"It's Better to Burn": A Story of Villains, Constellations, and Being Human.
Do you like villains who know how handsome and cruel they are? Do you love mythology and modern worlds colliding? Do you enjoy wide representation and exciting plots and original ideas? Well, then It's Better to Burn by Aña Anne is the perfect book for you.
I got to ask the author some questions about her work and we dove into the development, the characters, the challenges, and everything in between. It's Better to Burn is available on Wattpad and Tapas. It is also one of my favorite stories.
Enjoy this Q & A and then devour It's Better to Burn.
L: What is the elevator pitch for It’s Better to Burn?
A: What if Orion the constellation was real? Not only that, what if he was evil? Quite vague, but it does the trick.
L: In It’s Better to Burn, the juxtaposition of ancient constellations and the modern world is wonderful. What was the inspiration behind this idea?
A: There was a lot of inspiration from a lot of different sources. It kind of started with an initial idea that I had when I was a child, that I revisited just early this year. Over time, with a lot of drafts and thrown out ideas, it morphed into the story it is today. I guess the first impactful bout of inspiration I had came from the thought: what if constellations came to life and visited a certain town every year? And then I made it modern, because I thought that could be a cool twist. And I also wanted to incorporate a transgender character, which is sadly rare in media these days. It kept snowballing from there.
L: There are two narrators in this book. Can you describe Orion and Mikael?
A: Mikael is pretty easy, he’s kind of the answer to the question, what if a bored trust fund kid was transgender and had extreme anxiety? And also befriended a constellation, haha.
Orion, on the other hand, is a little trickier. He’s a very complicated character, my most complex yet. He’s a villain, very egotistical and self centered and chaotically crazy. But he has his moments.
L: I know the title of this book is a Nirvana reference, but you can explain a bit more about why you chose to call your story It’s Better to Burn?
A: Yes, of course! I actually love this question.
So, when I was coming up with the title, I was stumped. Really stumped. I kept going through names, none that sounded right. But then I remembered that quote “it’s better to burn than to fade away, it’s better to leave than to be replaced” and I thought, holy shit. Because, in my eyes, it so perfectly summed up Orion’s feelings about space. He feels the need to go back, more than anything, to his home and family. He feels that they will love him again if he can just show them. But they hate him, they are planning to leave him in the dust and replace him with someone who isn’t as complicated. That’s his core motivation, right there. Which I think is just awesome for a title.
L: If there was a back-cover for this book, what would it say? I know summarizing is awful, but how would you fit your book into one paragraph?
A: I suppose something like this:
Orion the constellation isn’t what the myths say, in reality he is far from the brave and humble hero you learned about. He is cocky, narcissistic, and as most would call him: evil. When he is banished to Earth for his horrid actions, he will use this evilness to do everything in his power to get back to space, where he belongs. Including killing humans and nearly starting World War lll. But when an anxious and surprisingly tenacious human named Mikael enters his orbit, he’ll find that his goals are going to be a lot harder to reach than he previously thought. With Mikael, a council of Gods, and the whole of Earth against him, who knows when or how or if he’ll ever get home. That being said, a little roadblock never stopped him.
L: What do you believe is the most original aspect of It’s Better to Burn?
A: Hard to say! I always feel so cocky complimenting my own book, but I guess a little vanity doesn’t hurt. I would think that the most original part are the characters? The idea itself is pretty unique, but I feel that the characters themselves are kind of the icing on the cake. A transgender, gay mess and an evil constellation? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.
L: If you had to stick this book in a genre or two, where would it go?
A: Mmm… Although it’s kind of totally reaching, I’d say something like Fantasy or Romance. It isn’t completely either, but none of my books really fit perfectly into a genre.
L: Can you tell us about the modern world of this story? The regular people are aware that constellations and deities exist, which makes for a very interesting alternative-reality.
A: Oh, yeah, I had a lot of fun designing the world, although it is never the main focus of the story. For humans, everything is the same as it is in real life, except for the fact that they study and worship both gods and constellations. They learn about them at an early age, all the way into college. They are taught tirelessly to adore these deities without question, which brings up a big problem when the most beloved constellation, Orion, makes his unwilling stay on Earth.
L: Who are some of the supporting characters and what is enticing about them?
A: The most important supporting characters so far seem to be Laura, Elijah, Zena, Merope, and so on. Laura is Mikael’s best friend, his rock and his protector. But she herself always seems to be getting into trouble trying to find stories to report on to spring her journalism career.
Elijah is to Mikael what Sam is to Diane. In a way. They both have feelings for each other, but find
it difficult when Elijah learns our boy is trans.
Zena is Mikael’s mother, and boy is she a handful. Turned cold from the absence of her husband, she is very unfeeling and not that great at respecting Mikael’s transition.
Merope is less of a supporting character and more of a bitch with a spotlight. She and Orion have a past, one that both of them are hella bitter about.
L: Avoiding spoilers, what has been the most difficult part to write and what has been your favorite part to write?
