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ANNA'S ENDLESSLY COLLAPSING STAR, upmarket women's fiction -- Norah Vawter


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Author

Norah Vawter

Title

ANNA’S ENDLESSLY COLLAPSING STAR

Genre

Upmarket Women’s Fiction

Comps

The Queen’s Gambit meets astronomy. Complete at 80,000 words, ANNA’S ENDLESSLY COLLAPSING STAR is upmarket women’s fiction in the tradition of Little Fires Everywhere and Val Brelinsky’s The Girl Who Slept with God.

Hook Line

Anna thought this remote observatory in the Chilean desert was her escape, but it's actually her prison: to be free, she’s got to go home, stop pretending away her traumatic childhood, and stop hating her mom for saving her life.

Pitch

An astronomer in a remote observatory in the Chilean desert, Anna Rose Watson is on the verge of achieving her wildest dreams. But she’s spent her life running from her past. She’s an emotional ticking time bomb. And all the pain she’s repressed is about to catch up to her.

When she was a child in New Orleans, Anna and her mother were shot. Her mom saved Anna’s life but ended up in a wheelchair—growing depressed and manipulative, living vicariously through Anna. Unable to cope with the pressure—and terrified she wasn’t worth her mom’s sacrifice—Anna ran out on her whole life, even her childhood love Willie.

Now 4,561 miles from home, Anna peers into the distant past, studying ancient stars and working alongside a small, tight-knit group of scientists who live in close quarters. Her biggest problem: she’s dating her research partner, he likes her, and he wants to know the real Anna. But his questions make her feel like a freak. Like someone who doesn’t belong.

When Anna discovers a 13 billion year-old supernova, it should be the best day of her life. But news of a mass shooting triggers painful memories—her past crashing into her present, just like her endlessly collapsing star, the supernova. Anna causes a public scene and starts missing work. Instead of seizing her big career opportunity, Anna’s spiraling out of control.

Chile was supposed to be her escape, but it’s actually her prison. If Anna’s ever going to fulfill her scientific dreams, or feel like she belongs in the normal world, she has to stop running. It’s time to go home, stop hating her mom for saving her life and hating herself for living, and explore what might have been with Willie—so she can finally live in the present.

Sample

Joaquin let his long leg brush up against mine, as he always did when we sat close in the observatory during our long shifts. My research partner was tall and skinny, like a gawky teenager. We were manning one of our center’s four giant telescopes: tonight we peered into the distant reaches of Bode’s Galaxy. Studying objects so far away—we were actually looking back in time, into the distant past.

After two years in Chile, living in this remote research center in the Atacama Desert, I finally felt cut off from everything that came before. Separated from my family and my past. Most of all, I was free of my mother.

I’d whittled my life down to the stars.

Of course, Joaquin broke the precious silence. He was incapable of stillness or self-control. “I read your paper,” he said.

“Neutron stars?”

He nodded, smiling that cocky grin. My handsome Joaquin: sharp and angular in a classically good-looking sort of way. Too good-looking for me to match him. His only flaw was his large nose, but it wasn’t much of a flaw.

His interest was flattering, even sweet. But far too quickly he pivoted the conversation to his Christmas plans, and even more quickly to his confusion about my lack of plans.

“You’re really staying here?” he asked. “But Lisi told me it will be empty, that everyone goes home—”

“There’s always a few of us,” I said, running my hand through my short black hair, which was cropped in the same pixie cut I’d worn for over a decade.

“You stayed in this place last year?”

I nodded, not mentioning that I’d stayed at Paranal for every holiday since I arrived here.

“But wouldn’t you rather go home?” Joaquin turned towards me. Somehow I’d piqued his interest and given him a reprieve from the boredom of telescope duty. “Where are you from again?”

We’d been sleeping together for a couple months, since shortly after Joaquin transferred to Cerro Paranal. But I never talked about my past. To anybody.

“I live here.”

“But where is your home?”

Joaquin was just making small talk. But I wanted to kick him in the shin. Sure, other people had casual chit chat about their hometowns, and funny stories about their childhoods. Other people might want to reminisce about their slacker friends in Santiago, who they were going to see over Christmas and who were making a “tall bike” for some reason I still didn’t understand.

But my family, well, it wasn’t a family so much as an excuse to get cut by old chunks of glass, again and again, until there was nothing left of you.

I refocused my attention on the monitors, wishing for work to distract both of us from Joaquin’s banter and his irritating, if possibly well-meaning curiosity. But nothing particularly interesting was going on in the sky tonight.

Then—suddenly—something happened.

It came out of nowhere. Like a hand reaching for us.

A massive gamma ray burst appeared on one screen.

Bio

This novel has been longlisted for the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, and an excerpt was shortlisted for the RopeWalk Press Chapbook Prize (but not published in either case). I’ve published essays about my personal experience surviving gun violence and childhood trauma in The Washington Post and Memoir Magazine, as well as fiction in the Washington Writers Publishing House’s anthology This is What America Looks Like, The Nassau Review and Agave Magazine, among others. I have an M.F.A. in creative writing from George Mason University. I’m a freelance writer and the Local Authors Editor of online magazine DCTrending.com. I live with my husband and son in the D.C. suburbs, where I’m working on my next novel. www.norahvawter.com

 

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