Episode 520-With Monica Byrne

On December 21, 2021, in Podcast, by Patrick Hester

The Actual Star by Monica ByrneThis week, Patrick and Tracy welcome Monica Byrne, author of THE ACTUAL STAR.

About THE ACTUAL STAR: The Actual Star takes readers on a journey over two millennia and six continents —telling three powerful tales a thousand years apart, all of them converging in the same cave in the Belizean jungle.

Braided together are the stories of a pair of teenage twins who ascend the throne ofa Maya kingdom; a young American woman on a trip of self-discovery in Belize; and two dangerous charismatics vying for the leadership of a new religion and racing toward a confrontation that will determine the fate of the few humans left on Earth after massive climate change.

In each era, a reincarnated trinity of souls navigates the entanglements of tradition and progress, sister and stranger, and love and hate—until all of their age-old questions about the nature of existence converge deep underground, where only in complete darkness can they truly see.

The Actual Star is a feast of ideas about where humanity came from, where we are now, and where we’re going—and how, in every age, the same forces that drive us apart also bind us together.

About Monica Byrne: Monica grew up in Annville, Pennsylvania, as the youngest of five. Her parents were both Catholic theologians, and her family emphasized mysticism, social justice, and the centrality of art to religious experience. Despite growing up on art, she set her heart on becoming an astronaut-so went to Wellesley College and MIT for degrees in biochemistry, worked at NASA during the summers, and got her pilot’s license. But while at MIT, Monica realized she liked making things up much more than finding things out. She finished a Master’s and moved to Durham, North Carolina, and have been writing ever since.

Monica graduated from the Clarion Workshop in 2008, where she studied with Neil Gaiman, Nalo Hopkinson, and Kelly Link. Her debut novel, The Girl in the Road, was published in 2014. It won the Tiptree Award and was listed for the Kitschie, Locus, and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Her second novel, The Actual Star, was published by Harper Voyager on September 14, 2021. She’s performed original monologues twice at TED, hosted a technology series for ViceUK, and spoken across the country on futurism and science fiction. Her short stories and essays have been published in The Baffler, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Religion Dispatches, Wired, Tor.com, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Electric Literature, and Glimmer Train. She’s written five plays produced in Durham, one of which, What Every Girl Should Know, has been performed from Berkeley to Dublin.

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© 2021 Patrick Hester

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