A Star to Steer Her By – Welcome Beth Anne Miller
Posted by Addison Fox Mar 20 2017, 12:30 am
I am so excited to welcome my friend and fellow author, Beth Anne Miller, to the Ruby blog today! Beth and I met at a writers conference in 2010 and became fast friends. I’m so glad Beth has joined us to talk about her brand new book, A STAR TO STEER HER BY, hot off the presses from Entangled.
I’m scarred. Broken. I’ll never be the same.
But I will take this journey.
Ever since my last dive ended in bloodshed, I’ve been terrified to go back into the water. But the opportunity to spend a semester at sea is too good to pass up. I need to get my life back.
I never expected to love it this much. And I never expected Tristan MacDougall.
Rugged, strong, and with demons of his own, Tristan helps me find the courage I thought I had lost and heals me with every stolen moment we share. But the rules of the ship mean we can’t be together.
When a dive excursion goes terribly wrong, our only hope for survival is each other.
Wow! Now let’s get all the juicy details about A STAR TO STEER HER BY.
ADDISON FOX: Beth – this book is one that’s close to your heart. Tell us a bit more about A STAR TO STEER HER BY and the experiences in your own life that inspired the book.
BETH ANNE MILLER:
Hi Addison! Thanks so much for having me on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog—and was it really way back in 2010 that we met? How time passes…
Speaking of time passing, it was over 20 years ago (ack!) that I embarked on the voyage that inspired A STAR TO STEER HER BY. I was a marine biology major back then, and one of the things that drew me to the university that I attended was the SEAmester program, which was nine weeks on a schooner. I was accepted for the spring semester of my sophomore year, and off I went, flying to St. Maarten to meet the schooner Harvey Gamage, along with twenty-three other students, eight crew, and two professors. We sailed to various ports-of-call in the Caribbean, then San Salvador in the Bahamas, then up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA to Greenport, Long Island.
Throughout those nine weeks, I had some amazing experiences in port (swimming in Bioluminescent Bay, Vieques; hiking through a rainforest in Grenada; a wall dive in San Salvador) and aboard ship (bow-riding dolphins, taking in the mainsail during a squall in the middle of the night), and of course, steering by the stars across the silent sea (I was also really seasick for the entire trip, but we won’t discuss that here).
My semester at sea was unforgettable, and in the years following, as I finished various degrees and worked at various jobs, I knew I needed to write about it. I started writing down the scenes that I wanted to include, and bit by bit, the story took shape. And though the story is fiction, there are a few scenes sprinkled throughout that really did happen (alas, not the romance with a hot deckhand). I’ve also been a scuba diver since I was a tween, and I wanted to incorporate that element into the story as well.
AF: The most wonderful sense of setting comes through in your writing. What was it like to set a book on a closed environment like a ship?
Thank you! It was definitely a challenge! I think the hardest part was trying to keep the character count down to a minimum. Even though there are fifteen students on this voyage, the only ones who really get any “screentime” are the heroine, Ari, and the four others in her “watch group.” Otherwise, it would have been too difficult to keep them all straight, in addition to the hero, Tristan, and the other relevant crew.
It was also challenging to try to find time for Ari and Tristan to be alone together on the ship—not just romantically, but as they got to know each other. Luckily, neither of them sleep very well, and so they both end up on deck late at night.
The biggest challenge, though, was trying to inject enough about the ship to convey the setting to readers who have never been on a schooner while not bogging down the story with “too much ship stuff.” Many thanks to my editor and her team for their guidance on that!
AF: I’d love to know a bit more about your hero, Tristan MacDougall. Do I detect a bit of the Scotsman in your high seas adventurer? [insert swoon here]
Indeed you do! I can’t pinpoint exactly when I developed my fascination for all things Scottish, but as I started plotting the story and the characters, it just somehow made sense to have a Scottish deckhand as the hero.
Tristan really isn’t your typical twenty-one-year-old guy. Much of his childhood was spent at sea with his family, and while he did ultimately go to high school and has friends his age, there’s a maturity about him. He knows the responsibility he has as a member of the crew and takes his duties. He’s content to sit on the deck in the sunshine mending a sail, to stand at the rail watching the sunset, to handle the helm during a squall, to spend an hour scuba diving on a coral reef. And it’s this quietness, for lack of a better word, that Ari responds to (in addition to his face, and the abs, and the Scottish accent).
AF: While a hot hero with hot abs is always wonderful(!!), Tristan is also so much more. What makes his and Ari’s relationship so special?
Tristan is drawn to Ari’s strength of character (okay, he digs her gorgeous red hair, too). He knows that she’s suffering—not only from seasickness, but also the trauma has left her afraid of the water. But she quietly soldiers on, stifling her obvious pain and misery to do what she set out to do by coming on this voyage. Like him, she’s at her happiest in the darkest part of the night, when all is silent and the only light comes from the stars overhead. In the quiet moments he spends with her, he’s able to forget his own demons for a while. He wants more than anything to help her get back what she’s lost, to see that smile light up her face…
AF: A STAR TO STEER HER BY is categorized as new adult. Could you talk a bit more about that and what influences the age of your hero and heroine (or their life stage) had on the story arc? Or was this more a story you wanted to tell and it naturally fit the ages of the characters?
I actually started out writing STAR as a YA, but ultimately the voice of the main characters, and the issues they were dealing with, fit better with characters who were a little farther along in life than high school.
Ari is an avid scuba diver who has only ever wanted to become a marine biologist so she can study the coral reefs she loves so much. But she had a traumatic diving experience prior to the start of the story, which has left her afraid to go in the water. She hopes that the semester at sea—which she had applied to before the incident—will help her overcome that fear, or else she fears that the career and life she’s dreamed of will no longer be possible.
Tristan, a couple of years older than Ari, has also always known what he’s wanted to do with his life. He grew up sailing with his parents—in fact, his father is the captain of the schooner they’re on—and he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and impart his love of the sea and of sailing to the next generation. Like Ari, Tristan has demons that he’s running from, and he’s torn between the needs of his family and his own dreams and desires.
The issues that Ari and Tristan are trying to work through just seemed more in line with being out from under your parents’ roof but not yet fully out in the world.
AF: A STAR TO STEER HER BY is your second book, after your debut, INTO THE SCOTTISH MIST. While the settings are vastly different, both stories obviously drew you. Where do you find your inspiration?
Both books were inspired by my own travels and experiences: STAR by my semester at sea, and INTO THE SCOTTISH MIST by a road trip through Scotland. While INTO THE SCOTTISH MIST is a time-travel, and I have not actually traveled through time (or have I??), there’s something about Scotland—a combination of the ancient ruins and misty glens, along with centuries of bloodshed—that makes you feel as though anything is possible, from ancient sea creatures undulating through the sapphire waters of a loch, to ghostly warriors on a desolate battlefield, to a strange mist that can whisk you through time.
AF: Thanks for joining the Rubies today. We’re so excited to celebrate your latest release and are so glad you’re spending the day with us!
Thank you so much for having me!
Leave a comment and be entered in a giveaway. Beth Anne has some outstanding photos of her own time on the high seas and will provide a print – choice of which one – to one lucky US commenter.
Thanks for joining us today!
*** QUICK UPDATE BY ADDISON ON 3/20 ***
We’re going to keep Beth Anne’s great giveaway open through 8P EST Friday, 3/24. There’s still time to comment to get a chance to win!
How to find A STAR TO STEER HER BY:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-star-to-steer-her-by-beth-anne-miller/1125854591