The NT Series Spotlight — Brothers in Stars
Greetings fellow NT aficionados, and welcome to our fourth edition of the Neopian Times Series Spotlight! We have had the privilege of hearing from some very distinguished guests on our spotlight so far. Joining us today is perhaps one of the longest-contributing authors in Neopian Times history, whose A Hero’s Journey saga and other stories, articles, and comics have been gracing the pages of the NT since the very early days of our beloved newspaper.
Today we will be discussing her latest work, a dramatic science fiction series titled Brothers in Stars.
She needs no introduction, but she does deserve a warm round of applause. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome precious_katuch14!
Such an honour to have you here with us today, Kat! First of all, would you like to tell the readers a bit about your current story?
Brothers in Stars is my version of the events that took place before and during the NeoQuest II cutscenes. Some of my personal touches, which include character personalities and original characters, came from A Hero's Journey (issues 222-231), its sequel and spinoff Another Hero's Journey (issues 274-285), and their related stories and series. They all take place within the NQII game itself but disregard the cutscenes. Collectively I would call those stories the A Hero's Journey saga, because they span not only the NQII timeline but also the years before and beyond.
For context, the cutscenes establish that beyond the world of NQII, the characters are trapped in a simulation and they must fight through it to escape. In Brothers in Stars, Rohane, the main protagonist of NQII, works not only with his crew but also with his older brother Reuben and his father Reynold in the Perseus Sector somewhere in space. The story begins with a mission that involves all three Blumaroos. Quite a few things go south and lead to Reuben, who is a genius hacker and information technician, racing against time to save Rohane, Mipsy, Talinia and Velm. Through it all, the brothers' relationship, abilities, and resilience are tested.
What inspired you to write Brothers in Stars?
When the Cosmic collab theme was announced, my mind immediately jumped to doing a story about the NQII cutscenes, which took place on a starship. Prior to this, I had always wanted to do an alternate universe ("AU") of my NQII stories. I finished a short series years ago about Rohane's backstory as a starship captain instead of an adventurer warrior, but I wasn't satisfied with how it turned out. I wound up shelving the idea at the time.
This year, with a little help from Carolyn (parody_ham), I started bouncing a few ideas about what I wanted to do. One of my ideas was bringing in Reuben and Reynold, who are my characters from A Hero's Journey. Originally, Reuben became a weapon maker and a knife fighter, while Reynold was a great knight of Meridell. How then would they change if they were in a more futuristic setting? The idea of Reuben hacking into the simulation to save Rohane and the others popped into my head, and everything snowballed from there. I even decided to reference the fact that when you play NQII, Rohane starts out with his father's sword.
I also saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself, since I rarely write science fiction or futuristic pieces – and I jumped straight into writing a full-blown series.
How many parts is this series?
Originally, it was supposed to be six to eight parts long, but I had way too much fun expanding the world, and writing the exposition and drama parts. Now it has ten parts – which I realize is pretty coincidental considering that the first A Hero's Journey series, which started me down the road to creating and expanding what I now call my NQII universe, was also ten parts long (though likely shorter in terms of word count).
How long would you say it took you to write all ten parts?
It took nearly two months, counting the gaps wherein I was not feeling very inspired and took breaks to figure out the direction I wanted to take. But the bulk of the writing and editing took place in the last three weeks when I really buckled down to finish the work instead of wasting more time second guessing myself.
The editing felt like it took forever, though. Sweet Fyora, the editing.
Without giving the readers any spoilers, were there any moments in Brothers in Stars, or any part of the writing process, that you particularly enjoyed?
I enjoyed writing the scenes involving Reuben and Rohane's family, especially the flashbacks. Two in particular stood out – the one that explains the origin of the title, and the other, which was only supposed to be a comedic break in the story. That second flashback involves Reuben teaching Rohane how to drive a starship, and yes, it is as chaotic as you think. It was a hilarious idea and I wanted to write it down for a shot of comedy, but as the rest of the plot came together, let's just say it gained a bit more significance than I imagined.
