Up next in the author interview series is an interview Phil Stamper, author of the forthcoming The Gravity of Us. I read this as an ARC (read the review here), and I loved it so much.
Here’s a bit about Phil Stamper (from his website):
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. THE GRAVITY OF US is his first novel, but he’s no stranger to writing. His self-insert Legend of Zelda fanfiction came with adisclaimer from the 14-year old author: “Please if you write a review don’t criticize my work.” He has since become more open to critique… sort of.
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
And now for the interview!
In the book, you take the world that was built in the 1960s for the first era of human space flight modernize it. Why did you specifically decide to do this?
This is a great question, and I think it was actually a bit of trial and error that got me to this point. I started drafting the novel as a YA historical fiction novel, actually. In the plan for this novel, I was going to build a teen m/m love story into the actual Apollo program. But I had a hard time making it work. Among the issues, it didn’t feel very relevant or exciting as a story. I wasn’t feeling that “spark” you get when a piece is really coming together.
And then I had the idea to make it a contemporary, and I started to find so many parallels between the issues the astronaut families would face today and what they really did face 50 years ago. I replotted the book, adding the social media and reality show elements, the “Orpheus” missions to Mars, and I found a way to reference the drama of the 60s while not getting too caught up in nostalgia. I decided to go for it during NaNoWriMo 2016, and ended up drafting the full book in three weeks. It just worked so well.
In the book, both Cal’s mother and Leon struggle with mental health issues. However, Cal does not explicitly struggle with mental health. Why was it important to you to include mental health issues from the perspective of a perceived outsider (i.e. Cal)?
This really came from my own personal experiences—I’ve spent a lot of time (over the last half-decade especially) learning how to manage my own mental health, and for me, part of the challenge of that is in how to communicate it to others. Too often, it can feel like it’s “me against the world” when mental health is concerned, and I found it almost therapeutic to write from the perspective of a character who may or may not have the same experience, but who still takes the time to listen and understand.
Given the right circumstances, would you consider a sequel?
Absolutely! I loved spending so much time in this world, and I could definitely see the potential for more stories within it. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂
Thank you so much to Phil for his time and thoughtful answers!!
I’ve linked some important links below: