Interview with Paul A. Dixon, Author of Starfall
23 Feb 2023
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Starfall?
As children we know that magic is real. We are born with the utter certainty of it: that the world is this great big magical place, full of wonder and possibility. By adulthood that knowing is lost. This story is about the in-between time, that age on the cusp where you still might meet a Star Wolf in a fire tower on top of a mountain even if your best friend spends all day on her phone.
Starfall also began as a pandemic project. The isolation of COVID felt inseparable from the omnipresence of technology: we were all on screens all the time! For me, the main relief from that was walking in the woods with my daughter. We often tell stories on our walks and, in a very real sense, the story of Sam and Starfall began that way.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Starfall, what would they be?
For Sam (our heroine): Running with the Wolves by Aurora. No question. Virginia – aka Sam’s best friend – is That Girl, the fourteen-year-old going on 25, who rolls her eyes at Taylor Swift because she’s so yesterday. Virginia is probably listening to Blackpink – or was last week, anyway. Whoever is on her Spotfiy now, it’s a given no one over the age of thirty will ever have heard of them. Starfall has been unable to make any sense out of human music whatsoever. What she listens to is for Star Wolf ears alone. And Sam’s father Xavier? He’s probably listening to something appallingly lame from the nineties. Best not to ask.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
My reading tastes are pretty broad. I’m most drawn to beautifully written stories, authors like Jeanette Winterson and William Gibson and Iain M. Banks who can do things with worlds and language that leave the rest of us in awe.
I also spend a lot of time reading about climate change and climate technology, as that is what I do for my day job. I highly recommend All We Can Save for anyone wanting a more hopeful view, focused on solutions as opposed to the problems (which are of course very real). As for writing – I write both YA fantasy and hard science fiction, and enjoy them both but in very different ways.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
Sitting on top of the stack is Nona the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir, the third in her Locked Tomb series, which are absurdly brilliant. Also on the pile: Greta Thunberg’s No One is Too Small to Make a Big Difference, Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler, and Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks, which I have been saving as it is the last of his I have not read.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
There is a scene late in the story where Sam is forced to retrieve an evil magic weapon she attempted to dispose of early on, which she is convinced she will be forced to use to save Starfall. Describing what that would feel like was tremendously fun.
Here’s the actual moment: It didn’t take long to reach the gun. I’d thrown it as far as I could, but not that far. It was wedged in a crack, muzzle pointing upward at the sky. The snow around it had melted, like it was generating its own heat. I sucked air over my teeth, felt the cold in my throat. I hated everything about this – but I reached out anyway, touched it carefully with my fingertips. Before I hadn’t been able to hold it at all; I’d been forced to wrap it up in an old shirt just to get it out of the tower. Now I felt a little shock when I made contact, then nothing. I grabbed the muzzle tighter and pulled the weapon free. Through my gloves it felt smooth to the touch, and it was lighter than I remembered. There was a sort of shiftiness to it, like it held a liquid energy inside, that writhed and twisted even though the weapon itself lay still in my hands. It was like holding a hibernating snake – or maybe one that was just waking up.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
Mostly I just get up very, very early and drink a lot of coffee! I also talk about all my stories with my daughter. Starfall is dedicated to her; in a very real way she helped me to dream it to life.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
I do have a favorite quote, from Bruce Lee: “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.” I spent a decade or so studying martial arts, and could not agree with this more. It applies to everything in life.
I also have a (complementary) philosophy, which is this: the only thing that can truly be said to be our own is the skill we attain through effort. I believe this deeply. Things can be taken away, but not our craft, that which we know how to make and do. I wish I would have figured out sooner the power of self that comes from being able to sustain effort against a single objective for a long period of time.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
This book is about what we hold sacred in the living world around us. Why do we humans fall in love with wolves so easily, and why are we drawn to the wild places in which they live? They’re beautiful, majestic, yes – but also they cannot exist without a great web of life to sustain them. To me, complexity and magic are two sides of the same coin. The trick is just to remember to look.
Paul A. Dixon is the author of the new book Starfall
Connect with Paul A. DixonAuthor Site
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