Author Interview: A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson
With a tagline of Black Mirror meets What If It’s Us, how can we resist being excited about Shaun David Hutchinson’s latest book, A Complicated Love Story Set in Space? We checked in with Shaun, where he shares a bit about MCs Noa, DJ, and Jenny, what Black Mirror fans can expect, and just how much this book is going to break us. Check out our interview below and be sure to preorder A Complicated Love Story Set in Space, out January 19th!
A Complicated Love Story Set in Spaceby Shaun David Hutchinson
on January 19, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, GLBTQIA+
Black Mirror meets What If It’s Us in this gripping, romantic, and wildly surprising novel about two boys lost in space trying to find their way home—while falling in love—from the critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants.
When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.
Boy is he wrong.
Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.
However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.
Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.
Author Interview with Shaun David Hutchinson
Tell us about Noa, DJ, and Jenny. If they were to pack their bags for a space trip, what would the essentials be? What would YOU pack in your own bag?
Oh, I love this question. Noa’s a brooder who spends way too much time stuck in his head overthinking things. Sometimes it’s hard for him to see the good things that are right in front of him. If he had to pack for a space trip, he’d make sure to bring a tablet with some TV shows, books, and music so that he could at least have something decent to do in case there was no one interesting to talk to.
DJ’s is Noa’s total opposite. He’s an eternal optimist. The kind of person who wakes up bright and early in the morning ready to face the day. He’s always concerned about how others are feeling, often putting their needs before his own. For a space trip, DJ would just toss a few changes of clothes in a bag, along with his jogging shoes and probably a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Jenny is an absolute original. She knows what she wants and it’s afraid to ask for it—and that applies to where she goes, what she eats, and who she makes out with. At the same time, she’s considerate and thoughtful and resourceful. If something needs to get done, Jenny’s the person you want on your side helping you do it. If Jenny were packing for a trip to space, she’d definitely bring her cats along, a few different outfits for every situation, a ukulele (she doesn’t know how to play, but she’s always wanted to learn), and definitely some good moisturizer because the air in space can get really dry.
As for me, I’d throw a few books in my bag, definitely my laptop for writing, a spare pair of glasses, and my Nintendo Switch.
A Complicated Love Story Set in Space is billed as Black Mirror meets What If It’s Us. If you were to pick one episode of Black Mirror that resonates most with it, what one would you pick and why?
Ha! So if I were to actually pick the episode that most resonated with the story, it would definitely be a spoiler. Instead, the episode that I thought about most when I was writing it was “Fifteen Million Merits.” I think about that episode a lot because of how prescient it feels. I’ve been on the Internet since it was a loose collection off bulletin boards that you had to dial into separately, and I’ve seen the ways in which every good intention is eventually twisted by capitalism, vanity, and greed. I continue to watch as people seeking to change the system eventually become consumed by that very same system and wind up tools of it.
While that isn’t what A Complicated Love Story In Space is about, it feeds into many of the ideas I was exploring (which is strange because this book literally began as the story of two boys making out in space). Ideas like where stories come from and who they belong to; the exploitation of trauma, our own or someone else’s; identity, both our internal identities and our social identities—because there’s a vast difference between the two; and the performative nature of social media that demands we be authentic but also on all the time.
For me, there are a lot of really amazing Black Mirror episodes—”San Junipero”, “Nosedive”, “USS Callister”, and “Metalhead” are among my favorites—but “Fifteen Million Merits” is the one I thought about most while writing A Complicated Love Story Set in Space. It’s the one I still think about most often. And maybe next time, once people have read the book I’ll tell you which episode really resonated.
What do you hope people will take from this book that is different from your previous books?
You know me. It’s not one of my books if it’s not about everything. And I do think there’s something in this book for every kind of reader. If you’re just looking for a fast-paced romantic space adventure, you’re in luck. If you want some will they/won’t they romantic tension, you’re also in luck. If you want a deeper exploration of the ways in which trauma affects us or the lengths we’ll go to for the people we love, then this is the story for you. But what I really hope readers take away from A Complicated Love Story Set In Space is a desire to look at their own stories. To find the strands that make them who they are and really examine what they are and how they spin them into the world.
This actually came about because of my memoir Brave Face. Writing that forced me to confront, not just my memories, but the way I chose to remember things. It made me look at what stories I held onto and used to form my sense of self and what my own personal mythology was. I had to look at those stories from every angle and realize that I wasn’t just the hero in the story of my life. I was also the villain in other people’s stories or maybe just a nobody side character. Then I had to look at how I was sending those stories back into the world. Was I reframing it to make myself look better? Was I retelling that story honestly? Was I telling it responsibly? Was it even my story to tell?
One of my favorite lines from A Complicated Love Story Set In Space happens during a conversation between Noa and DJ where DJ says something to the effect of: We’re not stories, we’re story tellers. Which I think is such an important distinction to remember. And no matter what else readers wind up taking from the story, I hope they take the knowledge that they, and not other people, get to define their own narrative.