I am so thrilled to once again help C.E. Stone celebrate the release of another book-- in this case, the second book in her series, Starganauts!
They found a new homeworld...only to discover an old enemy.
Kaity and her teammates enjoy life on Vexador, a futuristic world that welcomed them as heroes. Yet when an enemy threatens the planet, Kaity must return to Starganaut life—the last thing she wants. Meanwhile, Samantha is troubled after Vogul’s defeat. While the others enjoy peacetime, the prophetess remains vigilant. War looms on Vexador’s horizon, yet Samantha is unable to warn anyone of the coming storm.
Sharko is adjusting to being the Starganauts’ leader when Trylithia attacks. With intergalactic war brewing, he faces a personal crisis as well: his wife Kaity is poised to leave the team. He can barely hold his marriage together, let alone their planetary defense. Hope seems lost in the face of the Trylithian army, whose leader is bent on revenge against the Starganauts despite them never having met. Will this mysterious leader shatter their team, or will Samantha’s disaster prove their salvation?
Once again, I got to sit down (virtually!) with Stone and interview her about the release of Starganauts! So, without further ado, let's hop right into the good stuff...
1. How is writing a sequel different than writing a first book?
I found writing the sequel to be easier. With Book 1, I was finding my sea legs, as Starganauts is the first series I’ve ever written. I’d created the characters at the age of 10, so they were all 1-dimensional. I had to build their personalities and arcs from the ground up. By the time Retribution came along, I knew who the characters were and I had a book under my belt. It was also more fun for me. I felt I could focus less on introductions and set-up and more on worldbuilding and action.
2. Best thing about writing a sequel?
I enjoyed going deeper with the characters and worldbuilding. Because everything’s already established, it’s easier to continue existing character arcs while exploring those of new additions. I particularly enjoyed writing James, Commander Tazen, and Tormac Grunn’s scenes. They’re just so interesting, and Dudeman is SO different in this one. The worldbuilding was also a blast. Trylithia and Vexador have existed in my mind since I was 9 or 10. It was exhilarating bringing them to life on the page like never before.
3. Worst thing about writing a sequel?
Editing! I honestly have no complaints about writing Retribution. It was fun and, as stated above, easier. Editing Book 2 was an absolute chore and took me three times longer than Book 1. I’d also become aware, due to reviews, that I needed to work on a more consistent POV. As I can’t visualize my stories much in my mind, this was almost painful. I had to go line-by-line through the entire story and try to imagine what the scenes would look like from my character’s eyes. In some cases, I made up their mannerisms, gestures, the sounds they might hear, etc.. Editing was far harder than writing!
4. What was your favorite scene to write—no spoilers, of course!
That is an incredibly difficult question to answer. I enjoyed so many scenes in Retribution and most of them contain spoilers! I would say the scene where Dudeman boards a certain vessel on a certain night mission over a sea. The way everything came together and the sheer fun of it were a blast to put down on paper!
5. Do you have a favorite character to write?
Yes, Samantha Harris. While Kaity is most like me, Samantha is my favorite to write because she’s my opposite. Samantha is bold, decisive, and likes being the center of attention. She’s stubborn in the face of evil, wise, and discerning. I am so not like that! Lol. She’s based off a good friend of mine, so I find it easy to figure out how she’d act in a given situation.
One way in which we are similar is our faith. Samantha regularly spends time with God, trusting Him and surrendering her plans to His perfect will. She can also be incredibly humble. I love being able to explore this character who’s so deeply in love with Jesus, yet has to fight her own inclination to be large-and-in-charge. Her scenes are never dull!
6. What are some messages you hope readers find in this series?
God brings great beauty out of ashes. Serving Him may be costly, but it’s SO worth it. Faith in Jesus can get you through any of life’s storms. Knowing Jesus isn’t about keeping rules…it’s a relationship with the Savior of the Universe, grounded in the truth of the Gospel. Being a Christian involves putting Christ’s teachings into practice, not merely hearing them. Nobody is beyond saving. Revenge is the Lord’s, and taking it into your own hands only leads to disaster. Living for the Lord is the only thing that truly fulfills you. Jesus understands your pain. I could go on.
7. Now that your first book has been out for a while, you’ve got lots of reviews in—some good, some bad. How would you say you react to criticism and praise?
Great question! Criticism wrecks me. Praise makes my day. I know there’s this whole adage of authors needing to “grow a thick skin,” but I’ve never been able to do this. Both impact me deeply.
