New Voice: C.S. Johnson on The Starlight Chronicles: Slumbering

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

C.S. Johnson is the first-time author of The Starlight Chronicles: Slumbering (Book 1 of the Starlight series)(Westbow/Thomas Nelson, 2013). Note: Thomas Nelson is a Christian press. From the promotional copy:

Sixteen-year-old Hamilton Dinger is at the top of his class, charismatic, and athletic.

Everything seems perfect as he enters into tenth grade at Apollo Central High School. Then a meteor crashes into the city, unleashing a whirlwind of evil and awakening a deep, hidden power.

His longtime dormant supernatural powers rise in the war zone. What will he sacrifice in pursuit of the truth?

How did you discover and get to know your protagonist?

My protagonist found me, more than I found him. I began to dream of him in ninth grade, when my math teacher Mr. Shoemaker gave my friend Sam the nickname of “Wingdinger,” and I thought it sounded like a superhero name.

I thought about the story often as I dealt with high school. I would not say I was bullied in the traditional sense, but I felt a large sense of rejection. While I did have my own friends, and I was glad for them, it was hard making new ones. So in my daydream moments, Hamilton’s character began to shape itself. It wasn’t until 12th grade he really had a voice: that of the hardened, cynical atheist.

Having grown up in faith, I wondered what it would be like to see the world the way someone else does, and what it would be like if there was an instance where he met God – like Paul on the road to Damascus. And I found a kinship I had not expected with the atheist, rooted in my own failed idealism. Hamilton quickly became part of my own voice, with his narcissism, his pride, and his disillusionment.

Hamilton’s response to the supernatural is what I fear mine own would be in the same situation: to continue on, to fear for the state of my mental and physical health, to only half-wonder at the possibilities which are miraculously presented.

Hamilton is a fallen star, who came to earth, and, having transcended into the earthly realm, is stuck in a human body, but he has no memory of this. When he finds out, he is faced with stopping the other fallen stars, the seven deadly Sinisters, and their leader, Orpheus, as they try to steal the soulfire, the life-force, from humans. He is able to transform into a superhero-type starlight warrior, and throughout his attempts to stop the various monsters and demons, he has to get through tenth grade, dating, and school activities.

That said, while Hamilton is the narrator, he is not the only protagonist of the book series. While it is not so evident in book 1, Starry Knight will become more and more centralized as the series continues. She is Hamilton’s foil; she is very certain and precise, and she knows what she is doing. But like Hamilton, she struggles with loving people even as she seeks to save them from the ensuing evil. Throughout the rest of the series she will move closer and closer to center stage as she fights with Hamilton, herself, and her destiny.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing? As someone with a full-time day job, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? 

Being a teacher keeps me in touch with my audience. I recognize my high school self in many of my students’ faces – the same awkwardness, trouble with looks, insecurity, figuring out life choices, and wanting to be loved, accepted, and respected.

As for writing time, it comes and goes. I have the weekends, lunch hours, holidays, sick days, kid-sick days, and general planned writing time to write.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

I was more than nine months pregnant at the time it came out, so I had other concerns. But there is no maternity leave for marketing, and with the next one I won’t make that assumption again.

My fellow debut authors, prepare to work. Thank God for the Internet! Websites, blogs, networking, getting out in public with your book, getting the news, the media, the radio, and a few billboard companies greatly help with stirring the interest in your work. I also recommend partnering up with a charity if you can.

I am going to finish up my master’s degree, keep writing, and work on juggling. You need to work hard to get the benefits of success.

One thought on “New Voice: C.S. Johnson on The Starlight Chronicles: Slumbering

  1. I really enjoyed this post- very inspiring, thanks to you both and all the best C.S.Johnson for your series- must see if I can find a copy here in Australia.


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