I’ve been thinking a lot about comet novel lately. This comes as no surprise to anyone because my interest in space has been reinvigorated. I don’t know if it was the solar eclipse or Cassini’s descent into Saturn that did it, but without warning, really, I was diving back into space.
Briefly: a history of Mary’s space adventures!
When I was little, I was afraid of flying things. I used to hide in my bedroom with the covers over my head because there were birds outside. I ran screaming from bugs with wings (realistically, I still do this with butterflies, moths, beetles, and ladybugs). I once saw an ad for the Butterfly Place on TV, and absolutely begged my mom to take me. When we finally got there, I just started screaming. No thanks. Nope. Not happening. (I tried again a few years ago in a zoo, and wow, yup, still terrified of butterflies.) I still don’t really like planes, though I think that’s because I’ve only been in one once. The fear got better and worse in college. By college, I’d started to really enjoy birds. Falcons were among my favorite animals, and I started incorporating them into Ronan’s story. However, I also started to develop a fear of space. And by fear, I mean that if I was walking outside at night and thought too much about it, I had to run inside and keep my head down. During the day, it made me nauseous to think about how space was right there if I looked up at the sky. Planets were the worst part. I had dreams about flying underneath a planet and it falling through space to kill me. I know that we’re all always falling, but nightmares aren’t logical. I had dreams of other planets crashing into Earth and destroying us all. Google Earth was the literal worst. Just nope.
Now, if you know me now, you know this sounds like absolute nonsense. And really, I don’t know what did it. I used to torture myself with Google Earth when they released the Moon and Mars simulations, so maybe it was that. Toward the end of college, my fascination with the moon began, and after, I started cautiously researching moon magic, so maybe it was that. I do know that at least a large portion of it was due to the release of The Martian. But I can’t really pinpoint the day it stopped becoming only about the fear and started becoming about fear and awe in equal respect. I can remember constantly wanting to like space, though, because it’s so vast and unexplainable, and it’s always sounded so interesting to me. So, maybe I just tricked myself into liking it. Who knows.
Space is my jam. Sometimes, I plan whole yoga classes around celestial events, or in homage to them. I once created a workshop dedicated specifically to the nine (shut up) planets. One of my favorite musical albums in the world is Atlas: Space by Sleeping at Last. I have galaxy pants and star pajamas and NASA shirts. I read astronaut biographies like they’re going out of style. I’m in love with the universe.
The first time I read Cloud Atlas, I was dumbstruck. This–this was a novel, man. This was something else entirely. Later, while I was reading The Bone Clocks, I texted Jack to tell him that I wanted to write a story like this someday, a story that traveled the universe in wild ways. A couple years ago, Sense8 was released on Netflix, and again, that desire surged through me. I wanted to create a story with multiple people in multiple countries possibly in multiple timelines, and somehow connect them all. I wanted to take the idea of Cloud Atlas, of a single soul traveling through centuries, merge it with The Bone Clocks, a story which discusses the ancient war between basically the right and wrong ways to steal or inhabit souls, and sprinkle a little Sense8 (eight souls connected in the most intimate, beautiful way possible) magic in there, and come out on the other side with something that was starting to hashtag itself as #cometnovel.
To be fair, the hashtag is 100% inspired by Cloud Atlas. Each of the characters in the novel have a comet-shaped birthmark. But, as I started thinking more about my own characters, the comet idea started to reshape itself, and I may just be able to keep it around.
But how does comet novel relate to space? In two ways. One: one of the characters is an astronaut. Two: they are born of the galaxy, souls that have traveled across universes to be together, and will someday return to stardust. Which is all well and good, but what is comet novel?
Comet novel is the story of seven different individuals. Each of them lives in a different country, and all of them are living in different timelines. A looooong time ago, seven souls inhabited seven bodies. These bodies were part of an ancient tribal people, who were enraged that their brothers and sisters had been taken from them. Furious, they tried to kill these new souls and release their brothers and sisters from this terrible fate. Two of the seven died, and the other five went into hiding. Over time, the other five died of natural causes, and the cycle began again. The only way to destroy these seven souls were to kill them all at the same time. Thus, they began reincarnating. Weakened as they were, they were unable to reincarnate all at the same time, and have been popping up in different timelines for years and years and years. It isn’t until now that they’ve finally managed to all reincarnate within the same lifeline, which of course means that the descendants of the ancient tribal people are determined to end this long battle once and for all.
I know, it’s a lot. It’s even more once you meet our seven souls. Thankfully, it will be a multi-part novel, and each soul will be given due time. And I think it’s high time that I introduced them properly. If you’d like, you can follow along on their Pinterest board to see who I’ve imagined for their actor/actress counterparts.
