USA Today bestselling author Xio Axelrod is returning to her music roots with her latest release. I recently spoke with her about The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes.
Tell me about your latest book.
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes is the first in the Lillys series, about an all-female rock band. We meet Toni, a young and gifted guitarist who is making a name for herself as a session musician in Philadelphia. Thanks to her mother’s obsession with fame, Toni likes to perform but hates the spotlight. Growing up, she found solace in music and in a boy named Seb, who shared her passion and her desire for a better life. Together, they made plans to escape their one-stoplight-town and make their mark on the music world. But Seb left Toni behind, breaking both her heart and her dreams. So, imagine Toni’s surprise when she shows up to audition for a gig with one of the hottest new bands in the industry and learns that Seb has the power to make or break her. Again. The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes is a rock-and-roll fairytale, but it’s also a story about second chances, the family you choose, and the power of music to change lives.
What inspired you to write it?
The idea came to me a few years back when a friend asked why I didn’t write more stories set in the world of music—a world I grew up in. I came across a couple of photos; one of a young Amandla Stenberg with an acoustic guitar and one of Taylor Momsen dressed in cut-offs and fishnets, and dripping in bracelets and eyeliner. Both inspired different ideas, but I quickly realized they could exist in the same universe. I wanted to tell stories about how women could navigate an industry dominated by men without giving up any of their power.
When did you fall in love with the written word?
I’ve always been an avid reader. I think my first real love was Shakespeare. I remember memorizing scenes from different plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth) and reciting them in the mirror. Later, it was Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But it was when I discovered Anne Rice that I learned what it was like to stan an author. I read every word, even if I didn’t understand some of what I was reading at the time. (Hello, Sleeping Beauty trilogy!) Later, I discovered Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, and others.
What’s the best part of being an author?
It might sound cliché, but it’s definitely the joy I feel when a reader tells me that they’ve been touched by something I’ve written. It’s the same rush I get as a songwriter, but there’s something about crafting a story and having it appreciated that is just so fulfilling. I also adore meeting readers and getting to experience their love for books. Readers are just great fun.
What’s the hardest part of being an author?
Self-doubt. Every time I put a story out into the world, I’m terrified that someone’s going to discover that I’m a fraud who’s making this up as I go along. It’s ridiculous because that’s all anyone ever does. But this is something I’ve heard from a number of creatives, not just authors. So, perhaps it comes along with the territory. The trick is not to let it stop you from doing the thing you love.
What books have you read lately and loved?
I devoured Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins the day it was released. She is a master storyteller and so consistently excellent. It’s such a gift. Actually, I’ve been on a reading binge lately. It’s something my schedule doesn’t always permit, so I’m happy. And greedy. Other recent delights include Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev, Jackson by LaQuette, and The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. I just got an advanced copy of Footnotes by Caseen Gaines. It’s a non-fiction book about Shuffle Along, the all-Black Broadway musical that brought Jazz to mainstream audiences in 1921. It looks so good!
What book(s) are you most excited to read next?
I just received an early copy of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall, and I will be diving in soon. I’m also really looking forward to Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert, Reel by Kennedy Ryan, and In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkerström.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on The Girl with Rhythm in Her Heart, the follow up to The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes, as well as a short story for Love Is All, an annual anthology that I curate and release every summer. I’m also about to jump back into one of my indie series for a possible fall release. We’ll see how the spring goes. And I have some music to work on for the Lillys series, and I’m anxious to get back into the studio for that when COVID protocols permit it.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
I really hope that readers fall in love with the universe that I created in The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes. I’m absolutely smitten with the characters, and I can’t wait for everyone to meet them.
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To learn more about USA Today bestselling author Xio Axelrod, visit her website, or connect with her on social media.