Some Thoughts with ... Bethany Jacobs

3 Dec 2023

The Author/s

Bethany Jacobs

Bethany Jacobs

Bethany Jacobs is a former college instructor of writing and science fiction, who made the leap to education technology. When she is not writing, she enjoys reading, trying out new recipes, and snuggling in bed with a TV show she’s already watched ten times. She lives in Buffalo, New York, with her wife and her dog and her books. These Burning Stars is her debut novel.

The Interview

1.- What made you start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old. I wrote a poem that was a formal copy of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Then I wrote my first “novel” at eight, which was based in Narnia. As you can probably guess, I was a voracious reader, and so I tried out writing as a way to engage with the authors I liked. I haven’t stopped writing since! 

2.- How did the first idea for These Burning Stars appear?
I was working on another novel, and it wasn’t going well. I decided to just sit down and write the first thing that came to me–no plans, no plot outlines, just see what happened. I wrote the line “The pirates were restless.” That line didn’t survive the first draft (thank God), but it started me off on this idea of a con artist purchasing an artifact from pirates, and that artifact having the potential to upend the star systems. And off I went!

3.- Could you tell us about the process from the idea inception to getting a publishing deal?
What a long process it was! I started writing These Burning Stars in late 2018. It went through several drafts, and then in September 2020 I had the opportunity to share the first three chapters with author Michael Mammay. He encouraged me to enter the book into Pitch Wars, a mentorship program. I worked my ass off to get it ready, and submitted it. One of the mentors, Jake Nicholls, selected me, and we worked together to prep it for a literary agent showcase. I ended up getting several offers of representation, and signed with Bridget Smith of JABberwocky Literary. This was around April 2021. We went on submission after another short round of edits, and I got an offer from Priyanka Krishnan at Orbit in September 2021. And then we published in October 2023. So, as you can see, the whole journey has taken five years! 

4.- Why did you decide to set your story in space and make it a space opera?
I’m a pretty prolific reader of science fiction and fantasy, and there’s quite a history in space opera of interweaving fantasy and sci-fi elements. I had never written a space opera before, and thought it would be fun to create an expansive world across star systems, where I could bring in elements of fantasy that I’ve always loved. But honestly, I don’t remember making a conscious choice to set the story in space. Because the book came into being so organically, it just kind of ended up like that!

5.- Religion plays an important role in the plot, and it piques my curiosity about which approach did you take while writing about it?
Religion plays a large role in almost everything I write. I was raised evangelical and left that religion in my twenties, but it’s had a lasting influence on how I see the world and how I imagine faith acting as a force of good and evil. The religious order In These Burning Stars, called the Righteous Hand, was absolutely inspired by monotheistic religions like Catholicism and Judaism. However, the religion itself is a pantheon–perhaps because I actually think the idea of worshiping multiple gods makes more sense than a single god. This was inspired by Norse and Greek pantheons, as well as Hinduism, and the Yoruban concept of ashe. 

6.- Was the Jeveni inspired by any real world civilization?
The Jeveni are an oppressed ethnic group that spent centuries mining energy resources under the thumb of the novel’s ruling government. When their home world is destroyed, the survivors become refugees. So in writing about them, I was definitely thinking about histories of genocide, as well as refugee communities: Syrians, Bosnians, Jews, for example. But I was also very much engaging with the Western legacy of forced labor, particularly in America. African American slavery, as well as the exploited labor of Latinx and Asian immigrants throughout American history, certainly influenced this novel. 

7.- Which part of writing These Burning Stars was the most challenging for you?
The novel is quite complex, sort of like a house of cards. It has three POVs, and two timelines, with the past and present strongly influencing each other. In writing and revising the book, I found that anything I did had the power to make the house tumble, because everything was so tightly interwoven. I also have a propensity for complex stories anyway, and that’s hard! It’s easy to get lost, to lose continuity, to overcomplicate things. But that also ended up being the great joy of writing the novel, for me. 

8.- What can we expect from Bethany Jacobs in the future?
THESE BURNING STARS is the first novel in the THE KINDOM TRILOGY. Right now I’m finishing up Book 2, and in 2024 I’ll be diving head first into the threequel, so I’ll be quite busy for a while! I do have some ideas for what I’ll be working on next. Expect more space operas and explorations of religion and government corruption! If you’re interested in following me for events and updates, check out my website You can sign up for my newsletter, find my socials, and see what’s going on with me there!