Was there anything you found particularly challenging?
It was very challenging to take the plot and events I had in my head and write them down the way I wanted them to go, because sometimes, something that seems okay in your imagination suddenly feels odd once it's on paper, so to speak. I had to pause in the middle of the writing process because I wasn't sure how to execute the next parts. I had so many questions: did this part drag on too much? Is this part too short? Is this a good place to end one chapter and jump to the next? How do I fill this gap in the story?
Mapping out the story's flow has always been one of the most difficult processes for me. I have the ideas, the important events and plot points, but then I must figure out how to string them all together coherently.
Would you say Brothers in Stars could be classified as a specific genre? If so, which genre?
It is a mix of science fiction, because of the setting and concepts; drama, because of the intertwined relationships and emotions, the latter of which will run very high in some chapters; and of course, family, because the main characters are brothers and their bond drives much of the story forward. It could be a thriller because of the stakes in the plot, and other reasons I'll withhold for now because of spoilers.
Do you have a favourite character in your story? Or is there a character in Brothers in Stars that you especially identify with?
Ever since I wrote A Hero's Journey, Reuben has always been the character I identified with the most. Like him, I have my own insecurities and a need to prove myself and find my place in the world. On top of that, he's a big brother and I'm a big sister myself, so much of the relationship between Reuben and Rohane in every story I write about them is drawn from experience.
I think I can also consider him my favourite character because of the sheer sentimental value he holds. I was sixteen when I embarked on my ambitious goal of creating Rohane's backstory, but in the process, it also became Reuben's story, and from there, an entire saga was born, something which I had never expected. Reuben grew with me over the years and I have enjoyed every step of the, ahem, journey.
If you were to describe Brothers in Stars using only a handful of adjectives, what would those adjectives be?
Let's see, I would say emotional, dramatic, heartwarming, suspenseful, and long.
Well, I said this was ten parts. I'm not wrong about that last one.
Without giving us any spoilers, what would you like readers to come away with upon finishing your story?
I hope readers enjoy my first foray into writing within the NQII cutscenes, as much as I enjoyed writing within this new and different setting. And of course, as an NQ nut, I hope they gain some sort of appreciation for NQII because of the amazing plot within the game and the opportunities for more stories to tell.
More importantly, I want readers to remember that we are capable of much more than we think, and that we don't have to fight our battles alone. We've got our own Team Alphas and/or Team Nerds who will throw their full support for us every step of the way. It sounds cheesy, but it's true.
Bonus question for precious_katuch14! Your first Neopian Times entry was published all the way back in issue 98! What has been your motivation to keep writing for Neopia’s fill-in-the-blank news source over the years?
I gained many friends within the Neopian Times community who have been supportive of me and my crazy endeavours, and I found that writing for the NT was so much more enjoyable when I did it alongside others, shared my ideas and thoughts with them, and had them review my work while I reviewed theirs in turn. Though I took a couple of hiatuses, old and new faces alike were always there to encourage me to pick up the quill again even after I've come and gone.
I have also grown to love the characters I've written about – both site characters and original characters. The world of Neopia is rich in lore and possibilities, which have inspired me to return to the NT again and again and to keep expanding the universe I have adapted and created.
And ever since I returned this year, inspiration has been constantly punching me in the face, prodding me to continue A Hero's Journey and more besides. Ideas are popping up like mushrooms in my mind garden and I want to harvest them all.
The world of Neopia is indeed abound with possibilities, and with a creative mind like precious_katuch14, there are infinite stories to be told!
At the time of this spotlight’s publication, Brothers in Stars is in the 5th week of its run, with five chapters yet to be released. I have it from an inside source that Brothers in Stars is a masterpiece, an absolute emotional tour-de-force. Care to join me in the experience?
Would you like your series featured in the Neopian Times Series Spotlight? Do you have a favourite series you would like to see featured? Send me a Neomail at the account the__reporter!