I love to hear when military families write books! I want to read them all! I am excited to tell you about the book, Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles. Here is a synopsis of the book…
After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend—a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter, and friendship, against all odds.
The book starts out in Germany and gives us an up close look of life as a military family from the perspective of a military child instead of the spouse. I just started the book and I know it is going to be a good one.
About the Author:
Ashlee Cowles grew up an Army “brat” and moved eight times by the time she was 18. She spent her high school years on a military post in Germany and as a college student, Ashlee walked part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. These experiences inspired her to write her debut Young Adult novel, Beneath Wandering Stars (Merit Press, 2016). Ashlee currently lives in Colorado Springs, but you can find out if she’s speaking at a school or library near you by visiting http://ashleecowles.com/
I was excited about interviewing Ashlee Cowles about her writing and her book. Here is what she said…
1.How old were you when you knew you would be a writer?
It’s hard to say! I was a voracious reader from early on, but I wasn’t one of those kids who knew they wanted to be a writer from a young age (for the longest time I wanted to be a veterinarian). Like many little girls, the first books I fell in love with were the Little House and Anne of Green Gables series, and that was probably when I realized one actually could become a writer, though I didn’t give writing fiction a serious shot until after college.
2. Where did you get your idea for Beneath Wandering Stars?
Beneath Wandering Stars was born of many different experiences, the main one being my own upbringing in a military family. My dad was career Army, so I spent my first 18 years living all over the place. Yet I couldn’t recall ever reading or hearing about a novel told from the perspective of a military kid like me. As an adult, I thought this was strange since there are so many people familiar with the military lifestyle, so I figured, “Hey, I can write that story!” The more the idea brewed, the more passionate I became about sharing this unique upbringing and subculture with a wider audience, since growing up in a military family was one of the things that shaped me most as a person. From the beginning, I knew I wanted the book to be set on a post overseas in Germany (that’s where I spent my high school years, so Germany feels like a second home). I got the idea for including the Camino de Santiago trek after visiting Spain and walking part of this route in 2011. So while the story is completely fiction, it was inspired by a lot of personal experiences.
3. Are you working on any other books or projects right now?
Yes, I’m finishing up the edits on another Young Adult novel told from the viewpoints of two girls who share a unique bond despite the divide of history–one girl is a modern teen and the daughter of a fallen soldier who served in Afghanistan, and the other is a survivor of the Titanic sinking in 1912. I’m also a teacher, so I’m working on a nonfiction book about the benefits of growing up a military brat or “third culture kid,” and how parents can build on the strengths that come from this special upbringing. Finally, I’m a serious history buff thanks to the time I lived in Europe, so I hope to start writing Historical Fiction and a Fantasy series for an adult audience soon. Anyone interested in these projects can stay updated by joining my author newsletter.
4. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to write their own book?
Begin. Seriously, starting is the hardest part! If you have a story inside you that really needs to get out, once you sit down and get going, the whole thing becomes a lot easier. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you start small and write a little bit each day…one day you have a book. On a more practical level, there are so many wonderful resources out there for aspiring writers, which means that just about anyone who wants to write a book can. Finding other people who share your enthusiasm for storytelling helps, so I highly recommend looking for writing groups and conferences in your area. People who are part of the military community often have a unique perspective on life, as well as a collection of amazing experiences–which makes for excellent writing material!
5. What did growing up as a military brat teach you about life and what it is like to be a part of the military world?
Oh, growing up a military brat taught me so many things! I could go on for pages (I guess I kind of did…272 of them!). Gabi, the heroine of Beneath Wandering Stars, starts out as a fairly typical military teen who is pretty resentful about having to move her senior year and leave a group of close friends behind. She grows and changes a lot as the story progresses, but it wasn’t difficult to conjure up those angsty emotions because I made a similar move my senior year, and it really did feel like my entire world was coming to an end (as it does when you are 17). Yet looking back on that season as an adult, I don’t regret one thing about my military childhood. Being a military brat made me adaptable and independent, while also teaching me what it meant to be part of a tight-knit community devoted to something greater than myself. Being a military brat has given me a love of travel and an appreciation for the diversity of the world’s many cultures, while also instilling in me a strong identity as an American and an understanding of what that actually means. Being a military brat has made me insatiably curious, open, and adventurous, while at the same time helping me recognize the value of sacrifice and duty and honor. As Gabi eventually learns in Beneath Wandering Stars, being a military brat means being part of a very special tribe, and I am proud and grateful to call myself one.
Upcoming Appearances & Book Signings:
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference Author Book Signing on Friday, September 9, 2016 8-10pm, Colorado Ballrooms A and B of the Renaissance Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street, Denver, CO
*See http://ashleecowles.com/speaking-school-visits/ for latest events
“This is a believable and well-written tale full of references to Homer and Chaucer…. The wide range of characters…are authentic rather than idealized. Readers will feel Gabi’s pain–both emotional and physical–as she endures a host of adverse conditions along the route. A realistic fiction title that will appeal to a broad audience of teen readers.” —School Library Journal
“Cowles, a former Army brat, shows an intimate understanding of military life and uses her characters to examine its difficulties…the toll combat takes on soldiers, and other complicated topics…. Teens for whom war hits close to home are a natural audience for this hopeful story of journeys internal and external.” —Publishers Weekly
“After her older brother, Lucas, is wounded in action…17-year-old Gabriela Santiago decides to honor a promise to her brother by walking the Camino de Santiago…. Gabi’s convincing teen voice guides readers through the complexity of emotions and inner struggle. Debut novelist Cowles uses the pilgrimage to spark moments of philosophic and theological reflection. The story will open a portal to families with injured soldiers and propel conversations about war, identity, philosophy, and hardship.” —Kirkus Reviews
Now for the giveaway! One lucky reader will receive an author-signed hardback of Beneath Wandering Stars. Enter the Rafflecopter below 🙂
- I was given a free copy of this book by the author.