Interview: “Starstruck” by Brenda Hiatt

Nerdy astronomy geek Marsha, M to her few friends, has never been anybody special. Orphaned as an infant and reluctantly raised by an overly-strict “aunt,” she’s not even sure who she is. M’s dream of someday escaping tiny Jewel, Indiana and making her mark in the world seems impossibly distant until hot new quarterback Rigel inexplicably befriends her. As Rigel turns his back on fawning cheerleaders to spend time with M, strange things start to happen: her acne clears up, her eyesight improves to the point she can ditch her thick glasses, and when they touch, sparks fly—literally! When M digs for a reason, she discovers deep secrets that will change her formerly mundane life forever…and expose her to perils she never dreamed of.

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I boarded the bus on the first day of school with a weird sense of anticipation. Even after nine years as the class dork, I couldn’t quite squelch a fizzy little hope that this year would be different.

Maybe this year Jimmy Franklin would finally notice I existed. I was fifteen now and marginally less awkward than I’d been last year as a freshman. Maybe I’d do something wild and daring, like, oh, run for treasurer of the French Club. I might even get elected, since last year they’d had to arm-twist someone into doing it.

The familiar sour-stale school bus smell—like old french fries that had been baking in the Indiana sun all summer, with maybe a whiff of vomit—took some of the fizz out of my mood. It was the smell of a dozen past humiliations. Still, I clung to what I hoped was a confident half-smile as I headed for an empty seat two-thirds of the way back.

“Wow, Marsha, nice blouse.”

It was Trina Squires, of course—my nemesis. Trina was everything I wasn’t: pretty, rich, popular, athletic. And we’d more or less hated each other ever since that bracelet incident back in third grade.

“Get dressed in the dark again?” she continued.

My best friend Bri, who had about fifty times more fashion sense than me, had picked out my outfit—a cute white cap-sleeve blouse dotted with tiny blue stars, and denim capris. I totally trusted Bri’s taste. Not wanting Trina to think I cared what she said, I passed her before glancing down at myself.

Oh. Crap. Nice blouse, yeah—buttoned one button off. How did I not notice that before I left the house? Hitching my tattered green backpack a little higher, I tried to cover the neckline, where it was most obvious.

And tripped over Bobby Jeeter’s foot, which he’d stuck out just for me. I caught myself—barely—before I went sprawling, but that didn’t keep half the bus from laughing.

“You know, most guys gave that up back in fifth grade,” I informed Bobby, grabbing my glasses before they slipped off my nose.

“What can I say?” Bobby shrugged, not the least bit apologetic. “It’s still funny.”

More laughter.

Trying to ignore them all, I pushed my glasses back up, sat down in the empty seat and started rebuttoning my blouse as inconspicuously as possible.

Nope, it didn’t look like this year was going to be any different.

—from Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt

The Interview

What inspired you to write Starstruck?

When I was in third or fourth grade, a girl in my class claimed she was really a Martian princess. In fact, she was ADAMANT about it. No matter how we made fun of her or tried to trick her into admitting she was making it up, she stuck to her story—for weeks at least, though I remember it as much longer. Many years later, after I became a writer, I suddenly wondered, “What if she was telling the truth? What if she really WAS a Martian princess?” That “what if?” eventually became Starstruck.

Why do you think so many people, of all ages, love reading YA?

Probably for the same reason I love writing YA! The teen years are so full of emotional milestones, they make for fabulous stories. There’s something so fun about being transported back to that time of life, when EVERYTHING mattered SO MUCH. Not just the fate of worlds (though of course that’s fun, too!) but whether the cute new boy (or girl) will notice me—and what I’ll do if he/she does! Teen emotions can be much more believably over-the-top than in adult fiction, making YA books particularly engaging both to read and to write.

Did you make up any of the science used in your book, and if so, what and why?

Because I needed the science to be far more advanced than our own, I extrapolated known science into what I thought it might plausibly become in the future. I did my best never to depart TOO far from known science, so that all of my “advancements” would at least seem plausible, given what we know now. One of the big challenges has been staying ahead of our own scientific progress, things are changing so quickly these days! It’s definitely been a fun exercise to take currently-known science into the future without losing believability.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m nearly done with the first draft of Convergent, the next book in my Starstruck series/world. I always have a lot of fun writing these books, and this one is especially fun because I get to bring together all the main characters from the previous books and give them a group adventure!

About Brenda

Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-five novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance, and young adult science fiction romance. In addition to writing, Brenda is passionate about embracing life to the fullest, to include scuba diving (she has over 60 dives to her credit), Taekwondo (where she’s currently working toward her 4th degree black belt), hiking, traveling…and reading, of course!

Find Brenda

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

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