The Space Between the Stars is the debut novel from Anne Corlett, a gripping love story within a plague-ravaged universe. Anne visited the blog to set the scene and tell us what happens before our story begins.
I didn’t set out to write a sci-fi book.
Actually, I didn’t set out to write this book at all.
In 2015, I was on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA course, working on a novel set around the world of immersive theatre. I was having huge difficulties with the plot and structure, and had become fairly disillusioned with the whole project. In April, with only a term to go on the course, and 40,000 words still noticeably unwritten, we went on a family trip up to the Northumberland coast. I’m from that part of the world originally, and we go up a couple of times a year. We’d left it late to book and the only accommodation we could find was in Beadnell, somewhere I hadn’t been in years and only vaguely remembered.
On the first evening, I went for a walk over the sand-dunes to the beach. As I reached the top of the dunes and the spectacular shoreline came into view, I was listening to Alive by Chase and Status, with the lyrics The sky is the only thing I see. I had a sudden, surprisingly fully-formed idea of someone trying, against almost insurmountable odds, to get back home to that beautiful place. The empty world was an intrinsic part of this initial idea, and I knew I wanted the starting point to be so far away that the main character would have to face the possibility of never making it home.
These ideas merged with a long-standing family joke about whose apocalypse plan is best. My partner reckons that he is considerably more practical and would still be going long after I’d been eaten by zombies, while I have absolute faith in my ability to ride a horse and my plan to head north, while everyone else heads for London, as per every disaster movie ever made.
That evening I sat down and wrote a summary of the storyline. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to look at the idea of space, both emotional and physical, but the other main theme emerged more gradually. It’s something that I find myself coming back to time and time again, and it has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and about the world around us, in the hope of making sense of things, or finding patterns or meaning in the things that happen to us. Whenever we go up north, the boys and I collect sea glass and pottery. They’ll spend hours searching the shore for tiny fragments, and they often think they’ve found pieces that fit together. For me, sea glass was an ideal symbol of the search for a way of creating sense out of random events.
We’re back in Beadnell in a few weeks, and I’m looking forward to re-visiting some of the places in the book. I do wonder what would have happened if I’d never taken that evening walk…