Interview with Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views.
Tyler: Welcome, Kelly. I’m excited to talk to you today. To
begin, will you tell us about the novel’s main character,
Samantha Gerris? What do you think will make her appeal to
readers, and how does she stand apart from heroines in other
Kelly: Samantha is a likeable character. She is kind, smart
and humble. She is accepting of people and has the ability to
love easily. Samantha tells the story from different parts of
her life which show her in multiple roles. She is seen as a
mother, daughter, wife, lover, friend and co-worker making
her appealing to multiple generations. She not only displays
her strengths, but shares her vulnerabilities with the reader.
As the story progresses, so does she. Samantha not only
becomes stronger and braver, but discovers her own inner
strength she had all along.
Tyler: Kelly, in your promotional materials, Samantha is
described as having the “professional goal of creating the
impossible.” What is that goal?
Kelly: Samantha is working for a company called the Space
Island Group (SIG) with the ultimate goal of commercialization
of Space. The company is building solar satellites for clean
energy to be beamed back to Earth as well as a giant space
resort/space station. The word impossible is used because
nothing of this scale has ever been built. The outer space
resort would become a getaway for tourists as well as a
manufacturing and research center for companies requiring
zero or partial gravity to create their products. It would create
new jobs and make Space travel almost as commonplace as
jumping on a plane. We all can admit that Space development
has a long way to go and all of the benefits of working in
Space are yet to be discovered. We already know that there
are many amazing things that can be made in Space that
cannot be manufactured on Earth; things like new life
enhancing medications and stronger metal alloys which would
dramatically improve the things we build. Samantha is aware
of all of these potential benefits. It makes her feel her career
is revolutionary and beneficial to society as a whole.
Tyler: Despite her interest in science, Samantha is content to
stay on earth. Why doesn’t she want to explore space?
Kelly: Samantha is the kind of person who needs to be
persuaded to try new things. Although she can be brave and
adventurous, she requires the help of the other characters in
the story to do so. She also has a fear of flying which makes
her equate Space travel with possible death. In the story, she
has moments in her life where she is quite daring and others
where she reverts back to being a hermit that is happy to stay
Tyler: Will you tell us a little about Space Island Group (SIG),
the company where Samantha works?
Kelly: The Space Island Group (SIG) is a real company
based in California focused on Space development. Since they
are a private company, they will be able to do some things a
government funded group such as NASA cannot. They will be
able to bring private citizens and companies into Space as
business and service providers. I believe private companies
are our only hope when it comes to advancing our presence in
Space. If we are limited to using taxpayer money alone, we
will continue to lag behind and deny ourselves all of the
amazing discoveries awaiting us. We all need to work
together if we are going to get anywhere. I believe our society
has reached a point where it is no longer possible to ignore
the galaxy we live in. It is negligent to our future to do so.
Tyler: Kelly, I’m surprised that SIG is a real company. Did
you have any concerns about depicting it in the novel? Why
did you choose not to fictionalize it?
Kelly: I was excited when SIG gave me permission to use its
name. It’s thrilling to think that there’s a real company working
toward building solar satellites and future Space stations right
now. It makes the story seem probable. It doesn’t get any
better than that. I hope that the book will entice people to
learn more about the developments in Space and increase the
public awareness of companies like SIG. I think dreams can
become realities when you start to believe you can do
something. When I was writing, I focused on portraying the
company’s goals while adding the fiction elements around it.
People know SIG is not hanging out with aliens or secretly
working with them to improve our technology. It’s easy to tell
where the story isn’t real. However, it makes the reader
wonder, what if it were possible? It also makes you think
about how you would react if you were in the character’s
Tyler: I understand Samantha’s children do want to explore
space. Will you tell us about them and Samantha’s relationship
Kelly: Samantha has a son and a daughter in the story. She is
well bonded to her daughter and somewhat tormented by her
son’s lack of closeness. Both children tend to take after their
father who is naturally brave, adventure seeking and driven.
Without giving too much away, the kids are growing up in a
time when children attend college at a young age and take on
adult responsibilities earlier in life. This causes Samantha
stress because she isn’t in a rush to see them move out and
worries about their safety.
Tyler: Samantha does end up going to space, and she has
several adventures. I don’t want to give away too much of the
plot, so what are you willing to tell us about Samantha’s
Kelly: The story begins on Earth because I wanted to write a
book that made you feel like it could happen to you. Our world
is changing at a rapid rate and technology is going to make
things that were once believed impossible a reality. By the
time the story reaches Space, the reader is familiar with the
world Samantha is living in. Samantha travels to the Space
resort and accidentally ends up traveling across the galaxy on
an alien starship. Here she uncovers secrets to the Universe
she was previously oblivious to while living on Earth. Being
inexperienced in Space travel, the journey is not only difficult
for her to survive, it makes her miss her previous life on Earth
even more. She is faced with multiple challenges which help
her to become a stronger person. She forges friendships she
never could have foreseen and falls in love with an intelligent,
sexy alien. Overall, she gains a deeper appreciation for the
blessings in her life and makes a conscious decision of how
she would like to live in the future.
Tyler: Will you tell us a little more about the aliens in the book
and Samantha’s “intelligent, sexy alien” specifically?
Kelly: Since the book is told in the first person and from a
female’s point of view, I added several strong male characters
to add balance to the story. I wanted the male readers to
have someone they could relate to. The aliens you are
referring to are just like us. Their planet seems like a parallel
universe to Earth. Samantha ends up falling in love with an
alien on her voyage. He has all of the traits you would expect
for someone who travels on a starship. He is quick to
respond, has good judgment, and above all, he is happy to be
living in Space. He has a few quirks as well, but they just add
to his charm.
Tyler: Kelly, why the subtitle “Kataria”?
Kelly: I wanted to name the book “Beyond the Stars” after I
wrote a passage in the book where a handsome alien points
to an area of Space and tells Samantha that Kataria is just
beyond the stars. I think that line excited me because I love to
think about the colossal size of our own galaxy as well as the
size of the Universe. It’s mind-boggling and makes me feel so
small yet thrilled to be a part of it. We don’t know what or who
is out there. The possibilities are endless. I love it! I added the
subtitle “Kataria” to differentiate the book from previous
Beyond the Stars novels and to give a hint to what the story
entailed—a trip to Kataria, not a book on astronomy.
Tyler: Kelly, will you tell us more about the setting. At what
time in the future is the novel set and why did you decide on
that specific time period?
Kelly: The book is set in the not-so-distant future. I am
optimistically predicting the story could take place twenty to
thirty years from now. The book covers a twenty year span.
The story begins at a time when we have successfully
achieved our presence in Space. It then flashes back twenty
years to a time that could easily be perceived as our present
day. The story swiftly returns Samantha back to the original
future, setting the course for her outer space journey.
Tyler: Kelly, why do you optimistically predict that living in
space could happen in thirty years when it’s been already
forty years since man stepped on the moon. It doesn’t seem
we’ve made much progress since then? What changes in
science or space exploration make you optimistic?
Kelly: There are more people working toward making it a
reality. Currently private companies like Virgin Galactic, Space
X, Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerospace, and a dozen others, are
designing outer space living quarters and spaceships capable
of reaching low Earth orbit, as well as engineers aiming to
build a Space elevator. We also continue to improve our
technology on a daily basis. A cell phone or computer could
become outdated almost as soon as you buy it.
Tyler: If living on other planets were to become realistic, do
you think you would do so?
Kelly: No, I’m a spoiled Earthling. I would however love to
visit a Space station in Low Earth Orbit if there were an
affordable way to get there. I would want to bring my
daughters with me because it would be great to share the
experience with them. My husband would stay home. He jokes
by saying, “go—have fun.”
Tyler: You mentioned the previous “Beyond the Stars” novels.
Will you tell us a little more about them?
Kelly: When I was thinking of the title Beyond the Stars, I did
a search for the title and found Beyond the Stars used in
various forms of older book titles. The books are mostly out of
print and I have never read them. Having fallen in love with the
name, I decided to use it.
Tyler: What do you find most difficult, and what most
enjoyable about creating a science fiction novel?
Kelly: I wanted to write a story that was as realistic as
possible. Good science fiction takes what we know today and
considers the possibilities of tomorrow. The story takes the
liberty that we have succeeded in building in Space and have
made contact with beings from another world. I tried not to
over-glamorize the aliens in the story. Instead, I focused on
keeping them real and believable. Through the writing
process, I ended up shortening and editing the science
portions of the story. I would write in-depth descriptions of
things I found intriguing and read them to my husband and
mother only to have them say, “No, you geek.” That’s when I
aimed my story to reach a broader audience instead of the
die-hard science fiction fan.
Tyler: Often science fiction and fantasy are lumped together
as a genre, but I’ve always thought aside from the imaginative
aspect, they are radically different. What do you think might
be some of the main differences between them, and what
challenges might a fantasy author face that a science fiction
novelist might not, or vice versa?
Kelly: I think science fiction and fantasy can overlap to a
point. Science fiction differs where the imagination of a writer
has the potential of becoming a reality where fantasy cannot.
For example, a science fiction story may include something
yet to be invented, where you probably can’t create a unicorn.
Tyler: Would you say you’ve been influenced specifically by
any science-fiction writers, or are there certain interests you
have in science itself that inspired you?
Kelly: I wasn’t influenced by other science fiction books, but I
do enjoy watching science fiction shows like “Star Trek.” The
inspiration for my story came from non-fiction. As a hobby, I
like to read about the progress of Space development,
physics and advances in technology and medicine. The story
was something I started thinking about when I couldn’t sleep.
Over time, I would keep myself entertained by thinking about
the characters in my head until I fell asleep. I finally got to the
point where I wanted to share the story with others. I would
think of the scenes, their humor and sexual tension, and
thought, this is just too good to keep to myself. That’s when I
Tyler: Kelly, will you tell us some of your plans for the future
books in the series and when we can expect the next one to
Kelly: I am currently working on the next book in the series. I
have ideas for a third, but want to write one book at a time. I
am hoping to have the next book out in the Fall of 2010.
Tyler: Thank you, Kelly, for joining me today. Before we go,
will you tell us about your Web site and what additional
information may be found there about “Beyond the Stars:
Kelly: Thanks for having me and for the thoughtful questions.
It’s been fun discussing my first novel. I hope that the story
brings happiness and entertainment to its readers. Thank you