Skip to main content

Into YA with Phil Stamper


I read The Gravity of Us a few months back and absolutely loved the book! It's the perfect read for right now with a cute romance and a thoughtful plot without being too intense for the moment. If you haven't heard about the book or missed my review, you can check it out here so you have a little context going into my conversation with Phil. I'm so happy he took the time to talk with me, and he had some great insight into the creation of the book and writing process. If you want to learn more about the book and where you can purchase it, I'll leave a link to his author website here.

1. The story really kicks off when Cal is forced to move to the Clear Lake area because his father gets a job at NASA. This was a really cool premise for me because I spent a lot of my childhood in Houston and have been to NASA probably too many times. What made you interested in writing a book that explores the idea of a new NASA mission? The details you gave while building that setting rang really true for me. Did that take extra research? 

It definitely took a lot of research, but it never really felt like research to me. I've always been obsessed with accounts of the 60s space race and the missions that followed. I've read dozens of astronaut/engineer memoirs, watched every documentary I could find, and I've even been known to raid antique shops in my search for LIFE magazines from the era. And this was all just for fun, before I ever planned on writing a story like The Gravity of Us!
While I've always been fascinated by the science and technology behind these missions, one thing always called out to me in the background of every astronaut memoir. The astronaut families essentially became the celebrities of this era, frequently gracing the covers of magazines and giving interviews for national news outlets. This meant the astronauts' spouses and children had to be immaculately dressed, polished, and ready to entertain, all while not knowing if their husbands or fathers would come home alive that night. I wanted to capture this brilliant tension while also showcasing a contemporary queer love story, so that's why I decided to explore the idea of a new, fictional NASA mission.

2. A major element of the book is StarWatch, the reality show that covers the lives of the astronaut's families. Reality television is a major part of today's entertainment scene, and it's interesting to imagine what it's like on the other side of the lens. How did you come up with the idea to include StarWatch, and was there a show that inspired it?

Gravity of UsI really wanted to modernize the drama of the 60s space race, and one conflict that encapsulated that moment was in how various types of media were at odds with each other. For example, LIFE Magazine offered the families protection from the local media, but at the price of invasive personal pieces. 
When thinking of how this would play out today, I had to think about what kind of media would fully capture America's attention, and I came up with the idea that NASA would want to turn them into, essentially, the next Real Housewives installment. (Of course, StarWatch becomes way more sinister, so I don't want people to think I'm mocking or criticizing those shows!) I was hesitant to add this element, but it played so nicely against a main character who's a social media journalist. In that way, I was able to modernize the conflict in an interesting, but also believable, way.

3. I appreciated how much the parents were a part of The Gravity of Us. Parents are so often left out of YA stories, but they really do shape their teens and inform how they interact with the world. Cal's parents and their human struggles were very powerful. Were they always such big part of the story, or was that something that evolved later? 

Thank you for saying this! I don't think parents need to be a huge part of every YA story, but a story like this couldn't have worked without well developed parent characters. I wanted to make Cal Sr. and Becca human. I wanted them to have problems, but work through them in their own way. I wanted them to be messy and selfish and hurt, and I wanted them to be unable to stop their problems from spilling into Cal's life. 
The parents were always an important part of the story, but I really got to hone in on these characters in edits. I've received some great feedback about the anxiety representation in Cal's mom, especially, which I deeply appreciate as someone who has similar experiences.

Check Out Phil's Book...

Links of Interest:



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC so I could share my honest thoughts with all of you! Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

My First Time Trying a Book Box: Literati Luminary Book Club Review

I am incredibly excited for today's blog posts because I'm working with Literati to share my experience with their Luminary Book Club. If you've been keeping up with my posts, I recently talked about how book clubs are an amazing way to fend off a reading slump, especially when life gets super hectic, and even with a super long TBR, I've still felt lost when I go to pick out my next read. I'm so grateful to Literati for sending me a book box and sponsoring this post!  On top of feeling stuck with choosing what to read, I've also been trying to explore more genres and the world outside of YA. YA has been my home base for so long that I always get overwhelmed trying to figure out what I want to read in other genres. Luckily, Literati had just what I needed. I got the chance to choose from 13 different book clubs all curated by Luminaries who are amazing, award winning writers, thought leaders, and artists you most definitely know like Malala and her Fearless cl

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Adult Literature Reviewed

  Everything I Never Told You  by Celeste Ng (Just a warning, this review will have some degree of spoilers cause I don't know how to write a full review without them) Overview: Lydia is dead. Just turned 16 and already gone. With no close friends to point to a possible explanation and no leads, her family is left confused, forced to confront a world without their favorite daughter. Instead of a murder mystery, what unfolds is a heartbreaking story of a family in 1970s Ohio forced to confront every tiny, fractured web that led up to Lydia death. Bouncing around with no bounds for time, space, or narrator, we hear stories from Nath, Lydia, and Hannah's childhoods, Marilyn's young adulthood, and Jame's struggles to rise through the ranks as a Chinese American professor in small town Ohio. What it leaves is a heartbreaking portrait of how little we might truly know about the people we sleep in the same house with every single night. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 This is a hard

What's on my YA TBR: September 2021 Edition

September is always a magical, busy time in bookland because there are always a million books releasing to get ready for the holiday rush. That's how this list wound up featuring 7 books. There are a couple like Never Saw You Coming  and As If On Cue  that I've had my eyes on for almost a year, and then there are some new discoveries that I'm super super excited about. From heartfelt contemporaries to K-Pop to a musical anthology and a summer camp of animators, there's something for everyone on this list. I haven't been this excited about a TBR of books in a while, and I'm sad that with starting school, it'll probably take me a while to get through them, but I'm hoping my local library will pick up copies soon. Speaking of which, I have tons of new libraries to explore around campus! As always, I want to make it as easy as possible to preorder these books and connect with the authors who wrote them! If you click the link in the title of each book, it wil

Fresh by Margot Wood: YA Book Review

  Fresh  by Margot Wood Get a Copy (this is an affiliate link. purchasing through this bookshop link helps support indie bookstores and this blog at no cost to you) Overview: Elliot isn't really sure why she's going to college. It's the next step that people take in life, I guess. She also isn't sure why she's at Emerson. It sounded better than Ohio State. She has no plan, no clue and how to approach college life. Quickly, Elliot gets sucked into a whirlwind of all the worst college tropes- the endless cereal bar, hooking up with everyone in the Little Building, not paying attention in any of her that classes she doesn't really want to be in anyway... the list goes on. She quickly forms a tight group of friends on her floor, but even those connections get tested as the year progresses. Eventually, Elliot is forced to realize that she needs to care about the academic side of college, and she craves closer connections than a trail of hook ups. Elliot, like most co

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha