Starcrossed, the debut young adult novel from Josephine Angelini, is the first in a trilogy, which is good, because otherwise I’d spend the next year or so actually accomplishing things – rather than sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next book, which is how I suspect I’ll be spending a lot of my time.
Slated for release on May 31, Starcrossed is the story of Helen Hamilton, just your average high school kid – on the outside. Inside, Helen’s always known she was different. She’s super-strong, freakishly fast, overwhelmingly beautiful, and from Massachusetts – so, you know, we have some stuff in common. Embarrassed by her abilities, Helen’s always been content to fade into the woodwork – until the mysterious Lucas Delos and his family move into the neighborhood, and Helen begins to learn, for the first time, who she really is.
I know, chills. And it gets even better, because I recently had the chance to actually speak to the wonderful Josie Angelini, and she’s even cooler than Helen. She’s from a big family in Ashland, Massachusetts (my husband’s hometown! Represent!), so we talked a lot about families, and what’s influenced her writing, and what hasn’t influenced her writing, and also a little about butt-kicking.
I’m a huge Massachusetts snob, so I was thrilled to see that Starcrossed is set on Nantucket! I don’t think I’ve ever read another book set on Nantucket. Why did you choose this particular setting?
I wanted to write about Massachusetts, because I’m from there, but apart from that I had to isolate my main character, Helen, for plot reasons. I had to strand her, surround her with water, and in later books the lighthouse and the ship imagery will have special significance. For me, there was no better place than good ole’ ACK. It really is beautiful, too.
So much of Starcrossed is influenced by Greek mythology. I know that you also have a theatre background, and I noticed a teeny tiny nod to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in there too. Did your theatrical past play a role in inspiring the book?
I use my drama background all the time, not just in my character development, but in the way I structure my plots.
I see Starcrossed as a mix between The Iliad and Romeo and Juliet. The Iliad doesn’t focus too much on love—it’s mostly about the battles of the great heroes, and the gods bickering with each other of course. My story is more about troubled love, like the kind seen in Romeo and Juliet, although I have to say there is quite a bit of butt-kicking as well. So it’s a blend.
You’re the youngest of eight children, which…awesome. But also…crazy chaotic. You know who else is chaotically awesome? The Delos family. Do you see any of your own siblings in any of the Deloses?
I stole constantly from my family to create the Deloses! In fact when my siblings read some of the early drafts, they all laughed at Noel, who has a ton of my mother’s characteristics — right down to forgetting our names when she gets flustered and freaking out about her lawn. Big families are like the gift that keeps on giving to writers.
Overly-well-documented, I’m incredibly interested in the role of female characters in film and literature. There’s some super-strong female power in Starcrossed. Is this something you tend to stress in your writing?
I wouldn’t say that I stress super-strong females. It’s not a point I’m trying to make– I just find them far more interesting. Seriously, a pro-active woman who has strong, loyal relationships with other women is just more fun to write and more fun to read, I think. Women that make their own choices and solve their own problems move the plot along instead of waiting for plot to happen to them.
On top of that, my six big sisters would probably beat the stuffing out of me if I wrote a weak woman– so this is a self-preservation thing!
Starcrossed is the first in a trilogy, so, basically, I’m at the edge of my seat. Can you give me a little hint of what might be in store for Helen, Lucas, and the whole clan?
The second book, Dreamless, is darker, and has more action than the first book. Helen goes into the Underworld and grows even more as heroine as she learns to claim even more of her power. There is a lot more danger, and a new character named Orion, who I hope everyone loves as much as I do.
Tell me one thing about yourself that I wouldn’t guess from reading Starcrossed.
Unlike Helen, I am a massive klutz. I’m serious. If my husband could make me wear a helmet in public he would. I always have at least one bruise on me whose origin is a complete mystery to me.