Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
When I was younger and learning about what it meant to be queer, one of my earliest labels – and the only label I feel any real connection to – was ‘demisexual’. Growing up and as a teen, I struggled to connect and understand how my friends talked and felt about romance and attraction. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised that I was demisexual and also gray-ace.
I could talk ad nauseam about how my demisexuality has shaped the way I perceive romance and attraction, especially in literature. For instance, I genuinely struggle to connect to romances that don’t have a friendship element or strong emotional bond to begin with. But if there is, even if the characters aren’t demisexual per se, then chances I’ll love the book and romance so much more.
Enter The Sound of Stars, one of two books I have read that have demisexual representation and is effortlessly one of my favourite books of the year. I love The Sound of Stars, not only for its demisexual representation, but it’s genuinely such an incredible and profound science-fiction story about hope, resistance, and saving the world.
You can imagine, then, how excited I am to have the author of The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow, visiting us at the Pond today! When I conceptualised this Pride Month series, I absolutely knew that I had to have Alechia as a guest. Alechia visits us at the Pond today as a bespectacled purple bear with a donut – and I am so delighted that she’s here with us today.
But, before I share with you all the wonderful author interview I did with Alechia, I’d like to formally introduce to you her YA debut, The Sound of Stars!
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population.
Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her.
Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does.
Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.
I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I know that I came out loving it, my expectations surpassed, with tears running down my face. I think when people read the synopsis, they may go in thinking it’s a fast-paced science-fiction YA, but it’s more than that! The Sound of Stars has a wonderful story, yes, but it also has some of the most profound themes of hope and resistance and has one of the most beautifully developed romances.
I loved this book and I cannot recommend this enough.
Author Interview with Alechia Dow
Xiaolong: Hi Alechia! A big and warm welcome to The Quiet Pond! We’re super excited and delighted to have you visit us today! For our friends out there who may only be just meeting you for the first time, can you tell us about yourself?
Alechia: Thank you so much for having me, Xiaolong! And hi everyone, my name is Alechia and I am a former pastry chef, librarian, and now I’m an author!!
Xiaolong: A big congratulations on your wonderful debut, The Sound of Stars! I had the pleasure of reading it last month and I enjoyed it so much. For our readers who are learning about your book for the first time, can you tell us what it’s about?
Alechia: The Sound of Stars follows a teenage rebel librarian, a music-loving alien, and their unlikely friendship on a perilous road trip to save humanity. It’s a love story and love letter to books and music, and to science fiction and its power to explore themes that are part of our reality today. While it may be dark at times, it’s about HOPE, and it begs you to fight for the future.
Xiaolong: There are so many things that I loved about The Sound of Stars. The premise, its themes, the emotional depth of the story and the characters — honestly, everything about it. You’ve talked about how The Sound of Stars was inspired by the idea of a secret and illegal library – which I loved in the book! – but what I’d love to know is what inspired the book’s overarching themes of oppression and, just as if not more importantly, resistance. What is the ‘place’ that you were writing from when you were writing about Ellie and Morris’s resistance?
Alechia: In the past, alien stories never explored what an invasion would look like in a society that is divided, that struggles with systemic racism and oppression, where teens and children today are standing up for their rights despite the many risks (which ultimately steals precious time from their childhood but might be the only way people will listen). When you look at how teens are resisting laws, rules, politicians, and inequalities that endanger their lives, it’s hard not to be inspired by them. When I wrote about Ellie and Morris’s resistance, I wanted to say to the teens reading that the path of resistance is difficult, terrifying sometimes, but—and I hope I executed this well, there is hope to be found. The fight can be won.
Xiaolong: Without giving away details and spoilers – because I want everyone to read your book! – I felt like the ending of The Sound of Stars takes the story to another level by returning to its science-fiction roots. I also felt like the ending will give readers a sense of hope (and it also reminded me a lot of Interstellar)! What was your thought process when writing the ending of The Sound of Stars?
Alechia: Oh that’s such a good question! I love science fiction, and I love endings that promise hope while also not being wholly predictable. I wanted to give Ellie and Morris an ending that felt true to them—that they aren’t done fighting, but they know, in their hearts, that together, they can succeed. I knew I wanted them to still rely on their music, stories and each other as they continue their adventure. And this is very much an adventure story!
Xiaolong: As someone who struggles to connect with romances that don’t have that emotional connection, one of the reasons why The Sound of Stars meant so much to me was that it had fantastic demisexual rep – which is a sexuality we don’t see often represented in books. What did writing Ellie as demisexual mean to you?
Alechia: Writing demisexual representation meant the world to me, as a demisexual queer author. When I was a teen, this wasn’t really seen, especially not for Black main characters. So getting this chance to write my own experiences… it made me feel valid, and it made me feel hopeful that this representation would resonate with readers who are still finding their identity.
Xiaolong: Ellie isn’t just demisexual; she’s also a Black teen who lives with anxiety and is fat. Moreover, her identities are integral in her journey across the book’s story. What was your experience of writing Ellie and exploring the different intersections of her identity?
Alechia: Ellie and I share the same identities (but not the same personality! I’m more like Morris!), so getting to write those intersections was enlightening, maybe even empowering for me. It helped me make sense of how I see the world, and how others like me would see it. Her body and anxiety never hold her back from the adventure–although she does need to stop to get pants, because chubtastic thighs rubbing together hurts!–– it only adds a layer of how she might approach each new experience. I feel like being inside her mind while she makes these considerations isn’t seen a lot in stories, but it’s absolutely a thing people understand!
Xiaolong: To steer away from your book for a moment — I’m an avid foodie (and possibly a self-admitted food snob) so I absolutely have to ask this question! What is a food opinion that you have and you won’t budge on?
Alechia: Okay, this is going to make a splash, ha! I’m not a fan of condiments like ketchup, mustard, relish, tabasco, and steak sauce because I feel like if a food is properly seasoned, you don’t need to dilute it with overpowering sauces!!
Xiaolong: The last question segues nicely to a question I always like to ask my guests! What is a food that reminds you of home – wherever and whoever that may be?
Alechia: Haddock (fish). I’m from the Boston area, and growing up, having haddock was a real treat (even though it was the cheapest fish you could get around that time), because it was local and fresh. Whenever I eat that, I feel like I’m home again. Annnd strawberry shortcake. My mom was deathly allergic to strawberries, but she loved to make my sister and I strawberry shortcake once a week in the summer. She’d put on gloves and make it, and then would smile as we ate it and told her how good it was. It was magical. She couldn’t provide us with much growing up, but this act of making us food… it was the greatest gift.
Before I go, I want to say THANK YOU for this interview, for providing me with this opportunity, and all of your kind words of support. I appreciate it so much, and the work you do in this community is important. I’m such a fan of you! Thank you!!
About the Author
Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, food critic, culinary teacher, and Youth Services librarian. When not writing YA sci-fi featuring determined black girls (like herself), you can find her having epic dance parties with her daughter, baking, mentoring, or taking teeny adventures around Europe.
I loved this interview with Alechia so much and I hope you enjoyed it too! The Sound of Stars is a book that has grown to mean so much to me, so it was such an honour and joy to have Alechia visit us at the Pond to talk more about her book.
I never thought I’d ever have an author talk about demisexual representation in their book, so this was such a delight and a highlight of Pride Month for me. Don’t forget to add The Sound of Stars on Goodreads; it’s an amazing book and you won’t regret it!