A YA SciFi retelling of Les Misérables... Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell (Interview & #Giveaway)

This is a book I've been anticipating reading for some time. I LOVE Les Misérables
and I love Sci-Fi, so it's a pretty perfect premise for me. Check out the fun pre-order gift
 and a fabulous interview with the authors below that you should definitely read - makes me
even more excited about this book and the sequel! There's also a tour giveaway as well...

Sky Without Stars
YA SciFi, Retelling
Hardcover & ebook, 592 Pages
March 26th 2019 by Simon Pulse


A thief.
An officer.
A guardian. 

Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.

(Affiliate links included.)

Pre-order a hardcover of SKY WITHOUT STARS by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell from a participating indie bookstore* before March 26, 2019 and you’ll receive an exclusive Sky Without Stars Gift Pack, including the following:
  • A limited edition two-sided 12”x16” poster featuring the ONLY available colored version of the book’s world map
  • A Sky Without Stars bookplate, signed by both authors
  • A Sky Without Stars postcard
  • A Sky Without Stars bookmark
The gift pack will be included with your book when it is shipped or picked up in store.

*Click here for participating stores.

Interview with the Authors

Welcome, Jessica and Joanne, to my blog today!

How did you two end up meeting?

Joanne: Jess and I actually met on the phone! And not even a cell phone. A good old landline, back in the day! I was just about to launch my first novel and Jess ran a successful book promotion website called Free Book Friday. She was interviewing me for the site and we were supposed to talk for ten minutes max. I think we ended up talking for over an hour! Something just clicked between us – perhaps our love of British pop music, or maybe it was the long discussion of the best kinds of tea. Whatever it was, we pretty much didn’t stop talking after that! We soon became great friends and started working on writing and teaching projects together soon after that.

What inspired you guys to write SKY WITHOUT STARS?

Jessica: Back in 2014, I sat in on a retellings class taught by authors Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes. They handed us each a worksheet. On one side they told us to write down any and every classic story we’ve ever loved. Among many, I wrote “Les Misérables”. Then on the other side, they told us to write down a list of interesting settings. Among many, I wrote, “space.” (See picture below.) I literally drew a line between the two and a shiver ran through me. Les Mis, set in space? It felt like too big of an undertaking to do alone so years later when my best friend Joanne Rendell told, randomly, that Les Mis was one of her favorite classics, I knew she was the one I had to write it with! And SKY WITHOUT STARS was born!

What parts of the story did each of you write?

Joanne: Before we started on Sky Without Stars, Jess and I spent a lot of time together planning and tightly plotting the novel. We then drafted chapters on our own – Jess took Chatine’s, I took Alouette’s, and we fought like cats over who got to write the first drafts of Marcellus’s chapters! Then, once we had drafts of the chapters finished, we handed them back and forth, editing and tweaking. Jess is the queen of dialogue and plotting, while I love to “illustrate.” In other words, I enjoy going to town on all the descriptions of the planet, tech, architecture, and people in the book. We make a great team, and luckily we’re both good at being flexible and letting go of “our darlings.” One rule we established early on, and that we’ve successfully stuck by, is the following: “If the other person is not happy with a word or sentence or scene, you must tweak and change, not insist it can’t be changed.”

Would you tell us a little more about these characters?

Jessica: Of course! Chatine is inspired by Eponine from Les Mis. She’s a thief and was born into a family of con artists. Her only dream is to steal enough to get off this miserable planet (see what I did there???). But she soon finds her plans derailed when she’s recruited to spy for the most powerful man on the planet, who also happens to be the grandfather of a young officer named…

Marcellus is inspired by Marius from Les Mis. He’s an officer who is living under the shameful shadow of his father, a traitor to the Regime. His father was incarcerated when Marcellus was very young and so he was raised by his grandfather, General Bonnefaçon, who is grooming him to become commander. But Marcellus starts to doubt the Regime he’s sworn to protect when his father dies and leaves him a cryptic message written in the Forgotten Word. And the only person who can read it is…

Alouette, inspired by Cosette from Les Mis. She is a Guardian who lives in a a secret, underground Refuge, built to protect the last surviving library on the planet. She was raised by a group of intelligent, mindful women, the Sisterhood, who have made it their life’s work to protect the histories of the planet and the First World which died centuries ago. She hasn’t seen the above-ground world in twelve years. But that is about to change…

What is your favorite aspect or part of this story?

Joanne: I love the world we have built! Sky Without Stars is set on the planet of Laterre, a very divided place where the rich live in luxury in a climate-controlled dome and the poor live in the leaking and rusting remains of 500-year old space ships. There are terrifying Police droids, ruthless cyborg inspectors, and rain that constantly falls from the sky. It’s a tough place for the poor and inside the climate-controlled “Ledôme,” it’s a playground for the rich. It’s been so fun conceiving of this world together. I think two minds brainstorming together has made it so much richer than if we’d been working alone.

