Guest blog post by Natalie Lloyd, author of Over the Moon
Everybody has a Dust. For Mallie Ramble, the twelve-year-old hero of my new novel Over the Moon, her Dust is literal. It’s a thick, ashy cloud hovering over her mountain and snuffing out the sun and stars. This dim way of living is a predicament for Mallie’s community, because starlight used to be more than just beautiful for them. They could weave starlight into tangible trinkets: blankets and jackets and book covers and all manner of brightness. People who touched those starry goods felt hope and joy. They felt a healing light all around them and inside them. Even in hard times, the starlight hooked their hearts, pulling them forward. That was long ago, though. Along came the Dust, and away went the stars. Everybody on the mountain has given up on seeing starlight ever again—save the occasional Starpatch floating through the woods, reminding them of what used to be. And everyone has accepted—without question—what their leaders tell them is true.
Everyone except Mallie.
She asks one of the bravest questions I believe anybody can ask: WHAT IF?
What if there is something on the other side of this darkness?
What if there is hope worth holding on to . . . maybe even worth fighting for?
What if there is still a good story for my life, one I get to write, even when the Dust presses down?
And so, after years of breathing in the Dust—and with the help of a flying horse—a twelve-year-old girl becomes a fighter.
The Dust most apparent in my life while I wrote Over the Moon was anxiety. I wrote the final sentences while a loved one was recovering from a terrible wreck, scary beeps punctuating the cold emptiness in her hospital room. As I type this now, my Dust is grief. A few weeks ago, my dog, Biscuit, would have be here beside me while I typed. Now, that space is empty. Dust can be worry. Or fear. Or financial situations. A bleak circumstance. Loss. And loneliness. The empty ache of goodbye.
And still, somehow, our battered hearts ask what if. . .
Maybe books are where we keep our Starpatches—the pieces of hope that remind us of how to breathe again when tragedy, sorrow, anxiety, and depression fling their smothering ashes in our faces.
The hero of the story is broken, defeated . . . but then we turn the page. She keeps going. And we are broken, defeated . . . but we take another step, too. A character feels joy and somehow we feel a spark of it also. A character rallies and so do we, our voices rising up out of the ashes. Young readers speak up daily for change, for equality, for hope, for peace, for a better environment, and for acceptance and love in a thousand fallen cities. Here’s what those readers teach me, and what I hope Mallie Ramble’s story reflects: There is always a Dust. But the light always finds a way in. Sometimes we have to fight for that light. Sometimes we have to become it.
Natalie Lloyd lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She collects old books, listens to bluegrass music, and loves exploring quirky mountain towns. She is the author of A Snicker of Magic, The Key to Extraordinary, and Over the Moon.