First up, we have Emma, the wanderer, whose story takes place in the mountains of North America. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Emma is running away. Pressured by her parents to do more and be more, she has left all worldly possessions behind, filled her backpack with only the necessities, and set off on a journey to hike from the East to the West coast. When we meet her, she’s in the Midwest, working her way through the Rocky’s. Her end goal is to get up to Washington and hike Rainier. She is linked closely with Henry, who is living about a year behind her.
Next, we have Henry, the free spirit, whose story takes place in the seas surrounding Australia. Born and raised in a city I haven’t figured out yet, Henry is trying to live life to its fullest. After a tragic childhood, he left behind what little was left of his family, and lived off the land. He is an avid surfer and hiker, and wants to travel the world, though he’s never gone farther than New Zealand. He will, ultimately, travel to Rainier to meet Emma, who he has fast fallen in love with.
Next, we have Hugo, the astronaut, whose story takes place on Mars. Hugo is the reason I’ve been thinking more about this story lately, obviously. Born and raised in Africa, he eventually immigrated to North America with his mother, where they have been thriving. It had always been his dream to visit the stars, and is overwhelmed with the opportunity to travel to Mars. While there, he receives a transmission in the middle of the night that doesn’t look like anything he’s ever received from NASA before, and this is how he meets Eloise.
Eloise, the witch, whose story takes place in Venice, Italy, is trying to summon a demon, about two decades behind Hugo, to kill her stepfather when Hugo receives her transmission. It’s unknown to either of them how Hugo managed to hear this, but it becomes quickly obvious that Eloise is going to be the one that saves all of them. She’s not in a great place when we meet her, and is on the brink of becoming suicidal. She’s bullied relentlessly at her school, abused by her stepfather, and feels like no one would care if she wasn’t here. She is, ultimately, the one that figures out what they are, and how to travel to each other.
Next, we have Arjun, the monk, whose story takes place in a temple in Thailand. Arjun is the only one of the seven who has met the aware, Nina, before our story begins. As a Buddhist, he is also aware that his soul has been reincarnated before, though he doesn’t know the history of his soul. He is, obviously, very removed from even the possibility of coming into contact with the others. However, he dreams of Nathan often, and is starting to question who this person is, and if he’s supposed to leave the temple to find and help them. The morning after he’s finally made the decision to discuss his dreams with the elder monks, he wakes up to find Nathan unconscious on his floor.
And then there’s Nathan, the soldier, whose story takes place first in the Middle East, and then specifically in Egypt, before arriving in Thailand. Like Eloise, Nathan plays a pivotal role in the overall story. While Eloise is capable of actual, real magic, and is working to discover the truth of them, Nathan has the ability to travel. He’s in the middle of a mission somewhere in the Middle East when he’s rendered unconscious by an IED and wakes up in the middle of the desert outside Egypt. He’s only there for a few weeks before another event causes him to wake up in Thailand on the floor of Arjun’s room. Born in Greece, and raised on different army bases throughout North America, Nathan enlisted as soon as he was old enough. He’s spent much of his life traveling the world with a gun strapped to his hip, and thus, when he wakes up in Thailand with the knowledge that he’s traveled thousands of miles in his sleep, his world is rightfully turned upside down.
Lastly, we have Nina, the aware, whose story takes place in Antarctica. Nina was the first soul to inhabit a body, and the only one that has remembered her history each time she is reincarnated. Born in Africa, she was raised in several different countries. I can’t remember her exact route through life, but she’s traveled far and wide trying to find the other souls. The descendants of the ancient tribal people eventually find and capture her, and she’s been their prisoner in Antarctica for a few decades now. She is farther ahead in the timeline than the rest of them, but also has the ability to speak to them once they are made aware of what they are.
I know I said we have seven souls, and we do, but we also have Camila, the reporter, whose story takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Somehow, Camila knows what they are, and is hell bent on finding out who they are. She’s been studying patterns throughout history, and is prepared to report her findings when her old partner comes back into her life and convinces her not to. Camila will be our eyes into the world, discovering and explaining all of the secrets, and eventually, the one who will help Eloise and Nathan figure out how to bring everyone together.
Phew. It’s a lot, but I feel like I know these characters, like once I finally figure out the plot in its entirety, the writing will just happen because they’re already so real to me. I’ve dreamt whole conversations with Hugo and Eloise, caught myself smiling just at the thought of Emma and Henry finally meeting, and been stupidly excited to watch Arjun and Nathan interact. This story is going to be one heck of a ride, and I really can’t wait to start pulling it apart someday.