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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Q&A: Monica Byrne, Author of 'The Actual Star' | The Nerd Daily

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David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas meets Octavia Butler’s Earthseed series, as acclaimed author Monica Byrne (The Girl in the Road) spins a brilliant multigenerational saga spanning two thousand years, from the collapse of the ancient Maya to a far-future utopia on the brink of civil war.

We chat with author Monica Byrne about her newest release The Actual Star, along with writing, book recommendations, and more!

Hi, Monica! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Yes! I’m a writer, playwright, and screenwriter currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

With the year gradually coming to a close, how has 2021 been for you?

I went on a two-month road trip this past summer to celebrate my 40th birthday, and it also became a kind of referendum on where I want to live. I love Durham so much, but I was really attracted to the big cities of the Midwest, especially St. Louis. So I’d say it’s been a very thoughtful year.

Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!
  1. First book I ever remember reading: Tooth Fairy by Audrey Wood. My family sat next to me on the bed and helped me sound out the words I didn’t know.
  2. Book that made me want to become an author: Probably The Lord of the Rings. I wanted to create worlds as immersive as that one.
  3. Book I can’t stop thinking about: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. Such an incredible marriage of thriller, romance, and new ideas.
Your new novel, The Actual Star, is out now! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?

Cloud Atlas meets Apocalypto. Lol.

What can readers expect?

That this book will get under their skin and change their dreams.

Where did the inspiration for The Actual Star come from?

A cave in Belize called Actun Tunichil Muknal, sacred to the ancient Maya. I went thinking it’d be a low-key tourist attraction but it ended up altering the course of my life.

Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?

When I started, I didn’t know anything about the ancient Maya. So I started on nine years of research, which included several return trips to Belize. I knew that I had to get things “right” if I was going to presume to write another culture, especially one that existed a thousand years ago.

Were there any favourite moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or exploring?

Yes, there’s an anal sex scene that coincides with the founding of a new world religion. That was fun to write.

What’s the best and the worst writing advice you have received?

Best: “Just keep at it.” –my Dad

See also

Worst: “Write what you know.” –everyone, it seems

What’s next for you?

I’m finishing a feature-length screenplay based on my science fiction short story “Blue Nowruz.”

Lastly, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, if you haven’t read it yet. I want to pick it up and reread it right now…

You can find Monica on Facebook, Patreon, Instagram, and Twitter, along with at her website and blog.

Will you be picking up The Actual Star? Tell us in the comments below!

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