Say a big howdy to Michael Beyer, author of Catch A Falling Star. Michael’s book is one you need to read. It’s very well-written, excellent, and deserves to reach a wider audience. It’s a tale of a small town alien invasion set in rural Iowa during the summer following Voyager Two’s flyby of Neptune in 1989. Pitched somewhere between the awe and spectacle of a Spielberg science fiction blockbuster and the whimsy and humanity of a Frank Capra comedy, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Enough of my blathering, let’s chat up Michael.
Michael, please tell everyone what your book’s about. But you have to do it in the voice of your marauding alien invaders, the lizard-like Tellerons. We’re but mere earthlings and haven’t got a clue.
“We are amphibianoids, not reptiles,” replied Captain Xiar the Slightly Irregular with an angry glare, “And the stupid book is a chronicle of our failed invasion of the planet Earth. Can you believe that? The best the Telleron Empire has to offer defeated by monkey men from a backward planet like Earth! It’s a story of accidentally exchanging offspring both alien and human, cross-species love, misunderstanding of cultures, and other themes so controversially humorous they leave my green frog-like people brown in the face.”
I’m suspecting you’re cinematically influenced. I’ve already name-dropped Spielberg and Capra, but there’s also a bit of the ‘50’s sci-fi Bug-Eyed Monster movies element involved. Am I wrong?
Saturday nights in the 60’s I would secretly sneak downstairs to watch the old Motorola B&W TV because they had Sci-fi and Monster movies on. Lon Chaney in the Wolfman, Godzilla vs. King Kong, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Dad forbid from watching those horrible things because he thought they would give me nightmares. So, of course I had to watch them! And, of course, I had nightmares.
Yep, I was a big fan of late night creature features as well. The more forbidden they were from parents? The more I HAD to see 'em. How ‘bout literary influences?
As a high school junior I undertook a quest to find the greatest novel ever written. I read Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; I read Dickens’ David Copperfield and the Old Curiosity Shop; I read Goldsmith’s the Vicar of Wakefield; I read Thomas Hardy’s the Return of the Native; I even read Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye. Do you want to know the winner in that quest? So do I. I am still on it. There is no end to the stack of Great Books. I learned gobs of stuff from every single one of them.
Your book is refreshingly old-fashioned in certain aspects. Almost naively innocent, hopeful. Ultimately moving. Why’d you take this approach in this day and era where everyone's afraid of their own shadow?
As a teacher at both the junior high and high school levels, I have learned that all people are basically good, even the bad ones. No one looks in the mirror and sees the villain in their own story. Everyone has a story, and every story can have a happy ending, even if it doesn’t turn out completely happy, or isn’t even a little bit happy. Whoa! Rereading that last sentence, I just realized why you used the word “naïve”.
Catch A Falling Star magnificently captures a small-town environment, with characters acting like people I’ve experienced in rural Kansas towns. The humorous peccadilloes of the folks inhabiting your town of Norwall puts us right there in the action. Why not go Big City?
Hey, you’re from Kansas, so you know that “there’s no place like home.” The only real people you ever really get to know are the ones you grew up with. In a small town everybody knows everybody. We can even turn an alien into one of us. I live in a suburb of Dallas now. I don’t know all the neighbors and the ones I do know look at me funny… unfortunately with good reason.
Okay. What IS the deal with '50's TV sit-coms?
Delta Pavonis, Tau Ceti, and Zeta Reticuli all began receiving our TV shows in the 1980’s. They are all Sun-like stars. If you were watching TV from 20 or 30 light years away, you would be seeing shows from 20 or 30 years in the past. Sorry! I should wear a warning label; “Danger! Science Fiction Geek.”
Your book encompasses many characters, different planets and species, and even different eras. Half-way through I was wondering how in the world you were going to tie it all together. But you did and in a very satisfying way. Not a question, really, but, hey, how about a comment?
My first novel, Aeroquest, had hundreds of characters both big and small. It totally flopped. I finally realized in order to succeed as a story-teller, I had to leave out at least a few of the crazy people that inhabit my head.
Religion and faith play a big part in your characters and how they respond to situations. It was interesting to read a Jehovah’s Witness family put in a non-derogatory light. Did your personal beliefs play into your tale?
I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness in 1998. I accepted the Bible as a guidebook for life and accepted the notion that you should only follow the teachings of the Great Book itself, and not be influenced by the interpretations of other men. I have read the whole Bible twice and am working on the third time. That being said, I’m really a lot more complicated than that. I believe in God, but I am actually a Christian existentialist. My more righteous friends would call that being another kind of atheist, or just plain nuts. I haven’t been disfellowshipped as a Witness yet, but if I keep writing, it’s probably coming soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy a chimpanzee and start wearing one glove on my right hand. (Poor Michael, he should never have left the Kingdom Hall.)
All right. Who’s your favorite character? You have lots. Mine might surprise you. I enjoyed the bible school teacher Mrs. Harmony Castille.
I love all these characters and I love all the people in my actual real life that inspired them, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be young Davalon, the alien boy who gets left behind on Earth. He’s such a mishmash of E.T., Oliver Twist, and a kid from my seventh grade English class in 1985. You may have guessed that Michael Dobbs is really me… a much more pious and faithful version of me, but I’m not sure I really like that guy all the time.
What do you want readers to take away from your book other than a rollicking good read?
Well… if you catch a falling star and put it in your pocket… who knows? Maybe you will meet a mad inventor, fly a steam train to Mars, and meet the girl of your dreams… though she’s probably green.
What are you waiting for, folks? Go get Michael's book. It's good.