Timeless truth shines in Yvonne Anderson’s fantastic sci-fi, The Story in the Stars. Few debut novels so successfully illumine entertaining narrative with ingenious writing. Yvonne captivates readers from exciting start to satisfying finish with her realistic characters, dialogue, and settings. This novel is well worth your moderate investment and precious time!
Yvonne is not only a great writer; she’s a great friend. I met her at a writing retreat in April and we belong to the same online critique group. She blogs at Y’s Words and is one of the featured authors at Novel Rocket.
Although she spends most of her time researching on the planet Gannah, she recently landed long enough for me to interview her.
Glenda: The Story in the Stars is action-packed Sci-Fi clearly depicting a Christian worldview (actually out-of-this-worldview). How do you define its genre and what marketing niche does it fit?
Yvonne: When I first started down this surprising road – and for me, never a fan of either science fiction or Christian fiction, it was a surprising road indeed! – I was concerned the story would be too secular for the Christian market and too Christian for any secular publisher to touch. I was blessed to find a small, independent Christian publisher that appreciated it for what it is. I call it a space fantasy, because there’s no hard science involved in the story; it’s a fantasy that takes place in space. However, I’m told space travel places it in the SF genre, so that’s how I’m marketing it.
Glenda: Some action and descriptions are more graphic than that found in many books by Christian authors. Why did you include those scenes and how do you defend them?
Yvonne: My goal was simply to tell the story. I don’t think I sensationalized the violence or dwelt too much on it – at least, that was never my intention – but sin is ugly, and I don’t believe we do the world any service by downplaying that fact. The story depicts a violent, godless society being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then desiring to share that truth with the people they’d wronged. This story can’t be told without depicting a certain amount of goriness, but it isn’t emphasized or glorified. I tried to portray it as the Scriptures do – as facts of life.
But you’re right, you don’t find much of that in the typical Christian novel. However, based on the standards of most Christian publishers, the Bible wouldn’t be publishable either. It’s violent, it’s controversial, it takes a firm stand on specific doctrine, and can be offensive to some readers. Though I tried not be offensive with The Story in the Stars, I was careful to portray scriptural truth clearly and accurately, leaving no room for misinterpretation. I played down the violence to a degree, but I didn’t water down the gospel. One reader said, “It was very subtle. No, I guess it wasn’t subtle at all; you laid it all out, plain as day. But it seemed subtle, somehow.”
Glenda: How did the narrative develop as you wrote The Story in the Stars? (Did you have a goal for some great universal truth you wanted to convey or did you simply want to tell a good story? Did you have the story plotted before you began or did you discover the story as you went along?)
Yvonne: The whole project started when I was struggling through a little nonfiction book called The Gospel in the Stars, written by Joseph A. Seiss in 1882 and reprinted by Kregel Publications in 1972. It explained the premise that when God created the heaven and the earth, He put the constellations in the sky in such patterns that when the pictures were put together, they told the gospel story for early man to “read.” Though the concept intrigued me, I found the book difficult to understand, between the archaic language and the subject of constellations, which I knew virtually nothing about. After trying, not quite successfully, to make sense out of it, I decided to try to come at it from a different direction and retell it in a fictional format, allowing these things to be revealed to characters in the story and to the reader at the same time.
I suppose this could have been accomplished through any setting. But because I’d been thinking so much about stars and the planets, I started out with a space setting. I didn’t have a clear idea in my mind where I was going with it, but once I began, I realized I’d found my niche; I’d never had so much writing fun in my life.
The “universal truth” I wanted to convey is God’s authority over the universe and the fact that the gospel applies to everyone, everywhere, in every generation. We think it a cultural thing, referring to our “Judeo-Christian heritage,” as if it only applies to people of white European descent, or to people who are too bound by tradition and superstition to think for themselves or to be persuaded by logic, or whatever. That is to say, a lot of people have the feeling that Christianity is okay for you, but it’s not really applicable to me. I wanted to show that it’s relevant to everyone. Of course this story isn’t going to “prove” anything to anyone; it’s merely an illustration. But if it gets people to think along new lines and consider things from a different perspective, then I’ll have achieved my goal.
As far as plotting the story goes, well, I never knew what was going to happen next. I started out with a beginning and an end and a couple of significant events in the middle. All the details were as much a surprise to me as I wrote as they are to the reader.
Glenda: Without giving any spoilers, how would you summarize the novel’s plot?
Yvonne: Before the story opens, the inhabitants of the planet Gannah had been bloodthirsty warriors who tried to take over the galaxy. Their rampage was stopped at the planet Karkar, where the people of that planet created a virus that killed every Gannahan star-soldier who was exposed to it. At the same time, while Karkar was under Gannahan domination and the plague was being created, Gannah’s king and a small recon team were checking out their next target. This happened to be Earth—and while they were exploring this new planet’s strengths and vulnerabilities, they heard the gospel and believed.
Now, as the story begins, the plague has struck again. Dr. Pik, a doctor from the planet Karkar where the virus originated, is assigned the task of finding a cure and saving Gannah from annihilation. Because of their violent history, he hates the Gannahans and wishes they were all dead. But he has a duty to the League of Planets; and between that and his professional ambition, he swallows his racial resentment and complies with his orders. He discovers the antidote and starts to manufacture it, but by the time he arrives on Gannah with the rescue team, it’s almost too late. The only survivor is a young woman, Dassa.
Like her forefathers for the past eight centuries, she’s a Christ-follower, but on their planet He’s called the Yasha, which means Redeemer. While she lies near death, the Yasha tells her she will recover from the plague, and He will use her to repopulate the planet with a new race of Gannahans. But she has no idea how He’s going to pull that off, especially with that annoying Karkar doctor always hanging around.
Once she regains her health, she tells a scornful Pik about the story in the stars. He doesn’t believe her tall tale, but nevertheless agrees to accompany her on a return to the dead planet Gannah. There they battle vicious animals, suffer food poisoning and survive a plane crash in order to return to Pik’s people the priceless treasure Dassa’s ancestors stole centuries before. Throughout their adventures, Dassa learns about patience and unconditional love, while Pik discovers a treasure that can never be lost.
Glenda: The Story in the Stars is the first in a series of novels. What are the others and how would you briefly summarize their stories?
Yvonne: I have a contract with Risen Books for three novels in this series, Gateway to Gannah.
The second book, Words in the Wind, picks up twenty years after the first book ends. It takes place entirely on Gannah, where the new settlement is going through some growing pains. Dassa and Pik are again the prominent characters, but the flavor of the book is a little less humorous than it is in the first. However, it’s also less violent, so the squeamish should have nothing to fear. It deals with discerning truth from lies and determining what’s real in a confusing world.
The third, Ransom in the Rock, takes place a decade later and focuses on two of Dassa and Pik’s children, who are young adults by that time. It presents the gospel again, but in a different way, illustrating how choosing to embrace the truth can have serious consequences.
I intended to wrap up all the loose ends in the third book, but so many interesting things were happening in the story, I couldn’t fit in everything I’d planned. So I’m planning a fourth book – yet to be drafted or titled – to complete the series, even though I have no contract for that one.
Glenda: I’m pretty sure Risen Books will publish the fourth novel since a lot of people, including my family and me, will want the satisfaction of seeing those loose ends tied up. Where can people purchase The Story in the Stars?
Yvonne: The book is available only online; you won’t find it in your local bookstore. It’s offered in paperback or Kindle from Amazon; in paperback or Nook from Barnes and Noble; or in paperback from the publisher, Risen Books. If you order it from the publisher’s online store, a portion of the proceeds will go to Holt International, a world leader in international adoption and child welfare programs that enable children to have families of their own.