Shawn Smucker mesmerized readers with his debut novel, The Day the Angels Fell, which won a 2018 Christianity Today Book Award. His latest novel, the spellbinding Light from Distant Stars (Revell), looks at how trauma affects our lenses on past and present events and the path to rediscovering grace and hope. In this interview, Shawn talks about being compared with Neil Gaiman and James L. Rubart, his research into the condition described in the novel, and how his novel includes both difficult elements and grace…
No spoilers, but what can you tell our readers about Light from Distant Stars?
This is a novel primarily about a child’s relationship to his father, the mistakes they both made through the years, and how long it can take us to find each other again. The main character, Cohen, finds his father nearly dead in their family funeral home and spends the next week thinking back over the formative events of his childhood, trying to find out where he and his father lost each other and what happened to the faith of his childhood.
Your main character experienced some traumatic events in his life that affect both his past and his present. Would you expand on this?
Everything we have experienced finds its tangible result in the relationships we have now. I think Cohen is trying to find an explanation for how he’s become who he’s become, and where his relationships with his father and God have gone.
Although Light from Distant Stars covers some difficult elements, it is also a story that explores grace and hope. How is this portrayed in your story?
It’s a dark story at times, but at the heart of it is a man trying to find his father. And in the end, he has realizations about himself and his dad that change the way he views the events of his life. I think we are all given this task—to try to bring hope to the things that have happened to us.
Repressed memories are an underlying theme in Light from Distant Stars. Did it require specific research to understand how memories impact one’s overall outlook on life?
I was mostly intrigued with how children create imaginary friends, and how this sometimes happens as a way of coping with life that doesn’t fit their ability to understand. This continues into adulthood in some ways, as I think all of us create imaginary or reproduced versions of our past that we can live with. Cohen is in this phase, trying to figure out how he is going to define his life with his father.
Readers have compared your writing to James L. Rubart and Neil Gaiman. How do you feel your style is like these authors?
I’m very intrigued with stories that take place at the edge of the imagination, with one foot in reality and one foot in something that might be beyond reality or a reality we don’t understand very well. I think this is similar to Rubart and Gaiman. I’m very flattered by the comparison.
Visit Shawn Smucker’s author page:
Light from Distant Stars