I knew going into this author business that criticism would hurt like the Dickens. Even then, the pain of getting my first 1-star review surprised me. Didn’t help that it came on the heels of two other negative reviews…within a few weeks! I grew up harshly criticized by someone I loved from the time I started writing. Criticism is my Achilles’ heel. I don’t ignore it. I listen to, evaluate, and learn from criticism. It simply hurts. When words are your love language, you’re a Perfectionist, AND you have a history of being told you can’t write…it’s my greatest struggle. Thankfully, I’ve learned to set boundaries. I think I’m also growing better at taking—and recovering from—criticism. I’ve realized some people will hate your book simply because it’s not their cup of tea. God has also been using this to continue working on my Perfectionism. When harsh criticism comes, I’m learning to turn it over to Him and just keep on doing what He called me to.
On the opposite end, praise means the world to me. Every time I get a good review, I get a happy buzz! People will message me or come up to me at church, the store, etc., telling me how much my book impacted them. That’s the absolute best! If I succeeded in touching someone or encouraging them in their walk with Jesus, it makes my day! I’m an emotional person and I can’t shut my heart off. The positive side of this is that praise spurs me on and inspires me. I respond with gratitude, and also thank
my Heavenly Father, because He is the ultimate reason I’m able to publish. I also remind myself, in the pain of criticism, how many more people love my book and anticipate the next one. So you could say I respond badly to both, or well. It depends on your perspective.
8. What’s your favorite fan interaction/review?
My favorite review was one in which the reader said my story impacted her personally. She listed out quotes from Starganauts that God used to speak to her current life situation. For me, that was like winning the Lottery! I write to glorify God and encourage fellow believers. Knowing that my book had an impact in someone’s life is a priceless treasure. Though earthly success fluctuates, I feel like I’ve already succeeded. Knowing I’ve helped even one person in their walk with God makes everything worth it.
9. Are you a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between—and did Retribution change at all from beginning draft to end story?
The answer to the first question is simple. I’m a planster. I start with a very general outline of a story, then pants my way through it, discovering the arcs, themes, etc.. Chances are that if you’re reading along and get surprised by a plot twist, it surprised me first, too! ;)
Answering the second part of your question: how long do you have? All day? All week?
On a serious note, I could write a doctoral thesis on the ways Retribution changed, so I’ll summarize. The first 70 pages were MUCH slower and contained a lot more background information and worldbuilding. I chopped them down to improve the pacing/flow. POV in the first draft was a mess. Most of my scenes were told from multiple POVs, so I went through painstakingly and attached nearly all of them to just one character. I also added several scenes, heightened the drama, fleshed out the characters, and fixed a few plot holes. The basic plot barely changed, but how I told the story was altered drastically!
10. Looking ahead—what’s next for the Starganauts—and you!
The Starganauts will soon be facing a new foe in Book 3, Defector. They’ll also deal with the aftermath of Retribution, as Samantha slips into an old habit and Sharko begins questioning whether he can lead. Mike and Chrysta will take center stage as the Starganauts embark on a quest seeking something they lost. There may be cybernetic space pirates, otherworldly libraries, and a shadowy assassin involved! ;)
As for me, the plan is to edit Defector and release it next spring. However, since I rushed to finish edits for Retribution, I’m keeping my schedule MUCH more open. If Defector takes longer than anticipated, I’ll push back the release date. I’m never again putting myself through the marathons of editing it took to finish Retribution. For the long term, Starganauts will span 12 books. Lord willing, I’ll publish all of them, so stay tuned for further adventures!
But that's not all the fun we have today-- we also have some fun character questions as well!
Last year, I interviewed Stone's characters, so I thought it would be fun to "catch up" with Samantha, Kaity, Sharko, and James again! ;)
1. Favorite thing about Vexador?
Samantha – The people. They’re generally friendly and aren’t out to kill us. Most Vexadorians believe in Jesus, so my job here is a lot easier. Plus, they’re just so fascinating! They have such different perspectives, and they automatically like us, which I confess I enjoy. A little. Maybe.
Sharko – I enjoy the technology and conveniences. It’s SO nice to return home after a day of hover-cabbing and have food cook instantly, the door open automatically, and the information of an entire galaxy in one little micropad. Oh, and the internet never drops!
Kaity – The peace and quiet. I feel like this is a place where Sharko and I can put down roots. We can thrive, not just survive!
