need a change of scenery. I’m also not shy about writing at my therapy office between clients because when you have to write, you write!
6. How long did it take to write this book?
In all honesty, several years. I went to grad school between its conception and when I really got serious about writing. I think when I made the decision to publish, finishing it and polishing it took about 2 years. What can I say? Mama was busy!
7. How did you get your publishing contract?
I queried as one does when they want to go the traditional route. I sent Trifecta what they wanted and got an email for the full within 24hrs–– such a shock! Then a few weeks after that they came to me asking for another round of edits (link to my original post I wrote for you?). I didn’t want to do it but I started and couldn’t stop. I cut 20k words and sent it back. Within 3 days I received an email offering a contract.
8. How did you cope with rejection during the querying process?
I talked with my friends and family a lot about how disheartening the whole thing is. I did a lot of self-care and really went back to learn the craft. I wanted to be the best, so I asked questions, I did research, and I kept myself busy by joining critique groups. I learned so much in the 6 months I was apart of that then I did at school. If you want to be in this business, you have to put in the work. No one just shows up as a good writer, they learn to be a good writer.
9. What were your biggest lessons learned and surprises through the publishing journey?
There will be so many people telling you what they want and don’t want in your story. Follow your instincts and make sure your characters have their say. I thought, originally, I needed to listen to everyone’s advice and make it work they way they wanted to, but in the end I realized I knew my story and my characters best. I could use the feedback, but still stay true to my vision.
I think my biggest surprise has been and will always be that I am published. Like wait, people want to read about aliens and Latinas kicking ass? After so many years of rejection, it just feels surreal, but I’m loving the journey now, just like I did back then. I just have more friends that can talk smack about the Shielders with me.
10. Looking back, what do you think you did right? Is there anything you would you could do differently?
The first thing I did write was to find Hannah. She really did start it all and was the most helpful teacher, friend, and confidant. Without her, there would be no Dawn Among the Stars.
If I could do anything differently, it would be to learn patience. I’ve come a long way, but I still need to breathe through the fear and accept that people are not going to move as fast you’d like them. And in the publishing industry people move slowwwwwwwww. I wish I would have accepted that a long time ago.
11. What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing?
Practice, practice, practice some more until you think you’re got it and then go back to practicing.
12. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
If you love writing, write. If you want to get anywhere with your work, then you’re going to hustle. Things don’t happen overnight. You have to learn the business side of things and figure out marketing or you’ll be sunk. No one is going to do that for you, but with a little help from your friends anything is possible!
13. What’s up next for you?
Fading Starlight, the follow up to Dawn Among the Stars, should be debuting in 2019. I’m also looking forward to growing my private practice and traveling more. Working hard is great, but taking time to reflect and do some serious self-care if just as good.
A big thanks to Samantha for taking time out of her schedule to answer all of my burning questions! It’s always a pleasure to have her drop by the blog.
Dawn Among the Stars is available wherever books are sold, including:
If you read Dawn Among the Stars, don’t forget to leave a review!
If you want to follow Samantha on social media, you can find her at:
|The Starless Series FB Group|
| Samantha’s personal Instagram
The Starless Series Instagram
|Goodreads||Samantha Heuwagen’s Profile|