The Gravity of Us / A Chat with Phil Stamper about Space, Boys in Love and Writing

If you can’t see me, (pretend you can) I’m actually grinning while writing today’s post. Mainly because it’s about space and gay teenagers. And basically, I love both of those topics A WHOLE LOT.

Anyway, I was beyond happy to get to ask Phil Stamper some questions about his debut novel, The Gravity of Us. It comes out on February 4th, the day AFTER my birthday.

Also, I’m posting this in time for YOU to sign up for a really incredible pre-order campaign. Find all the detailsHERE. (actually, yes, this is the coolest pre-order campaign ever and absolutely no one is paying me to say that)

Now for what we’ve all been waiting for, (drumroll) let’s get to the interview!

Now for everyone’s burning question, who is Phil Stamper? I am borrowing liberally from Phil’s author bio on his own website, but let’s pretend I knew all of this already.

Phil Stamper grew up in Ohio (Which happens to be the state with the MOST astronauts. So I suppose writing a book about people going to space probably makes Ohio proud. hut I wouldn’t know cause i’m from Texas. They’d like me to write about cowboys, I think)

In high school, Phil played the piano, wrote stories and then went to college a lot, which means he has a BA and MA. And lots of debt, just like your’s truly! (vote for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, please. Thanks, signed my student loans)

Phil now lives in New York, works in publishing, and wrote many more words. The Gravity of Us was his fourth manuscript. If you want to know more about Phil, read his official bio later on in today’s post.

Can you describe the Gravity of Us in ten words or less?

Sons of astronauts fall in love amid mission to Mars.

I’ve been obsessed with Space and the Race to the Moon for as long as i can remember, so naturally, I’m very excited about all the space race setting for your book. Did you have a fall in love with space exploration moment – and how does that play into your story?

Thank you! Always fun to chat with another space nerd, especially one who loves the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo era. I’ve always been interested in spaceflight, astronomy, and all of that, but now that I think of it… my excitement about the space program really all started the first time I watched Apollo 13. I remember being so engrossed in the story, the drama…both of the mission itself and of the families on the ground.

okay, an insert from yours truly, if you haven’t, GO WATCH APOLLO 13 RIGHT NOW, then come back and finish reading the interview. Must read this with Tom Hanks in Space knowledge.

After I first watched Apollo 13, my obsession kind of snowballed from there.

Around that time, iTunes released all of the Apollo 7-17 audio transcripts, and I remember sitting in my college room with a friend, drinking wine and listening to all of the back-and-forth between Mission Control and the Command or Lunar Modules. I started buying copies of old LIFE magazines that covered the astronauts, their families, and their lives, and read just about every related memoir out there.

This all played a lot into the dynamics of THE GRAVITY OF US. It’s a contemporary story—no, the gays don’t go to space!—but I was able to take what I loved so much about this era, make it relevant for today’s readers, and write the book of my (exceedingly nerdy) heart.

On your website bio, you mention how you wrote several books before The Gravity of Us. What did you learn from writing lots of potential books, and do you think you’ll ever try to publish your earliest WIPs?

I’ve been writing novels for about six years. Over this time, I learned how to write better books for sure. I found a way to outline that works well for me, I learned how to write more engaging stories, better characters, and had more than a few major breakthroughs on pacing.

My earliest manuscripts are still up on Wattpad—no, I won’t link to them, lol—but I started with a YA dystopian that was such a fun experiment. But at the end of the day, I was less writing my own story and more emulating what I’d seen. My second book was my first contemporary, but that never sold either. For these two books, I don’t have any further plans for them—they’re fine just sitting on Wattpad for now—but I recently sold video game rights for both of these titles to the Chapters App, so hopefully they’ll be playable stories on that platform soon.

I really hit my stride in my third manuscript. It was my first queer story, I really fell in love with the voice, and I poured my heart into it. It didn’t sell, but I’m currently reworking it. If all goes well, some version of that story will become my sophomore novel. I can’t say much about that for now. And my fourth full manuscript was THE GRAVITY OF US.

This is somber, but also something I think should be mentioned.  I’m sharing this post on Nasa’s Day of Remembrance. It wasn’t intentional at all but my posting schedule and the annual day lined up together.

Columbia Crew, 2003

Challenger Crew, 1986

Today, Thursday, January 30th, is when NASA honors all those lost in the space program.

This includes the crew of the Challenger and Columbia Shuttles and the astronauts killed in training on Apollo 1.

Space travel is dangerous, inspiring and still happening. 

I’ve always admired the Space Program and the people who’ve ventured into space. I remember visiting the Houston Space Center and seeing the rockets up close, walking into the command center visitor gallery – seeing all of that. It’s overwhelming. Historic and yet something happening today at the SAME time.

I guess that’s why I really liked The Gravity of Us, it takes something so incredible, an adventure so few people participate in, and brings it down to earth.

I’m not going to talk point by point about why I gave The Gravity of Us five whole stars, mainly because this post is already 1200 words long, opps. But just know that this story highlights so many lovely dynamics.
A few of my favorite elements – healthy family discussions, conversations about depression in relationships, and using social media as both a personal tool and as work. 

And did I mention journalism????

Basically, a story just has to mention Journalism and New and I’m absolutely sold. oh, and make it believable at least. especially, now that i actually work in a newsroom and have some real clue about how it actually all works.

Um also, yes, Cal and Leon are pretty much the definition of adorable. If absolutely nothing I have said so far has won you over, read The Gravity of Us for Cal and Leon.

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

✨ And now for Phil Stamper’s actual official author bio: ✨

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.

When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, a tiny stash of graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. (He’s a Gryffindor, if that wasn’t clear.) Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. This went on for a while, and when the dry writing started to get to him, he decided to work on that novel he always wanted to write.

Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. But at the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his fourth manuscript sold to Bloomsbury Children’s Books. With the tension of the 60s space race and the warmth of a charming queer love story, he couldn’t be more proud to present his debut novel, THE GRAVITY OF US.

lets chat

Hello! have you pre-ordered the Gravity of Us? Or Watched Apollo 13??? Please do both. 

If you could travel anywhere in space, where would you go and why? 


1 Comment

  1. February 4, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    Great post! This sounds like such a cute book that I would totally love reading!

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