Eric L. Guille on his upcoming book Starless, Starless Nights, alien worlds and beyond.
Eric L. Guille is the writer of a sci-fi trilogy for young adults. Drawing from his life experience as a Mechanical Engineer and Vietnam Veteran, Guille shows us that anything is possible through his imaginative portrait of a young boy who heroically fights against aliens while on Earth. The first title of the trilogy is Starless, Starless Nights, a story that he had internalized for decades.
In this exclusive interview, Guille talks about how he combines multiple worlds – from the cosmos to North Carolina in this imaginative story. We also hear about how he initiated his collaboration with Illustrator Andrew Zettler and what compelled Guille to turn his story into a visual creation. Read on to find out how inspiration can come from multiple sources and the most unexpected places.
Tell us a bit about your journey as a writer. My interests from a very young age were always drawn towards science, engineering, all things interstellar and in particular how their outer limits might play out in the complex relationship that might exist if humans and aliens suddenly came face-to-face. Ultimately, I think these interests went on to greatly inform my writing style as I have always liked to create sci-fi stories that stay true to the smaller details of science and human nature, while also exploring the potential for chaos that comes when alien worlds collide with our own.
What was your impetus for writing this book? The story of Starless, Starless Nights goes back over 50 years, believe it or not. I was fresh out of college as a Mechanical Engineer when I was drafted into the thick of the Vietnam war. I had high hopes for becoming a pilot, but my vision test didn’t make the grade, so I was shipped off to the Navy’s famous SeaBee construction brigade. For the better part of the next two years I spent life mucking through the jungles and mud of Vietnam helping to build bridges, airfields, roads and anything else that was called for all those thousands of miles from home. It was worlds apart from my Tidewater, Virginia home but the one thing that never failed me were those stars overhead. It would sometimes rain for months but when those clouds would finally lift I found great comfort imagining what other worlds might exist up there and how they might view our own. The constellations and hemisphere were different than I was used to and yet, I found those stars deeply comforting and familiar all the same. It was there, hunkered down on my back all those nights long ago that the story of Starless, Starless Nights was first born. Meeting my wife, the family to come, the career – those would all be waiting to unfold when I got back home but the story of Starless, Starless Nights would never leave me alone all these years. Now I’ve finally told it. How would you describe your book? Starless, Starless Nights is the story of LD Starr, a twelve-year-old boy with extraterrestrial roots growing up just after World War II on North Carolina's southernmost barrier island. In most every way he leads the life of a typical human boy, until his hidden family past leaves him racing against time to stop an alien race capable of sabotaging the very fabric of the cosmos from taking out their wrath on his adopted planet earth. The story centers around a young boy who is dealing with PTSD. Do you feel there is a connection with what we are all dealing with the pandemic? It’s ironic that the world has found itself isolated and turned upside down in a pandemic as Starless, Starless Nights has been released. The main character of the book wrestles with a world of trauma and isolation as well. The trauma of having lost his parents and family tragically as well as isolation from his peers as he carries the burden of so many secrets tied to his alien roots . Yet, he is a boy who finds coping mechanisms and real strength when it is needed through sheer ingenuity, will and perseverance. All character traits that have proven so desperately needed by so many at this time. If there was one message that your young readers should take away after reading this book, what would it be? If there were one message I would hope younger readers would take away from this book it would be that they have the strength and resilience inside of them to power not just their own destiny but to make positive change in the world around them. For them, anything is possible, not just through the power and exploration of the outer-limits of known science, but in their daily life as well.
Why did you decide to make this an illustrated book? Starless, Starless Nights is a joining of realms, really. You have the late 1940’s North Carolina coastline meeting alien intruders who take a unique dog-like form. I always felt like visually setting the table for viewers to understand the look of these creatures, while also juxtaposing them against the sleepy Carolina beach town that serves as the setting for the book, would be important in the telling of the story. What drew you to working with Andrew Zettler, your Illustrator?
I was introduced to Andrew’s work through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and found myself just absorbed in the whimsical and fun world he creates. He’s worked primarily in the world of cartooning and children’s books over the years but the more he and I discussed the project, the more I knew that I wanted him to cross over and bring his style to the world of sci-fi. The book takes the occasional dark turn in plot but ultimately it’s a tale filled with hope and optimism. That’s the feeling I always came away with in Andrew’s work. You have a background as a Mechanical Engineer. How do you feel that’s impacted your writing? Ironically, my writing has always been inspired by another Engineer, Robert Heinlein, whose books I’ve always felt a deep connection with. I’m particularly inspired by his devotion to scientific accuracy. I try to bring the same to my work and suspect my training as a Mechanical Engineer, as well as my time in the Navy during Vietnam, have always given my writing a strong and comfortable lean towards exploring the outer realms of science and technology. The book is part of a trilogy, why did you decide to release the story in three parts? As a practical matter, the length of each story played a role in that decision. So too did the desire to introduce LD Starr and his adventures in a way that would allow readers to follow him through the cosmos at different stages of his life, as well as at different stages of his understanding of his complex relationship between the alien world and his own adoptive planet earth.
For further information: http://www.ericlisle.com/