Jessica: You might know that I’m a plot person. I even wrote a book on how to plot a novel called SAVE THE CAT! WRITES A NOVEL. So I’m super proud of the plot we’ve woven together for this book. Plotting a story with three main characters is an extra challenge because they have to have their own journeys and transformative arcs but they also have to weave together in a believable and dynamic way so that they are all part of each other’s stories as well. It was a master puzzle that took a lot of effort to piece together but I’m so happy with the result!

What has been your favorite part of writing together?

Joanne: Years ago, a writer friend told me she loved writing fiction because it was like getting to play dolls as a grown-up. With a co-writer, it’s like getting to play dolls with a friend, a friend who knows all the characters’ names, the backstories, and who is as excited about coming up with new plot ideas as you are! But, at least for me, writing with Jess hasn’t just been about getting to play dolls – which is incredibly fun, I admit. I’ve also learned SO much from Jess. She’s prolifically published in the YA genre and she taught me so much about plotting, character arcs, and the book business along the way.

Jessica: I loved having someone else to go to when the plot problems appeared. Every project has its obstacles and challenges and problems and normally, you’re sort of on your own to solve them. Sure you can talk them through with other writers or family members or friends, but they will never fully understand the story like you do. When you’re co-authoring, you have a built-in partner who not only knows the story as well as you but is just as passionate and determined to fix the problem as you. It made the whole process so much more enjoyable!

What's one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?

Joanne: Just keep writing! I’ve realized that the people who finish their books, their stories, and who eventually get published are the people who just keep at it. You have to have fun with your writing, but you should also be single-minded and unstoppable! Write every day, don’t doubt yourself too much, and don’t fear rejection or criticism (all writers have been rejected at some point, even J.K. Rowling!).

Jessica: Don’t be afraid to write badly. All writers have awful first drafts. That’s why they’re called first drafts. Sometimes you have to just get through the story before you can make it pretty. I think a lot of new authors quit halfway through the book because they’re afraid that it’s not good. The first draft won’t be good. Accept that and keep going! Just finish it and fix it later. The hardest part about writing a book is getting to that last page. Or, like I always say, “Don't be afraid to write crap because crap makes great fertilizer.”

When you want to escape into a book, what genre do you read?

Joanne: I have to confess, I am a super-fan of the EPIC literary classic. The bigger and older the book, the better! Name them, and I’ve read them: War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, Hard Times, Moby Dick, and of course Les Misérables. Our book Sky Without Stars is a reimagining of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and I’ve read the 1300-page book three times! I just love being lost for days, sometimes weeks and months in the other worlds of these epic books and even though they were often written in very different eras to our own, I feel there’s so much wisdom to learn from the likes of Hugo, Tolstoy, or George Eliot!

Jessica: When I need an escape, I always turn to contemporary fiction. I’m obsessed with Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, and Liane Moriarty. They are my must-reads and auto-buys. They all deliver tightly plotted novels with complex characters I can root for and moral dilemmas that make me think. If they would just each write 10 books a year, I would be in heaven! So, let’s go Sophie, Emily, and Liane, make it happen! 😊

Are there any shows or movies that you’re excited for or currently enjoying?

Joanne: Well, of course, I’m beside myself with excitement for the new BBC adaptation of Les Miserables that airs in the States on PBS in April! I love any kind of costume drama based on the classics and cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I also recently went to the movies and saw a 7-hour film version of War and Peace by the Russian director Sergei Bondarchuk made in 1968. It was EPIC in every way! When I’m not geeking out over adaptations of the classics, Jess and I are both hooked on the TV show Younger. It’s hilarious and set in the publishing industry, which makes it especially fun to watch!

Jessica: Younger! YESSS!!!! Also my husband and I are totally late in the game but hooked on The Americans. Dang, that show is good. Sometimes I want to throw things at the screen, but good.

What are you working on next?

Jessica and Joanne: We are about to dive into the revisions of book 2 in the trilogy, BETWEEN BURNING WORLDS. That book caused us a LOT of agony and stress (as sequels often do) but in the end, we’re very happy with where it is now and can’t wait for everyone to find out what happens next on planet Laterre. And yes, as the title suggests, it’s pretty explosive!

About the Authors

Jessica Brody is the author of more than 15 books for teens, tweens, and adults including Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up, A Week of Mondays, Boys of Summer, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and the three books in the sci-fi Unremembered trilogy. She’s also the author of the Descendants: School of Secrets series, based on the hit Disney Channel original movie, Descendants. Her books have been translated and published in over 23 countries and Unremembered and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father are currently in development as major motion pictures. She lives with her husband and four dogs and splits her time between California and Colorado. 

Visit her online at JessicaBrody.com. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @JessicaBrody

Joanne Rendell is the author of three novels and holds a PhD in English literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids and is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, Joanne divides her time between New York City, and New Paltz, New York. Visit Joanne at JoanneRendell.com.

Tour Schedule
Tour-Wide Giveaway

Win a copy of SKY WITHOUT STARS by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell (US Only)
Ends April 2, 2019

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