Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Q&A with Monica Byrne




Monica Byrne is the author of the new novel The Actual Star. Her other work includes the novel The Girl in the Road. Also a playwright, she is based in Durham, North Carolina.


Q: What inspired you to write The Actual Star?


A: In 2012, I went on a hiking trip to Actun Tunichil Muknal, a sacred cave in Belize. It was such a transformational experience that I knew I had to write a whole book about it. I didn't know it would take the next nine years of my life!


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the historical sections of the book, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: Yes, I did nine years of research, which included six return trips to Belize and 11 return trips to the cave.


I was definitely surprised to learn that ancient Maya women administered hallucinogenic enemas to their partners. I had to include that in the book. How could I not.


Q: The novel takes place in three separate time periods, a thousand years apart. How did you create the world of the future that you depict in the book?


A: After the 2016 U. S. election, I sat down and asked myself, "What would the world look like, if we could unmake all the social systems that led to this catastrophe?" My answer is the utopian future world of 3012, dominated by an anarchist religion called Laviaja.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I always knew what the very final chapter and scene would be. But the path to getting there changed many times, for sure.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm working on my second feature screenplay--a near-future science fiction epic--and a third novel called Ordinary Time, set in a surrealist version of my hometown of Annville, Pennsylvania.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! All of my work--including The Actual Star--is made possible by my community of patrons on Patreon. If you'd like to join (and subsidize the availability of my work to all, regardless of means), you can sign up here!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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