James – Tahlimo! I miss surfing, but skimming across the waves on a paper-thin, hovering board with the wind whipping your hair and the river sprayin’ your face…there’s nothing like it!
2. Least favorite thing about Vexador?
Samantha – The heat! I’m grateful to be away from Sahara, but why did God make Vexador a desert, too? I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s civilized, and has other climates. I could simply use a forested planet or somewhere foggy and misty.
Sharko – The paparazzi. It’s nice being lauded as heroes, but when you can’t kiss your wife without someone taking photos, it gets annoying. I guess that’s one similarity with Earth!
Kaity – The language. Altilni is just awkward! For being someone who excelled with language, I find this one near-impossible to master. I mean, take the name Bruxlelctis! Just that one caused my tongue to trip over itself. If I could change one thing about Vexador, I’d change the language.
James – To be honest, Vexador is pretty sweet! I can’t think of anything I’d change, except maybe some good waves at the beach for me to surf. Oh, and maybe Samantha…and Matt!…being less far away.
3. You’re going on vacation—who do you take with you and where do you go?
Samantha – I’d definitely take Matt to some far off place. I’m not sure where we would go. I’d just like to visit the Gorvan Galaxy with my Primo and spend some time with him. Kaity and the others are all nice and good, but my cousin is practical and gets me. You know? Plus, maybe we could get a break from the heat.
Sharko – I’d go to the Jaharil Mountains with Kaity again! That’s where we had our overdue honeymoon, and that place has special memories and meaning for us.
Kaity – I’m good being home. I love our apartment and lifestyle on Vexador. But, if I could go anywhere, I think I’d check out Paradeesia with Sharko. It’s a resort world with a beautiful, tropical climate. How relaxing that must be! It beats the bleakness of Sahara and the deserts here.
James – Um, that’s a hard one. I mean, I’d like to take Sharko to Equarion. It’s an ocean planet with a few islands and I’ve heard they’ve got some sick waves! But I’d also really like going to Paradeesia with someone else. Not going to say who, but if circumstances change and it becomes appropriate, I’d be quite happy going there with said person. We shall see!
4. If you could upgrade your Starganaut costume, what would you add?
Samantha – It’s not a costume, just to clarify! It’s an armor suit, glorified body, and super advanced weaponry. Okay, with that out of the way, I’d love scopes on my guns to make long-range shots easier. A knife might be nice for close combat. Also, a snack pouch. A girl’s gotta eat!
Sharko – I’d love to add explosives to my arsenal! A torchsword and carbine are great, but why does Fyromaniac get all the fun stuff? Just saying…
Kaity – I’d love to exchange my sword for a gun. I hate close combat. Ugh! A shield like Apotheka’s might be nice, instead of my current, handheld one. In fact, maybe I’d just be happiest changing into Apotheka, and she can take my Form! Oh wait, blood. Wounds. Hmm. Sorry, I got nothing.
James – More explosives. Perhaps mines. An unlimited supply of tuporos and a flamethrower that doesn’t overheat. I enjoy making Trylithians into barbecue! Oh, and a water setting so I can hose off people who are on fire. Because I sometimes miss my enemies and it’s darn inconvenient, okay?
5. Favorite new person (or place, or thing) you’ve met or found since beginning your journey?
Samantha – I’d say Bruce the Scientist. Sure, his real name’s unpronounceable, but the man knows his stuff. I trust his team as they analyze our orbs. He reminds me of a professor I had in college back on Earth. While I flounder to understand Vexadorian technology, Bruce and I both speak scientist. It’s a refreshing change of pace.
Sharko – Commander Tazen is my favorite new person. The man is chill while being professional, leads by example, and inspires us all. He’s also a firm believer in Jesus and, frankly, someone I look up to.
Kaity – My favorite place is Isolations Spa. It’s a spa in Syvoric with a wading pool where I love to float, relax, and forget I’m in a massively crowded city. I never take pools for granted, after Sahara.
James – Pizza Syvoric. That’s the best place ever. It feels like bein’ back home, except it’s hilarious, because the Vexadorians decorated it to look like Earth. And it’s so off-base! Can’t argue with a sarkaroni pizza, Man!
And there you have it! I hope you've enjoyed learning about C.E. Stone, Retribution, and even some of her characters! Thank you so much for reading, and if you'd like to support Stone and read Retribution, please purchase it here:
Thanks for reading!