Author Q&A | Understanding the writing process of Xela Culletto author of “Understanding the Stars” (#SFF)

Posted Wednesday, 7 June, 2017 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Good morning, dear hearts!

As you might already realise – I have a wicked fascination with #SFF (Science Fiction & Fantasy) – throughout JUNE, I will be resuming my showcases on behalf of the Speculative realms, as I originally as dipping back into them last November before I alighted into the lovely anthology Gifts of the Magi just as the New Year began to dawn! (see also Review) Due to my readings of those lovely short stories, a few of the authors I had read then will be re-explored this month, as well!

I am also continuing my exploration of World Weaver Press whilst reading two more anthologies (Space Opera + Fantasy) as I move into two novels set around the Jin. I first came to appreciate the lore & legends of Jinni through Ms Wecker’s incredibly layered and intriguing debut novel! (see also Review) There is quite a bit in store this month here on #JLASblog – if you are as wicked happy about finding exciting new worlds to explore in the Speculative realms, stay attuned to my blog and my readerly tweets in the twitterverse! You will happily be discovering the authors who are charming me with their world-building and their fantastical imagination!

To kick off my #SpecFic showcases, I am sharing a conversation I had with a self-published author who similar to me has grown up with a deep appreciation for the realm. As you will see throughout our conversation, I unearth her writing process and what makes her passionate to tell the stories she is penning.

If this is your first visit to my blog, I have been enjoying listening to audiobooks for almost a year, whilst having the pleasure of interviewing the authors & narrators alike. Audiobooks are a gift of joy to me as they allow me to find a new way to connect to stories and to pick up an artistic habit of ‘colouring’ as I listen – the suspension of focusing on the story as I colour allows me to better understanding the content of the stories but also provides a way to decompress from the stress of a blogger’s life!Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Understanding the Stars by Xela Culletto

Alexandra Blackwood is minding her own troubled life when she unknowingly gets caught up in an extraterrestrial conflict. Ronan, a human with his own alien-entangled past, has been keeping an eye on her and sets out to help her escape looming abduction, and maybe win her heart.

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Being an avid science fiction reader, what drew your eye to lay down the foundation of an alternative alien space opera story-line? Wherein you centre your action on Earth rather than have the story transition from Earth to Space or even subspace environments?

Culletto responds: I wrote this story with the intention of having it be something that I personally would like to read. While I have read some hardcore sci-fi (Asimov, Sagan, etc.) I’m at a stage of life where I prefer lighter reading, which for me means not having massive amounts of new jargon or world-building–something that is easily accessible  and doesn’t require too much memory space in the reader’s brain. That being said, the sequel to “Understanding the Stars” is entitled “Following the Stars” (to be released 2018), so you can probably get an idea of where the plot will be headed next.

Initially did you see this as an alien narrative where alien technology intermixes with a human teenager’s life or how you could cross-apply a coming-of age story with sci-fi elements? What inspired your choices?

Culletto responds: The storyline for Understanding the Stars was intended to be more of the former. Although Alexandra is a teenager, I think the role she plays in the story could be replaced by an adult without altering the story too much. She does evolve throughout the book, and does make some teenager-y emotionally-driven decisions, but the plot was designed to be more sci-fi driven than coming-of-age driven.

How did you approach the world-building from the angle of the alien technology and the dual-alien presence of both the ones behind the technology impacting Alex’s life and the ones who are trying to steal it at all cost?

Culletto responds: As I was writing this book, Alex’s voice was very clear to me–almost as though she was telling me her story, rather than having me create it for her. Before I began the book, I knew two things: that Alex was being monitored by aliens, and that Ronan had fallen in love with her as he watched. I knew he needed a reason to reveal himself to Alex, since he would never do so under ordinary circumstances, and thus the alien conflict was born. Since the story is told from Alex’s point of view, it was easy to reveal the aliens and their technology through her eyes, since she begins the story with the same understanding of the world as any reader likely has.

