Why I Wrote ‘The Deep Space Between’ by Cassandra Stirling

Why I Wrote The Deep Space Between

One of the first things I did before I started writing my novel, The Deep Space Between, is write my inspiration story. My why-I’m-writing-this-book story. This is what I wrote. I’m sharing it because it says a lot about me, the writer, and the journey I’m on. It also foreshadows many of the imposter syndrome setbacks I’d have (am still having) with writing and sharing my writing.

And, it answers that age-old question: when did you know you wanted to write?

Let me take you way, way back

As a kid, I always had stories running through my head. If I wasn’t acting them out with my stuffed animals, I was laying in bed or the grass with an internal movie playing out whatever theme was the flavor of the day.

I also wrote stories — not at home because why do that when it could play out in my head without handwriting to slow it down — but in school, specifically during our weekly library sessions with the librarian, Mrs. Barzinski.

Mrs. Barzinksi was an odd woman. She wore clogs, big round plastic glasses, clunky wooden beaded necklaces, heavy wool sweaters in winter, and white cotton gloves. Her thick wool sweaters had the telltale bumps of her breasts somewhere near her stomach, which earned them the nickname Barzinski boobs, and served as a cautionary tale for all the girls to make sure they wore bras.

In those weekly sessions, the table at which we sat was split. One end featured those students who listened to the chapter of the current book we were all reading, headphones twice the size of Princess Leia’s braid buns clamped to their heads. Mrs. Barzinki’s voice read out the most recent chapter; at the end, she included a prompt for a story topic. We then had 20 minutes to write a story about that prompt.

At the other end, the students read the story out loud and she taped us. Similar to the ginormous headphones — this was the ’80s after all — the recording device was massive. It contained two tape reels fastened to the top. When she turned it on, there was a distinctive “thunk.” I can still hear it today.

Every week, she put the best-written stories on the wall outside of the library with an A and then numerous pluses after it big fat red marker at the top of it.

At the end of the year, the students who had the best writing, aka the most pluses, got a prize — always books — for their efforts.

In my sixth grade year, I was in an unstated competition with my best friend, Jenny Simeon, over the total number of pluses we’d get on those stories. Some weeks I won, but most weeks she did. I always came second when I didn’t win, but it was never enough. Jenny was smart, funny, creative, and well-liked. I was awkward, wore outdated hand-me-downs (which I loved), and quiet.

We were really good friends. Outside of school was the requisite sleepover. During school, we’d hang out on the monkey bars (until some dummy got hurt and they banned them), making up stories.

Sometimes they were based on Greek myths (I was Athena, always) and sometimes on characters we created, like Ricky and Katie (I was Katie, she was Ricky). We even wrote and put on a play for our 4th-grade class (9-year-olds).

We were enmeshed in our creativity without even trying. And yet, I still competed with her. I wanted to win that content — to be the best writer in the school.

But I didn’t. Jenny did.

As I watched her walk up to accept her prize — the full set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books we’d read that year — I had mixed feelings. I definitely did not want that prize, because I hated those books. Who needs to know how to build a bed peg by peg? Not this girl. But I also really wanted to be as creative as Jenny was and I failed. I sucked. I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that I came in second out of my entire 90+ student class.

I didn’t beat Jenny.

The in-between years

Fast forward through my life, where writing wasn’t a feature because I obviously wasn’t any good at it coming second place to someone I looked up to when I was twelve. I still had stories running through my head and often used them as a means to fall asleep when my brain wouldn’t shut off from the day. But I never wrote them down.

And then in 2009, after getting laid off from my publishing job, I decided I was going to write something down. The book I wrote was based on a dream in a post-apocalyptic world.

Most of my stories are extensions of my dreams, but this one had a lot of rich details to it that were used to get the ball rolling.

In November, still unemployed but freelancing to be able to eat, I participated in NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write the 50,000 first draft ugly awful words of a book. And I did it. I wrote 50,000 words and my book was born.

My main character, Jenna, was smart, sarcastic, and funny; she was also incredibly isolated, an outsider, and a person who never saw her impact on the people around her. It took me 5 years to finish it, picking it up and putting it down at random moments in time. But eventually, I finished it.

At the time, I had taken a science fiction and fantasy writing class at the local university. Part of the class requirement was to read out five pages of your book. The same week it was my turn to read I had had a job interview. I was more nervous to read those pages than anything else I’d done in life, including that interview.

My classmates liked the content, but I was bombarded with questions on where the people came from, how did the food get made, where did the clothing come from. I couldn’t answer any of these questions, because I forgot to build the world while building the book. I had no idea where it came from; to me, it wasn’t relevant to the narrative. But to the readers, it most definitely was.

My husband did some research as to how much water and power my New City of York needed. He did amazing work on it and tried to help me build the world, but it was so overwhelming, I couldn’t face it. Once the class ended, I shelved the book.

Fast forward to the present

The idea for my current book, The Deep Space Between, came to me while I was writing my other poorly titled Apocalypse Girl book. And it wasn’t a dream, but an idea born out of another daydream, featuring a girl with a boogeyman riding shotgun in her body.

