Ray Star: Writing for nature
Ray Star is an award-winning author of young adult fantasy, creating stories that centre around global issues like climate change. In addition, her contribution towards creating a better world is furthered by the fact that with every book sale a tree is planted.
V-Land UK (V-L): What was the inspiration behind the book’s protagonist, Peridot?
Ray Star (RS): Peridot holds a special place in my heart for many reasons.
She is the innocence that remains in our world, the child that doesn’t yet comprehend what a chicken nugget or pork sausage is made from.
Her name came to me when I lost my father to pancreatic cancer in 2017. Dad had a Peridot ring that he asked if I would wear when his time came to leave this plane, and go, wherever it is that our life force goes when that time comes.
I’ve worn it ever since.
It’s on my finger now as I type away. The band is aged, the gemstone scratched and worn. It reminds me not only of Dad, but of the reason it’s on my finger now instead of his, and a few weeks after his funeral this filled me with purpose; no daughter, son, sibling, parent, or friend should have to lose a loved one to the dreaded C word.
There are a few C words I detest, and that one trumps them all.
Whilst it’s considered common knowledge that one of the main causes of that type of cancer is the foods consumed and circulating within the pancreatic system, it’s not common knowledge to everyone. Yet.
If Peridot’s story encourages even one person to move away from animal-based foods to plant-based or vegan alternatives and saves animal lives, or helps the environment in the process, Peridot has served her purpose, and I will have served mine.
V-L: What was it like writing your first book? What was the biggest challenge?
RS: I genuinely enjoyed writing Earthlings and I hope readers feel that sense of enjoyment when they are reading it too. I put my heart and soul into every word: especially the characters, they may be works of fiction, but they are real to me, beside me everywhere I go. I hope they stay with readers too. Everyone needs a Peridot in their life, a Euan, a Phoenix, a Freyja - even a Vallaeartha… although, perhaps not an Alan.
He is one dastardly foe.
The hardest part of writing Earthlings, Dominion, and A Land of Hope and Glory (release date TBC) was the research. To write accurately about speciesism, I had to get my facts straight about it first, and the research process tore my heart in two. To then incorporate that research into the story in a child-friendly approach, was equally as difficult, but I hope I’ve achieved the above whilst still doing justice to the cause. It is my hope to one day open The Peridot Animal Sanctuary and Nature Reserve to help some of the beings mentioned in the trilogy.
V-L: When you started writing did you always know that your story would form a trilogy?
RS: Truthfully, I didn’t have a plan when I started writing Earthlings, I didn’t storyboard or map it out. I had the idea to write a story that puts humans in an animal’s paw prints to create empathy and (hopefully) positive change. The words, characters, and story, found me from there. As it progressed, I realised I couldn’t fit the story into a stand-alone novel and the trilogy started to take form in my mind.
Next came the idea to title each book after animal rights documentaries to hopefully gain more awareness for animals, and to substantiate some of the moments that unfold within the chapters. The books within the Earthlings trilogy are in homage to the following documentaries: Earthlings, Dominion and A Land of Hope and Glory.
V-L: Why did you decide to write Earthlings, Dominion and A Land of Hope and Glory?
RS: I could write an entire essay on this one question as it has so many answers, but I’m going to go with the most important answer to me at this present moment in time. I want to save animals.
I hope the Earthlings tale achieves that goal.
V-L: Why is eco-living so important to you? What does eco-parenting entail?
RS: Along my vegan journey of wanting to become healthier, came the desire to want to save animals, and then, on a grander scale, the desire to help save our planet too. That statement, in hindsight, seems rather daft, as I’ve come to realise that the planet doesn’t need saving.
Mother Nature is suffering, on an unfathomable level. But, she is also adapting, evolving, changing - as we have forced her to do so. Ultimately, she will survive these changes. Perhaps that’s why it’s called climate change. Not climate end.
It’s almost an ironic narrative, that those who will not survive the harshest realities of climate change are those that created it. Us. Humans. And sadly, innocent creatures who have not contributed towards climate change, are likely to be wiped out along with us. Unless of course, we change. Become aware. Live consciously. Evolve.
I believe it to be a responsibility for every human on this planet to take accountability for what we are doing to our home and at the very least, try to help it regain balance and beauty once more. To stop taking from Mother Nature and start giving back.
I try to do that as much as I can and encourage my children to do the same.
V-L: What made you choose to write about parallels of real-world fears and environmental issues and magic?
RS: All of the above and more.
When I’m passionate about something I can write my socks off about it, so, in a nutshell; I want to save animals and help our world rekindle its former beauty, and I thought a good way to start was to write a story about it.
I am a huge believer in the power of intent, and to enhance the probability of my intent becoming reality, I had to incorporate my intent (or as I prefer to call it; magick) into the story.
Many dystopian fiction novels have an aura of doom and gloom about them, which is the opposite of what I am trying to achieve with Earthlings. I want people to follow Peridot’s journey and feel inspired, empowered even, to do better, to be better, just as Peridot is trying so hard to do, even with so many odds stacked against her.
Peridot’s power is that of the elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.
Mother Nature in all her glory: the ultimate force on this planet (other than time) that is not to be reckoned with. You can rage wars across her lands, detonate bombs on her fields, pillage her forests, pollute her rivers, and massacre her children, but you cannot, and will not, ever, destroy her.
Mother Nature will always adapt. Mother Nature will continue to live on. One way or another. The question left on my lips is, will we?
V-L: What’s your opinion on a vegan lifestyle? How has it changed your life?
RS: I would recommend vegan living to anyone looking to feel happier, healthier, and more connected with the natural world around us. It has enhanced my life in so many ways, it blessed me with my children and two stress-free pregnancies, a happier (and cheaper) way of life, it helped me create a career path I actually enjoy, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll help some others along my way with my lifestyle changes too.
Like many others, my only regret is that I didn’t discover veganism sooner.
V-L: How important is it to you that your book creates good in the world, both through its message and through planting trees with its sales?
RS: It means everything to me. It’s all I want to do.
To try to make this world a beautiful place to live again. I hope Peridot’s story leaves readers with a desire to do the same, and if it doesn’t, they’ll have planted a tree for each book they purchase, so it’s a win-win either way.
All my works past, present, and future are printed on recycled paper where possible.
I plant a tree per paperback copy via Ecologi, and in my spare time, I try to raise awareness about the climate crisis and animal rights either via author events, school visits or Writing for nature workshops.
All anyone can do is try.
And a memorable lesson I’ve learnt in life is that often, trying, does the trick in the end.