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An Inspiring Starry Night

August 30, 2013

I’m delighted to welcome another guest to Birth of a Novel. Sydell Voeller has agreed to tell us how she came up with the idea for one of her novels, Star Light, Star Bright. But first, a little something about Sydell herself.  I think you’ll agree that she’s an interesting person.

Sydell VoellerSydell Voeller grew up in Washington State, but has lived in Oregon for over thirty years. Throughout her twenty-year writing career, her published novels for teens and adults have reflected her love for the Pacific Northwest’s ocean beaches, inlets and waterways, evergreen forests, and mountains. She resides in Oregon with her husband. They have two sons and, in addition, have provided a home for several cats, a dog, gerbils, hamsters, and a turtle–but not all at the same time!  When Sydell isn’t writing, she enjoys camping, walking, amateur astronomy, reading, and surfing the web.

Now let’s hear how she came to create Star Light, Star Bright.

It was a dark and stormy night—oh, wait a minute! I certainly didn’t want to throw “that” one on you!  How could I expect such a cliched beginning to hook your interest, right?

 Actually, it was a dark night, a very dark night, in the high desert of north central Oregon, over an hour’s drive from the nearest town.  My husband and I were attending the Rose City Astronomers yearly camp-out that August, and I’d purposed to complete my discovery of 100 Messier deep-sky objects with my giant binoculars.  The dark skies were almost mystical—nothing like our so-called dark skies in the western corridor of the state where city lights, streetlights, and neighboring porch lights “polluted” the backyard astronomer’s potential for viewing.

I looked up in awe. Ancient as well as younger stars twinkled like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies—an infinity of suns beyond our imagining.  The Milky Way, our home galaxy, was breathtaking with its stars massed together so tightly.  It indeed looked like a pathway of milk strewn across the heavens!  And high in the east, the Andromeda Nebula, our almost “mirror image” sister galaxy, was a fuzzy white orb against the inky blackness.  Here in the desert, I didn’t need to use my binoculars to view it as I did back on the west side of the state!  (As astronomers like to say, it was visible by the “naked” eye.)  

By then we’d set up our trailer and lay back in our reclining lawn chairs, preparing to gaze at the early Perseid Meteor showers that had just started.  But unexpectedly my attention turned to a young woman and (presumably) her child—a little girl around 7 or so.   Not far from us, they were attempting to set up their own camp:  a tent not much larger than a pup tent.  The mother squatted awkwardly as she pounded her tent stakes into the rocky ground—no small feat in itself!  The girl stood by, watching and saying very little.  She was so solemn, for that matter, she never once looked up to admire the meteor showers that streaked across the heavens.  

My husband offered to help, but the mother politely refused.  Later, as I saw them haul their sleeping bags into their tent, I hoped and prayed the bags were suitable for sub-zero temperatures.  The high desert could get mighty cold at night, even in summertime. 

 Yet what struck me the most about this young woman was the desperation I sensed in her.  And her desperation intrigued me.  That started the wheels churning inside my head.  Hmm…an anxious young mother who appeared to be running away from something.  But from what?  What could be troubling her so that she was willing to drive tent stakes into the high desert rocky floor without even the aid of a flashlight?  (White light of any type is strictly off-limits at Star Parties.)  Further, her lack of a telescope or binoculars told me she most likely wasn’t a regular here, where amateur and professional astronomers swapped parts for their telescopes during the daytime and viewed and photographed the heavens at night.

So what indeed had driven this woman to the Star Party site?  A marriage-gone-bad, perhaps?  A life-threatening illness?   Career problems?  From there the rest of the “what ifs” continued, and I continued to ponder them the entire weekend.  The intrigue wouldn’t let go of me. 

After we finished our stint at the Star Party and returned home, I immediately started writing Star Light, Star Bright.   SYDELL - STAR LIGHTAnd so today, here it is.  I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it!

If you would like to know more about Sydell Voeller, you can visit her website or her Amazon author page.  Links are below, along with a direct link to Star Light, Star Bright.

Buy link:

Sydell’s Amazon author’s page:

Sydell’s website:

Thank you, Sydell, for sharing your inspiration and your love of nature with us.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2013 5:13 AM

    What an intriguing start! Tell us a bit more about your novel, Sydell.

  2. August 31, 2013 11:43 AM

    My heroine has just moved from the big city to start an upscale eatery in a small ranching community in central Oregon. The hero, a rancher, is opposed to newcomers that want to set down roots. That embodies the external conflict, of course, but the story is really more character driven…

  3. September 2, 2013 2:57 PM

    Sydell, I agree with Beate that your novel has an intriguing start. I love the way you took a small observation and used it as a jumping off point for a story. It gives such insight into the way a writer’s mind works.

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