A girl who was an outsider, who was isolated, who felt unloved and separate from everyone else. A girl who never saw the impact she had on the people around her.

Once I realized I’d written, or started writing, two books about the same type of girl, I took a long hard look at myself. I realized I was them, they were me, just in different settings and circumstances. I had a story that needed to be told and I was the person to tell it.

This book is born out of two fears: I’m not good enough to write an engaging story; and, it wouldn’t have any impact on anyone even if I did. But I’m done competing with my 12-year-old self (since it was never about Jenny Simeon anyway).

I’m ready to see the impact I could have, or my character will have, on the world around her as she navigates the story and potentially learns more about my impact on my world in the process.

And that’s good enough for me.

Thank you to author Cassandra Stirling for sharing her inspiring story that led to the release of ‘The Deep Space Between’ which is available now.

About the Book:

Seraphina Lastra Covington had never planned to set foot in the Magical Community of Merricott, New Hampshire again. When she reluctantly returns after a twelve-year absence, she finds that the town has changed: the bustling square she once knew is quiet, and a Magic Wielding child has gone missing. It is not until she starts heeding advice from the voice inside of her head that she realizes everything in her childhood home is not as it seems.

About the Author:

Cassandra Stirling’s entire career revolves around language. She has worked in the fields of law, publishing, and marketing; writing a book seemed like a natural progression. In 2020, her husband noted that, while Cassandra’s childhood dream job was to be a writer, she “was not a writer,” as “she didn’t write.”

She proved him wrong by writing her debut novel The Deep Space Between.

When she’s not writing or working, Cassandra can be found playing video games, reading, cross-stitching, or generally figuring out how to fit all of her life into the seventeen hours a day she’s not sleeping.

Five Little Monkeys -A Detective Story

Hello friends and happy Saturday, today I’m sharing this recent post by fellow author and blogger Megan

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Five Little Monkeys 

Sunday

Detective James Andrews took a final drag of his cigarette before tossing it. He took a sip of his coffee as he made his way down the taped off alleyway.

“So why am I out here on a Sunday morning?” James asked Detective Benjamin Knowles. Who was speaking with a uniformed officer in the middle of the alley.

“Good morning James. Nice of you to join us.” Benjamin said making his way over to James.

“So what do we have?” James asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

Benjamin opened his notepad. “Female, approximately 5’2” 110 lbs. 25-30 years old. Looks like a drug overdose. She has previous track marks on the inside of her left arm.”

James pulled back the sheet and looked over the pale, skinny woman. “We’ll know more after we run her prints and do a tox screen.” Benjamin said as…

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Guest Post: ‘The Rain Dancer: My Life: The Dyslexic’ – The Story behind the Story by Alan Scott

Introducing author Alan Scott who shares the story behind his book.

Hello, my name is Alan Scott, I am 52 years old, and I am Dyslexic.

I read a book called the Dyslexic advantage by Dr Brock L. Eide & Dr Fernette F.Eide, and for the first time ever I read something about Dyslexia that was not negative.

In its opening pages it quotes a press release (2004) from a top business School in England whose headline was “Entrepreneurs five times more likely to suffer from Dyslexia.” The subheading went on to ask “What makes Sir Richard Branson, Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Norman Foster special?”

The book goes on to say – in light of the tremendous success enjoyed by these entrepreneurs it seems rather odd to describe them as ‘Suffering from Dyslexia’.

After finishing the book, I started to think back over my own life and how being dyslexic had impacted on it. Then during Lockdown, as I stared out the window, I finally found decided to write about experiences.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write but I did know I wanted to challenge people’s thoughts on dyslexia, the world around them and what society expects of them.

Now, as an author I can go on for hours about how wonderful my latest book is. However, sometimes it’s the reader who can summarise the best. Below is a review on Amazon which I think sums up ‘The Rain Dancer’ perfectly.

“This is not your usual novel with twists and turns, and a plethora of characters finding their way to entertain your bored mind. This is a trip into the author’s mind and a chance to see the world through his eyes, the view, that is quite unique because the author is dyslexic. Alan is a sharp observer of life. I think you’ll appreciate his perspective.

I read or listen to lots of books that I really enjoy at the moment and then I completely forget about them the next day. This one was a little bitter and sour to read but it made a mark. I keep on thinking about it. Isn’t this an attribute of a book worth reading?”

If you do decide to read it, I would be very interested in reading your honest thoughts and if it did make you think about life slightly differently.

Thank you to author Alan Scot for sharing his story. You can find him over on Twitter and ‘The Rain Dancer: My Life: The Dyslexic’ is available now.

Guest Post: ‘Food, Family, Friends, & Football: An Introduction to The Winning Ingredient . . .’ By Kelly Swan Taylor

Introducing Kelly Swan Taylor who shares the story of her upcoming novel.

My upcoming contemporary novel is a story of unwavering friendship through loss and triumph and was born out of a love of baking, family traditions, and (of course) my passion for sports. It’s as eclectic as I am and holds a special place in my heart. And I hope it will in yours.

