The Big Idea: Bethany Jacobs

Most great stories revolve around a compelling hero. Author Bethany Jacobs has taken a different approach in her new novel, These Burning Stars. Follow along in her Big Idea to see how she ended up crafting a devious, toxic, and likeable villain.


The funny thing about big ideas is that you often only discover them after the fact.

When I began working on These Burning Stars, I had no big ideas. I had been slogging my way through another novel that was ponderous with themes of identity and religion, and I needed a break. I wanted to just sit down and see where writing took me. No ten-page plot outlines. No exhaustive worldbuilding documents. As an inveterate plotter, this was far from natural to me. But I wrote some throwaway line about restless space pirates that didn’t even make it into the second draft, and now I was having fun.

The ten-page plot outline and the exhaustive worldbuilding followed, as I began to give form to this vague idea of a cat-and-mouse space opera where three very different women, and one shadowy trickster, hunt down a secret about a genocide. With glee I evolved the most sinister and charismatic villain I’d ever created, a cleric and scion of a wealthy family named Esek Nightfoot, who goes around pursuing her own interests with devil-may-care, kill-first think-later impunity. She was my big idea, a story where the motivations and plot spin in the orbit of this repulsive, seductive person. I surrounded her with characters (a hacker con artist, a fellow cleric, a spurned child) whose own gray morality and longing for justice kept slamming into her like flies beating against a pane of glass…

These Burning Stars: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

Author socials: Website|Twitter|Instagram|Bluesky

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