Spoiled: Diana Peterfreund Talks Her Austen-Inspired YA For Darkness Shows The Stars

Spoiled shares a look at the books you can't wait to read, long before they hit stores. Today author Diana Peterfreund answers RT's questions about this upcoming futuristic YA tale that is inspired by a Jane Austen novel. Get an idea of what you can expect to see in For Darkness Shows the Stars before it is released in June!


For Darkness Shows the Stars is inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Why did you decide to retell such a famous tale?

Persuasion has long been my favorite Austen story. I love Mr. Darcy as much as the next gal, but when I’m looking for a good, cathartic cry, it’s always Persuasion I turn to. I adore those characters, their constancy and mistakes and eventual reconciliation. I also love other Austen retellings like Bridget Jones’s Diary (Pride & Prejudice) and Clueless (Emma), but there isn’t a definitive one for Persuasion.

One day in late 2009, I was consulting my “idea” file, and saw that “retelling of Persuasion” note that had been living there for years. Nearby was a description of a post-apocalyptic world. The words collided: a post-apocalyptic Persuasion. It was a tongue twister, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was also a perfect match.

What are some of the similarities and differences in the story, and are you worried about the reaction from hard core Austen fans?

A good retelling is kind of like a good cover of a song: it should be respectful of the source material and while doing more than just reminding you of the original. Persuasion is one of my favorite novels and I wanted to honor it in every way that I could, from the storyline, themes, and tone to the character names (like Elliot North for Anne Elliot and Malakai Wentforth for Captain Wentworth).

Since my favorite part of Persuasion is the devastatingly passionate letter Wentworth writes to Anne, I made the book partly epistolary, so letters were always a special way for Kai and Elliot to communicate across the class divide. Love letters — what could be more romantic? It gives the hero a voice when the characters are estranged, and makes letters the medium for the things these somewhat restrained characters have a hard time saying out loud.

This book takes place in the far future, but you describe a world where most technology has been outlawed. What brought you to that choice?

In my book, the world as we know it came to an end because of a misuse of technology — of genetic engineering and bioweaponry. The survivors of this tragedy were luddites, those who had already been rejecting advanced technology. Their beliefs bring about a new “dark age” in which they rule over the unfortunate victims of what comes to be called the Reduction. The ruling class of Luddites are deeply skeptical of anything that hasn’t been in use since long before the Reduction, and have outlawed a lot of technology, as well as biological advances.

Generations later, when my story takes place, there is a rising middle class of people who reject this worldview because innovation is the only way to challenge the entrenched Luddite aristocracy. In that way, I recreated the class struggle that is central to the Persuasion storyline. My heroine, Elliot, is part of this moribund aristocracy, but she secretly yearns for the ideals and industry of those who want to move society forward, like the hero Kai.

Persuasion is a reunion, or “second-time” romance, and is often considered to be one of Austen’s most mature books. I’m sure a lot of readers are curious how you made that work in a YA novel.

The core of the story is a reunion romance, which has always been a favorite of mine. You can get so much deeper into the emotion when you’ve got two people already in love (even if they deny it), who’ve led very different lives, get reunited, and realize that rather than growing apart, they’re even better for one another than they were before.

I wanted that extraordinary level of commitment and constancy to be realistic for teenage characters, so I made Kai and Elliot playmates from early childhood. Despite their class differences, they’re best friends, and they fall in love almost before they know what it means. When they’re parted at fourteen, it’s not a short “puppy love” relationship that’s destroyed, but something that’s a deep and fundamental part of them. That doesn’t change in four years. It won’t ever change.

When Kai and Elliot see each other again at eighteen, there is so much heartbreak and betrayal between them, but also the weight of the past, and they need to decide what’s stronger. The issues that drove them apart are still there, and the question is whether Kai and Elliot have become the people they need to be to challenge the make-up of their world and fight for a future together.

Are you excited to read this post-apocalyptic Persuasion re-boot? Make sure to mark your calendar, For Darkness Shows the Stars will be released on June 6, 2012. And you can also take a look at more upcoming releases here!