Tales of Sand and Stars is the novel that I wrote about when I talked about how The Scorpion’s Lullaby came to be. Tales wasn’t the first novel I ever wrote, nor was it the first one to get me an agent, but it’s still extremely special to me, because it was my first NaNoWriMo project, and my first high fantasy.
I went to the big Los Angeles conference for SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) in 2013 after a sad parting of ways with my first literary agent. I was determined to make a historical project work, but I was wrestling with it, and generally feeling inadequate and uncool. (Insert awkward laughter.)
Laurie Halse Anderson was one of the speakers at the conference, and I’ll never forget her keynote address—she talked about how we, as writers and illustrators, are storytellers. She wanted us to remember the magic of sitting around a fire and telling stories to each other. It stuck with me over the next couple of months as I decided to set the historical project aside and try something else.
While I was brainstorming, a desert setting popped into my head. I thought it would be cooler with space gadgetry, and when I floated the idea by my husband, I was full of excitement. “Imagine this: sandy dunes, spices, colorful markets…and spaceships!”
His response: “Did you ever hear of a little book called Dune?”
Took the wind right outta my sails. And besides, while I loved watching Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, I didn’t feel super confident about writing about space gadgetry. So I eliminated the sci-fi/space element and was left with a desert. But what to put in it?
That’s when I remembered Laurie Halse Anderson’s keynote. Storytelling. I thought about how stories help define our truths, and why we tell stories, and I wondered what it would be like if storytellers were revered and treasured. And that’s how I came up with Nima Storyteller, the heroine of Tales of Sand and Stars.
It’s a novel about a girl who is taken from the people she knows and thrust into an adventure that forces her to confront the truth of her past, but more than that, it’s about the magic of storytelling. It’s about how truths form stories, and how stories form truth.
I hope those elements come through in the novel, and that you find it as magical as I do.