A: I think the most difficult part has been keeping up with Orion. Trying to keep him predictable and reliable in his personality is quite hard, with how sporadic he is and how much I want him to change. It’s a tricky process.
My favorite part has been creating relationships, bonds between the characters. It’s so fun and sweet, and everyone does really love each other. Even Orion and Mikael, in a weird and messed up way.
L: Which scene, character or plot line changed the most from your original outline?
A: Oh, so much. I constantly have to create new outlines to fit in all the changes I’ve made and notes I’ve added. I can never keep to one path. But I suppose in the original original outline, quite a few twists were not there where they are now. Put in, of course, for that drama.
L: Did you choose the names of the characters for any particular reason?
A: Yes, actually. Orion is the most noteworthy and widely known constellation, so I chose him for the role. And in my mind, Mikael (who used to go by Michelle) changed his name to something very Russian to connect better with his Russian roots. Also, to be honest, I was rereading Shadow and Bone at the time, and when I saw that name it just clicked. Everyone else’s name I picked for accuracy or because I liked it.
L: A good villain is hard to write, but Orion is brilliant. What is it like writing an antagonist as your main character?
A: Oh, thank you! It’s super interesting, it keeps me on my toes. It can also be kinda tricky at times though, not gonna lie. Because Orion is so complicated and fucking insane, it’s really cool to play with his personality and past. But it’s hard trying to humanize him, because I know it will unleash a whole bunch of controversy. I don’t want to excuse or romanticize his shitty actions, but I need to show my readers that there is a reason behind it, and that nothing is as it seems with him. Overall though, I have a lot of fun.
L: What is the relationship between Orion and Mikael like?
A: Very, very complicated. At first, it’s pretty fun of the mill, kidnap this guy because he stole your famous belt. Then trap him in your house until he helps you visit your cult. You know, classic love story. But seriously, in the beginning it’s pretty toxic. Orion is being his bitchy self and Mikael is having none of it, they fight constantly and there is no end in sight. But as we move along in the story, they both realize slowly that neither of them is completely good or completely bad. In fact, they are both outsiders that have a lot more in common than they think. But they both have morals and duties despite themselves, so it’s clear throughout their relationship that they are both struggling between liking each other and hating each other. It’s a difficult balance, but deep down they are totally soft for one another.
L: I love the details you put into this book. For instance, Orion and his belt, connecting to the actual constellation of Orion’s Belt, is wonderful. Do you enjoy putting little things like that in your story?
A: Thanks! I was quite proud of that one myself, haha. I do! I think it’s a really cute and fun way to sneak in a joke or a detail that both make the reader laugh and make the story have more depth.
L: It’s Better to Burn is currently in its first draft. Without spoiling anything, is there anything you see changing in later drafts?
A: Oh, for sure. This story won’t be recognizable when I’m done with it. I plan on going more into depth with the world, for one. That part is so dry, I need to spice it up. Overall, focusing on adding more details and backstory to the modern world in the book will be my top priority. Talk more about Mikael’s schooling, introduce some characters earlier on, and definitely add some Earthly subplots.
L: Is there a message in your novel that you hope people can grasp onto?
A: Yes and no. I originally created this novel with the hope that I wouldn’t relay any messages. I didn’t want the story to have a moral, because for once I just wanted to see the villain win. So no, I wouldn’t focus too hard on any major lesson. But within the book, there are little bits and pieces I hope readers can learn from. About forgiveness, about understanding, strength, love, and the value of being hot. Haha.
L: Have you learned anything while writing this book?
A: Definitely! For one, I’ve learned a lot about transgender issues and transition processes. I already knew a lot before I started, but writing Mikael made me go above and beyond with research, data, and even interviewing real life trans people about their experiences. Along with that, I also learned a lot about mythology and constellations. Apparently these guys kinda suck, but what was I expecting? In general, I’ve learned a lot about creating complex characters, worlds, and relationships. I only hope to improve from finishing this and every book after!
L: Who do you think this book appeals to?
A: People who like my style will probably like this book, as it’s very me. As for age range and genre specifics, I’d say young adults, and anyone who is a fan of mythology, magic, and gay shit.
L: Are there any similar books that you could point readers to? Anything you might be able to draw a comparison to, in terms of style or voice?
A: Oh gosh, I couldn’t tell ya. I suppose it’s kind of a mix of the Underworld Chronicles on Wattpad, a really dark version of Percy Jackson, the villainy of Shadow and Bone, and the gay energy of any queer contemporary YA book. I think. I don’t know. I’m not good at this.
L: If you could give Orion and Mikael some advice, what would it be?
A: Just shut up and make out already, oh my God.
L: Any last thoughts?
A: I just wanted to thank anyone and everyone who got through my babbling, I hope you enjoyed this interview and got some interesting insight from me! If you currently read my book, or if you plan to in the future, thank you so much! I owe you a kiss. Or a cookie. Whatever you’re into.
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