Book Spotlight + Author Q&A: “Bright Burning Stars” by A.K. Small

Today I feature a debut that promises a whole lot of drama, romance, and ballet.


Title: Bright Burning Stars
Author: A.K. Small
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
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Would you die for the Prize?

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained since childhood at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where they’ve forged an inseparable bond through shared stories of family tragedies and a powerful love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves how far they woud go for the ultimate prize: to be named the one girl who will join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic will make them shine, too? Would they risk death for it? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition – for the Prize, for the Demigod – becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other.

Bright Burning Stars is a promising debut by an equally promising debut author. This book reminded me of Center Stage (go watch it if you want to see baby Zoe Saldana,) The Company and Black Swan. A.K. Small’s ballet beginnings certainly helped in the makings of this book. The drama, the highly competitive setting all felt real.

Want to get a little taste of this gorgeous book? You can read the first chapter here. This one is from Marine’s perspective, but you also get to meet Kate. The whole story revolves around these two best friends as they compete for and against each other for the Prize.

Author Q&A (1)

I was lucky enough to be invited by Algonquin Young Readers to the Bright Burning Stars blog tour. I certainly had a fun time reading all the ballet references in this one. The descriptions of all the performances in this story were gorgeous. It all made me curious about A.K. Small’s inspiration for her book, and here she talks about her writing process, inspiration and the songs she listened to while writing Kate and M’s story.

  1. How did you write BRIGHT BURNING STARS? All at once or did you outline the story?

I wrote it all at once but multiple times! I’m trying to learn how to outline. Man, is it hard. My brain goes to the creative before the analytical.

  1. What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? Which of your characters do you most identify with, and why?

I think that the most surprising aspect of character building is that it took me years to understand and relate to Kate. I had to spend a long time with her before she finally clicked on the page.

I identify with Marine because M and I both believe that any artistic success comes not from talent but from sweat and grit.

  1. What gave you the idea for BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I wrote a short story titled The Art of Jealousy and then I knew I wanted to write a larger piece.

  1. Do you have a favorite scene, quote, or moment from BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I love the scene where Marine dances to Biggie Smalls and there is a Luc scene I adore but I don’t want to give it away.

  1. If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?

I would tell her never to forget about the magic of process and to always trust her instincts.

  1. What is on your current TBR pile?

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robbin Brown, Wilder Girls by Rory Power, How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox, Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I’m a sucker for books. I LOVE to read.

  1. Do you write to music? If so, what artist were you listening to while writing BRIGHT BURNING STARS?

I usually don’t, but as I was trying to figure Kate out I listened to Unsteady by X Ambassadors and I put on classical piano pieces, literal ballet music, while I worked on studio scenes for atmosphere and rhythm purposes.

Author Q&A (2)

Angela Small credit _Becky Thurner Braddock.jpg

A.K. SMALL was born in Paris, France. At first years old, she began studying classical dance with the legendary Max Bozzoni, then later with Daniel Franck and Monique Arabian at the famous Académie Chaptal. At thirteen, she moved to the United States, where she danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for one summer and with the Richmond Ballet Student Company for several years. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary and has an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing, she spends time with her husband, her puppy, and her three daughters, and practices yoga. Bright Burning Stars is her first novel.

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