Each fall, for a while now, I pull out my recipe book and prepare for a long season of baking from Halloween through Christmas. What started with a simple (well, not really ingredient-wise) gingerbread recipe turned into at least a dozen different varieties of cookies, now carefully placed between wax paper and packaged inside colorful tins. I tie them with a bow of red and white baker’s twine and ship them off to friends and family. This tradition is my personal version of a bakery and became the catalyst for my debut young adult novel.

As a former laboratory scientist, recipe experimentation is what fueled my enjoyment of baking. That, and sharing the unique results with others. This is something my protagonist, Mia DeSalvo, and I have in common. Bringing new life to old family recipes keeps these cherished memories alive. And it does help to have a wonderful treasure trove of recipes from which to choose. I’m lucky in that department. From my Slovak great-grandmother’s apple strudel to my grandmother-in-law’s “Oatmeal Crispies,” my cookie tins are overflowing.

But it was the stories that my husband told about his Sicilian roots and warm dinners around the Italian table growing up that prompted me to create the DeSalvo Bakery. It was inspired by my husband’s great-grandmother, Antoinette DeSalvo, who immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s. I will never forget my own experience visiting Italy a few years ago and feeling the comforting warmth of delicious food and drink, including sampling several cannoli in each city.

Of course, no sweet teen story would be complete without a fun group of tight, loyal friends. I chose to huddle them around the emerald turf of a football field. While I hadn’t initially intended for football to play such an integral role in the novel, I couldn’t imagine my own high school or college experiences without it and loved the instant action and drama it brought to the story. Whether as supportive teammates or dedicated fans, participating in sports emphasizes teamwork, dedication, and goal setting — all wonderful lessons for the young and old alike. And, while the teenage characters take the lead in this story, the diverse multi-generational cast is included and respected as an important part of their world.

Finally, there is a distinctly American feel to The Winning Ingredient that was intentional. And it isn’t just the all-American football theme. It is scattered throughout the book, from the school’s name and mascot to the hard-working people, who care about their community. The story is a shout-out to immigrant families who own small businesses and came to this country to achieve a dream and share their legacies. Their many recipes and traditions are now weaved into the fabric of our one flag. And I couldn’t forget the essential Gold Star and Blue Star families of our military, who sacrifice so much to keep us safe and allow us the freedom to achieve our dreams.

The Winning Ingredient by Kelly Swan Taylor will be available from the 22nd of September. You can find Kelly on Twitter and for information check out her website.

Change the culture

Never did I think I’d know something well enough to see through it and realise there’s a culture that needs changing. Of course what I think like anyone else is just an opinion and not fact, remember that, but after many years of being published I’ve made an observation of something that I believe needs to be changed. Whether it be through lack of awareness or even lack of knowledge, all the way to ignorance, there is a huge step missing in the culture of modern day self publishing.

Now anyone who enters any arena and achieves an eventual level of expertise might inadvertently change the culture just by enduring that journey. Some changes can be natural like evolution – a change nobody see’s but then some changes need a little encouragement.

Right now we are in a boom period for publishing, especially of the do it yourself persuasion. No longer are the gate keepers controlling content. The online world that has evolved and evolved again is driven by content and most probably these big time publishers and literary agents cannot keep up with starry-eyed story tellers who are pumping out thousands of books, their dreams, their visions brought to life before their eyes. Some are pure treasure and probably good enough for any pro publishers interest. Some might not be but are still a good effort anyway and contribute to the literary industry no matter. No longer are authors waiting to hear back from agents leaving them in limbo or having their work destined for the slush pile, in effect that slush pile is now on Amazon and it’s fighting back – it’s great, it’s richly diverse and it’s there for anyone.

There just seems to be selfless disregard for the industry so many of these published authors are entering, and I’m not putting labels on any particular group of authors but every day I see it, authors old and new blindly sharing the link, sharing the link, sharing the link and then getting down because nobody bought the book and let alone reviewed it. The cycle just repeats. That definition of madness comes to mind.

This culture of over self promotion and nothing else is something I have an ambition to address. Yes we all need to get our stuff out there but there is other stuff out there too and authors can promote themselves by supporting others. I choose not to address this because I am an activist, not because I am some kind of wannabe hero or do I even want to stir a debate, fuck debates online. I want this to change because in the past two and half years I have embraced and supported fellow authors probably more than I have supported myself, and the reward – more than any success I had before that time. It’s done way more good for me that I could possibly describe and I want that good to happen to others!

Just how do these authors think they are going to sell their own book if they don’t support books themselves? That whole being an island thing just goes round like a broken record. Authors looking for that quick fix to sell – there isn’t one. All they constantly want is reviews and sales – this is a just a marathon that never ends because no author will ever be satisfied with the amount of sales and reviews they get, but the truth is, this year for the first time in my life as I writer I felt satisfied. In July I broke my sales record and then I broke it again in September. I won’t be promoting my work with effort for at least four months now. I don’t need to, I’ve got enough and so my focus moves back home, to supporting other authors and a little writing. Why? Because I love books, I love stories and that’s all it needs to be. More authors need to love other books too. You probably have time to write one, so you have time to read and review a few, at least. Give back, trust me, just look at the graphic I shall finish this piece with. You can near enough pin point the moment I started supporting other authors.