I’m beyong thrilled to share my interview with Jessie Mihalik, author of the upcoming release Hunt the Stars. This is such a fantastic sci-fi romance; it has dynamic characters, immersive world-building, great messages, and a swoon-worthy romance. It’s a wonderful start to a new series, and I’m so honored that she took the time to answer my questions. Let’s check out the interview!
GETTING TO KNOW JESSIE MIHALIK
Jessie Mihalik has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves.
Question: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/author?
Jessie Mihalik: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me!
I’ve always had a very active imagination, but it wasn’t until college that I started writing with any seriousness. Like many writers starting out, I wrote fanfiction. Then I graduated from school, work became a priority, and writing kind of fell by the wayside.
I forget which year it was now, maybe 2008, but one of my coworkers was doing NaNoWriMo and invited me to join. I loved it! That first effort is forever trunked, but it reignited my love of writing. It took many years for me to write and polish my first novel (which is also still trunked), but I wrote the second, Polaris Rising, in a matter of months, and it went on to sell to Harper Voyager to become my debut novel in 2019! Since then, I’ve written four more novels and three novellas.
Q: Your bio says that you love playing video and board games. Which games are your favorites?
JM: Ooh, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite book, which is impossible! For computer games, my husband and I generally choose co-op games that we can play together, and they broadly fall into two categories: farming / base-building / exploration games and action RPGs. For the first, we played hours and hours of Stardew Valley, Terraria, and most recently, Satisfactory. For the second, we tend to return to Diablo III quite a bit because clicking on monsters and getting loot is always fun, but we’ve just started playing Borderlands 3 again in anticipation of the new Tiny Tina game that’s coming out.
For board games, we play both co-op and competitive games, usually with friends. Some favorites are Ticket to Ride, Pandemic (though that hits a little close to home right now), Settlers of Catan, and Dominion.
Q: If you could go to any fictional world, where would you go and what would you do there?
JM: I had to think about this one for a long time because most of the places I’d like to visit (like Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels universe) would be awesome for a few minutes until I inevitably died, because surviving in a harsh world just isn’t my forte.
So I think I’d head to Martha Wells’s Murderbot universe. The technology is advanced enough that I could explore the stars, which would be incredible, and I don’t think anyone is at war, but my memory is terrible (another reason I’d perish quickly). If I magically had money in this new world, I’d spend my time exploring. If not, well, I’d probably end up doing what I’m doing now—writing books.
Q: Which books are on your 2022 reading list?
JM: I’m looking forward to a lot of books in series this year. To Catch a Raven by Beverly Jenkins in the third in her Women Who Dare series, and the cover is absolutely stunning, plus it’s a grifter heroine and a fake marriage trope, so I’m there for all of it. I got to read an early copy of Dance with the Devil by Kit Rocha, the third book in their Mercenary Librarians series, and it’s incredible, so I can’t wait for everyone to read it so we can all shout about it. I’m also super excited that Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews is coming out this year because I absolutely adore the series. For standalones or series starters, I’m really looking forward to Savage City by L. Penelope and How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Q: Could you tell readers a little more about Hunt the Stars and the Starlight’s Shadow series?
JM: Hunt the Stars is an enemies-to-lovers space opera romance between bounty hunter Captain Octavia Zarola—Tavi to her friends—and General Torran Fletcher. Tavi and Torran fought on opposite sides of a brutal war, so when Torran tries to hire Tavi to find a missing item for him, she turns him down flat, right up until he makes an offer she can’t refuse.
Tavi’s pretty sure they’ll end up killing each other while being trapped together on her small ship, but she’s willing to give it a shot because the amount of money Torran’s offering will allow her to fix up the ship and take care of her crew.
But as they unravel the clues, it becomes clear that more than a missing item is in play. And Tavi will have to decide if she can trust Torran not only with the safety of her crew, but also with her heart.
The Starlight’s Shadow series is named after Tavi’s ship because the three books follow her and two members of her crew as they find love and fight to prevent a shadowy group of traitors from starting an interstellar war.
Series: Starlight’s Shadow #1
Page Length: 400
Publication Date: Feb. 1, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Synopsis: JESSIE MIHALIK captivated readers from the jump with her rollicking, debut science fiction Consortium Rebellion series, taking readers on a clever ride of pure sexy space goodness spanning across planets. The series, hailed as “enthralling and eminently satisfying” (New York Times), “a thrilling trilogy with complex, dynamic, fascinating women at its core” (Entertainment Weekly), “a standout, memorable book that fills the void for every Star Wars fan who wished the franchise had more kissing” (BookPage), established Jessie as an author to watch. And excitingly, she returns with HUNT THE STARS (publishing February 1), launching her brand-new series that pits a female bounty hunter against her sworn enemy who needs help only she and her ragtag crew can provide.
Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.
With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.
But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.
Q: One of my favorite lines in the book is “Even if they’re not your family by blood, they’re still family.” I love the messages about the bonds of family and friendship throughout the story. What other messages do you hope to convey?
JM: Found family was one of my big themes for the book, so I’m glad you loved it! I also tried to fill the book with hope and joy and humor because the past couple of years have been difficult, so I hope Hunt the Stars will be fun escape. And because it’s a romance, you have the safety of knowing that a happily ever after is coming, even when things seem dire.
Q: Something else I noticed (and loved) in the story was the strong emphasis on consent in sexual relationships. Can you talk about why you decided to include this important message?
JM: When I was young, I snuck a lot of my mom’s old romance novels, reading them before I probably should’ve. And because it was the early nineties, a lot of those books were from the eighties (and before) and contained some highly problematic material—but, of course, I didn’t realize that it was problematic until much later.
By normalizing enthusiastic consent, and showing that it can be sexy and fun, I hope that any young adults that pick up my books will also normalize consent. And since my books are set in the future, I’m also writing a world where enthusiastic consent is the standard.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you learned when writing Hunt the Stars?
JM: That I can write a book during a pandemic! Writing is generally solitary, but writers draw inspiration from our lives and the conversations we overhear and the people we see on the street, so taking away all of that inspiration and instead adding the stress of a huge pandemic really impacted my ability to write. But Hunt the Stars ended up being the escape I needed, and I hope others feel the same.
Q: Can you tell us anything about your upcoming books?
JM: The second book in the Starlight’s Shadow series, Eclipse the Moon, comes out in July and follows Kee and Varro, who you’ll meet in Hunt the Stars. It’s a grumpy/sunshine pairing, so keep an eye out if you love the trope! I’m writing the third book in the series right now, and I haven’t revealed the couple yet, but you’ll also meet them in book one.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your writings (i.e., website, Twitter, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)?
For updates, book news, and snippets, readers can find me at www.jessiemihalik.com or sign up for my newsletter. For social media, I’m most active on Twitter (@jessiemihalik), but I also have a Facebook page and Instagram account.