We’re celebrating the upcoming release of Quintessence by Jessica Redman, a magical new middle grade book, with a guest post from the author AND your chance to win a signed hardcover and other goodies. Keep reading for all the details.
The 3 A’s of QUINTESSENCE: Astronomy, Alchemy, & Anxiety
by Jessica Redman
My new middle-grade magical contemporary is called QUINTESSENCE. It’s the story of Alma Lucas, a lonely and anxious 12-year-old girl who moves to the magic-infused town of Four Points. While visiting a junk shop one day, Alma is given a very special telescope and that night she watches as a star—a star that looks like a golden child—falls into her backyard. With the help of three friends from Astronomy Club and a very old book of alchemy, Alma sets out to save that fallen star.
Yes, it’s a story about alchemy, astronomy, and anxiety. Let me tell you all about it.
I love stories about magic. Everything I write has magic in it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. In QUINTESSENCE, the magic is based on alchemy and the classical elements, and I did way more research than I needed to on these topics because they’re fascinating.
I researched the origins of alchemy in India, China, ancient Greece, and medieval Europe. I learned about elixirs and distillations, transmutations and the Philosopher’s Stone (which I already knew about—thank you very much, Harry Potter and company). I learned about Paracelsus (who makes an appearance in QUINTESSENCE) and about the four classical elements—earth, wind, water, and fire—and the fifth element, quintessence.
Then I mixed in some astronomy. Why? In medieval alchemy, the stars were said to be made of quintessence. It wasn’t much of a leap for me to decide that my alchemy story needed a fallen star made of quintessence.
Just like with alchemy, the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I fell down the astronomy rabbit hole…or maybe wormhole. I researched supernovas and nebula, runaway stars and neutron stars, red supergiants and black holes. I learned about Proxima Centauri, the second closest star closest to Earth which is twenty-five trillion miles away. I calculated how long light coming from different points in the sky would take to reach us here on Earth.
I think astronomy and alchemy go so well together because sometimes science can feel like magic and because sometimes magic turns out to be science. So I had my first two As. But something was missing.
My final A: Anxiety.
What does anxiety have to do with elixirs and stars?
I’m a therapist (although lately I’ve mostly been a writer), and I think about emotions all the time. I think about how I feel and how you feel and why we feel the way we do and how we can express our feelings. I’ve worked with many clients with anxiety disorders because anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the USA. And when the character of Alma came to me, I didn’t have to give her an anxiety disorder. She already had one. And I knew she needed help.
Magic is wonderful. Science is fascinating. But at the core of every story is human emotion, and it is Alma’s emotion that guides her journey to understand and accept who she is and how she fits into the world, how she fits into the universe.
That’s what QUINTESSENCE is about.
Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she told her parents that they did. And every day she feels less and less like herself.
Then Alma meets the ShopKeeper in the town’s junk shop, The Fifth Point. The ShopKeeper gives her a telescope and this message:
Find the Elements. Grow the Light. Save the Starling.
That night, Alma watches as a star—a star that looks like a child—falls down from the sky and into her backyard. She knows what it’s like to be lost and afraid, to long for home. And if a star really is stranded in Four Points, Alma knows she has to get it back up to the sky. With the help of some unlikely new friends from Astronomy Club and the mysterious ShopKeeper, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self.
QUINTESSENCE is a stunning story of friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.
Jess Redman has wanted to be an author since age six, when her poem “I Read and Read and Read All Day” appeared in a local anthology. It took a little while though. First, she did things like survive middle school, travel around the world, become a therapist, and have two kids.
But then finally, her childhood dream came true! Her middle-grade debut, THE MIRACULOUS, was published by FSG/Macmillan on July 30, 2019. Her second middle-grade novel, QUINTESSENCE, comes out on July 28, 2020. You can find her at www.JessRedman.com.
One winner will receive a Signed Hardcover of QUINTESSENCE, Bookmark, Sticker, and Postcard. US Only. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!