Author Liz Gruder
As a youth, Liz Gruder saw a series of UFOs with her best friend while riding bikes. Ever since, she’s held a fascination for the stars. An avid reader, she used to hide under her covers and read with a flashlight. She has degrees in English and Psychology from Tulane University, a nursing license and a yoga certification. After going through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Liz realized how short life is and is now slowly fulfilling her bucket list: she’s been to the Egyptian pyramids (totally awesome and thought provoking) and is now teaching yoga and writing speculative fiction. Starseed is her debut novel.
Can you tell us about your main character? Kaila Guidry is a sixteen-year-old half human, half-extraterrestrial hybrid, yet she doesn’t know it. Sheltered and home schooled, when she rebels and goes to high school, she meets Jordyn Stryker, who is a hybrid, too, but was raised far from Earth. That’s where a celestial love and awakening begins. Kaila illustrates many starseed traits: above-average intelligence, telepathic, blows out electrical devices with heightened emotion, compelling eyes, highly empathic, animals attracted to her, bewildered by prejudices and violence, and possessing many extraordinary powers waiting to be discovered….
How important do you think villains are in a story? All stories are about conflict. So it’s essential to have villains in a story, whether as external characters or as a character trait within the self, as in at war with the self. In Starseed, I have both: the “hive” who are a group of half-human, half-alien students invading the high school and that Kaila is at war with herself: not knowing who she is, wanting to fit in, and struggling for identity. There are also human bullies in the school who ridicule and mock those who are different, including Kaila.
How did you develop your plot and characters? I think it’s essential to have most of the “story” in your head before writing a novel. Then, as I immersed myself in the writing, some of the characters just appeared. Since the “hive”-- the students who are half ET, half human are part human-- they have different character traits even though these type of aliens are of a group, or hive, mind. For example, Echidna and Viktor mirror the more alien side in that they believe human emotion is useless and ridiculous, whereas Jordyn and Toby are intrigued by love and earthly things like parties, music, riding horses and eating real Earth food. It was fun to step back and view high school through alien eyes. As you might imagine, all the social groups, clothes, music and customs might be confusing and “alien.” In the end, if we strip everything away—the groups, the music, the clothes, the beliefs-- what is truly important? I believe the human answer is “love.”
How did you come up with the title? I struggled to come up with a title even after I finished writing. The working title was: “Awakening the Alien Inside” which I knew was terrible. There are a lot of starseed groups online and then it struck me that because I had characters originating from the stars, I could name it starseed, even though starseed “purists” will insist that a starseed is a human with a soul originating from the stars. The character Priscilla Snowden personifies a benevolent higher-dimensional starseed.
Have you included a lot of your life experiences in the plot? Since Starseed deals with bullying and cruelty in high school, I quizzed my daughter about the meanest things she’d witnessed in school. She told me that during a football game, one of the football players got on the loudspeaker and announced in front of the entire stadium that he knew this girl (he said her name) had a huge crush on him, but that she was a LOSER and should just die. I couldn’t imagine (outside of physical abuse) a more horrible bullying, in that he belittled her in front of the entire stadium. I used this in a scene in Starseed. The death of the grandfather was based on my father’s death, who died shortly after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. (Yeah, that was a tough period and real life is hard, so that’s why I write speculative romantic fiction). At least in books, we can have happy endings. . . .
What was the hardest part about writing this book? When I was doing research on aliens, much of it was fairly dark. I went so far down the rabbit hole that I nearly abandoned writing a teen novel. But when I realized that hybrids are half human, I pulled out the better parts of being human. Just as there are benevolent and malevolent extraterrestrials, there are incredibly evil people and many kind, loving souls. In the end, I chose to focus on the best parts of being human, the part that can love. Love, respect, and tolerance are the most important qualities for all beings in the universe… Without those traits, we will always have war (and bullying).
How much of the book is realistic? Though Starseed seems like vivid imagination, I did a lot of research. So when I write about other dimensions, telepathy, teleportation, space travel, mind control, it has a basis on research. In addition, there are thousands of people claiming to have been abducted, thousands of people claiming to be starseeds, thousands of youtube UFO videos (though, yes, many are faked, but what about the ones that are not?) Is it realistic to believe that we are alone, that we are the only life forms in the universe?
Are there any authors that have sparked your interest and why? In searching for authors writing anything remotely like Starseed, I deducted there aren’t a whole lot of YA authors writing about aliens. In a similar ballpark as Starseed (but different) are Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series, Stephenie Meyers The Host and Melinda Metz’s Roswell series. I like Beth Revis’s YA sci-fi and am currently reading Meagan Spooner’s Skylark.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? I’ve traveled a lot, including seeing the Egyptian pyramids, which was number one on my bucket list. I’ve swam in many beautiful beaches with blue, clear water and colorful fish. But my fave place now, is my own mind, because I can travel anywhere, anytime I wish.
Author: Liz Gruder
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Published: February 2013
Kaila Guidry has always known she is different. When she meets Jordyn Stryker at school, she finds out just how different.
Jordyn was born and raised far from Earth, a starseed, one of six new students sent to Louisiana's Bush High to learn human ways. But Jordyn didn't count on meeting someone like Kaila.
When Kaila is pushed to her limit by high school bullying and cruelty, Jordyn awakens her to a new reality—and to love. But to prove herself, Kaila must look the other way as the real purposes of the starseeds unfold.
As the horrific plan behind the starseed visit to Earth moves inexorably forward, Kaila and Jordan, caught in an impossible love, must determine where their true loyalties lie.
"You know from the opening paragraph that something very strange is going on… We see Kaila try to live the life of a normal teen, and we see her "otherness" pull her back into an increasingly tangled web of questions, deceit, and hidden intentions. Liz really shines as a writer, lining the closets and drawers of everyday life with spine-chilling suspense that springs out at you when you least expect it. Starseed is an entertaining read. I highly recommend."
--Patricia B. Smith. Author “What the Animals Tell Me” and “Fifty Shades of Santa” (clean romance fiction)
"Liz Gruder’s characters come alive through youthful, spunky narrative, and her headstrong heroine, Kaila Guidry, elicits a reader’s encouragement from the first page. Fans of Amanda Hocking will find themselves similarly transported into Gruder’s exploration of the dark sides of faith, love, higher dimensions, and, of course, high school." --Jadie Jones, young-adult fantasy author
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