How did you want the aliens in your story perceived? And, how did you augment their presence with the humans in your story-line? What were you hoping readers might takeaway by the choices you made to bridge the gaps between the three species represented in your novel?

Culletto responds: Like Alex mentions in the novel, I’ve always thought it was narcissistic of people to create fictional aliens that look humanoid, so the first thing I wanted was for my aliens to have their own unique form.  As for augmenting the aliens, I tried to make it clear that the beings who have already mastered faster-than-light-speed travel would be superior to the ones who have not, which is why poor Ronan always seems to come up short, no matter how well he plans. The three alien species presented in the novel can represent varying levels of society on earth.  I think they show how difficult it can be for different societies to get along or even understand each other, as different peoples have different wants and needs.

Which works of science fiction inspired you to try your own spin on this type of story?

Culletto responds: My favorite science fiction book, or book in general, is Ender’s Game. It’s the story that got me hooked on sci-fi, particularly alien sci-fi. Since first reading that book as a 12-year-old, I’ve loved the potential that writing about aliens has, because who knows it might possibly all be true. Other alien sci-fi stories I love include the movie Independence Day, the TV show Roswell, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books.

Were there elements of the plot you wished you had explored in more depth or is this a story which will continue into a series or duology (two book release)?

Culletto responds: The biggest complaint I’ve seen in the reviews the book has received thus far is that it is too fast-paced and readers wish certain parts had been more developed, to which I say, yes, they’re probably right. I think the relationship between Ronan and Alex could use more development, as well as the interactions Alexandra personally has with the aliens. Thankfully, though, there’s more opportunity for that in the next book.

I was surprised Alex doesn’t show a lot of emotional depth in her character’s ability to show compassion or a deeper understanding of things which are being shared; was this your intention to show her a bit emotionally immature at this stage in her life or is she unable to attach herself to other people’s emotional drama in a way others might expect of her due to what she’s been through?

Culletto responds: Although Alex has been through a lot, I don’t think that gives her a pass to being unsympathetic–in fact, it should be the reason she does sympathize with others. But spending much of my time around teenagers (I’m an English teacher) has led me to believe that many of them have a lot of emotional growth to do. Luckily, Alexandra is on the cusp of adulthood and should be maturing to a deeper level of emotional understanding soon.

What were you hoping to draw attention too by the shifting perspectives within the narrative? Is this a human society driven novel or one where equal emphasis is placed on others (aliens) living concurrently with humans? Or did you leave this exclusively up to the reader to impart what impressed them overall?

Culletto responds: The main purpose between the shifting perspectives at the chapter openings was to give a small glimpse into what’s happening outside of Alex’s life. Writing in first person can be so restricting, so this little break from the rest of the narrative helped widen the horizons of the story, I hope. My intention of this story was to have the reader think about how we would feel if we were treated the same way we treat other beings. (As in, we treat animals with a disregard for what’s best for them–how would it be if aliens did the same for us? My next book has a similar theme running through it, but from a different angle.)

 What do you like most about reading and writing science fiction stories?

Culletto responds: More than any other genre, I feel science fiction transcends the mundane, because it’s not necessarily only an escape, but it opens the mind up to real possibilities. I can’t imagine writing in another genre, because without that what-if factor, I would lose interest long before I got to the end.

About Xela Culletto

Xela Culletto

Xela is a working mother of three, living in the Utah. She teaches secondary English and after talking to students for years about following their dreams and doing whatever it takes to achieve them, she decided to take her own advice and complete her lifelong goal of writing a novel. The idea of life on other planets has always fascinated her, and she wondered what they would think of humanity, which is what spawned the idea for the plot of "Understanding the Stars".

When she’s not playing with her kids, or sorting through the endless laundry, you'll find her watching The Walking Dead, horseback riding, or working on her next book.

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 This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:

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Whilst participating on:

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Understanding the Stars”, book synopsis, author biography, author photo, Audiobookworm Promotions badge and the audiobook tour badge were all provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the Bookish Banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 7 June, 2017 by jorielov in Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Indie Author, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction

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