Debut Authors of ’18: Samantha Heuwagen

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Guys, I’ve known Samantha for a while now, and she’s pretty spectacular. Add the fact that she’s going to be taking the Sci-Fi world by storm with all of the beautiful ways she weaves in humanitarian themes in her writing, and you’ve GOT to read this book. I was lucky enough to get an ARC, and it’s pretty dang impressive so far…



– Author Name: Samantha Heuwagen

– Book Title: Dawn Among the Stars

– Book Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

– Release Date: May 21st, 2018 (that’s today!!!)

– Publisher: Trifecta Publishing House


Set against the backdrop of intergalactic politics and war, Dawn Among the Stars follows the stories of three Humans as they struggle to understand the universe on a cosmic scale.

Kayin has a rough start when the Shielders, a potential alien ally for Earth, come out of hiding and into the public consciousness. Not only does their very existence cause her trouble, her panic attacks threaten to derail her everyday life. Can she overcome her mental health issues or will she be swallowed up in a political mess?

As for Henry Rickner, he wishes he could take back all of his mistakes in life, starting with his choice to leave Kayin.  Yet he finds himself within the chaos of war as he tries to reunite with those he holds dear.

Melissa Pebbles only has one goal: to keep her family safe during the attack. She will do anything to make sure she and her family make it through whatever challenges are thrown their way. While Melissa fights to keep her family alive, she learns that family is more than just blood.

Can these three work with the Shielders to save Earth or will they lose the only home they’ve ever known?

Teaser time

Aliens are real and living on Earth will never be the same.

– Where did you get the idea?

(I’ve answered this a millions times before, but in a dream…. Long story.)

– What was the hardest part about writing it?

For me it was finding time. From graduating from Mercer University School of Medicine life has been pretty jam-packed–– not that I would have it another way, but it definitely leaves little room for creative writing. If I wanted to write, I had to make the time. Luckily, the Universe was kind and I made it work.
– What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.)

Dawn Among the Stars was originally the series title, but we worked together to switch it around. I’m very happy with it and I think it portrays a hope for the future in the book.

– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Alien sex… Hold on, it’s about to get steamy in here.

– Tell us about your favourite character.

My favorite character has to be the sassy and smart, Kayin Aves. She’s a feisty Latina that isn’t sure she should trust these aliens that pretty much showed up out of nowhere, but she isn’t given a choice when she’s taken off planet to fight for Earth. I love that she’s true to herself and even though she struggles through panic attacks and PTSD, she’s willing to do what it takes to reclaim her home.

– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Unlike Kayin, I would want to get to know the La’Mursians. I think I’d want to see what their world was like and get to know them on a deeper level. I’m a therapist, so I always have questions up my sleeve and getting to know Space in such a unique way would be so interesting!

– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

I think all the characters have a little bit of me in them sprinkled with personality quirks from the people around me. Gotta keep it interesting!

– Being a sci-fi/fantasy writer, tell us about the world! How did you come up with it? How did it grow?

I’ve mentioned briefly before everything came to me in a dream and once I started writing Dawn Among the Stars seriously, everything flowed together. I can’t really recall being deliberate with it, except a random thought floating on by.

It did grow as I’ve spent more time there, if that makes sense. The more my characters play around on Selucia, the Shielder’s home planet, I understand the culture, the language, and their ideals more clearly.

– How do your characters handle being in such a world? What did you learn about your world that you didn’t expect as you walked through it with your characters?

In the beginning we’re dropped onto Earth in the middle of a potential crisis. We get information as it comes, but it’s a pretty big news story so everyone knows something whether it’s correct or not. Kayin, one of the main characters, already deals with mental health issues, so her PTSD from the discovery of aliens doesn’t help much. The rest are a mixed bag. Some thing this is the coolest thing that could have ever happened to them, while others are scared shitless and don’t know if the Shielder’s can be trusted.

I didn’t expect to actually want to visit Selucia myself. Just because it might look and feel like Earth, doesn’t mean it is and the culture is traditional but still open about certain aspects that we aren’t so found of here in the US. I love the idea of visiting a whole new world that feels similar but isn’t at the same time. I think that would be a crazy culture shock to deal with. Might be fun if one of the characters has to deal with that, don’t you think?



– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

Several years, but I did take a few years off while I was in graduate school. I only started taking it seriously a couple of years ago.

– But really… how long as this story been in your head? (And how long did it take before you started actually writing it down?)

It’s been in my head almost 10 years? I started getting serious about the story only 2 years ago when some lovely ladies happened to push me forward and take my story seriously.

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had to look up a few locations and destinations in the US as well as some logistics in space.

– In this vein, what issues or idea (because you write SFF after all) did you struggle with most of all? Did an idea/concept/theme really stump you along the way?

I’m a romantic at heart, I am a couples therapist after all, but I really struggled with the concept of whether or not a Human could or would biologically fall in love with another species. And if that did happen, how would people/alien around them feel about that?

– How about – what did you learn while writing this book? About yourself, about the world, all of the above.

I learned that if I’m serious about writing for the rest of my life as part of my career then I have to put in the time to become a writer. That means my butt is in a seat, sitting in front of my desk. It also means I’m improving with every word, every sentence, every idea. To write is to grow and I don’t think many of us aren’t born writers, we come to it for many reasons and we grow into our voice and talent as we grow as human beings. I thought, originally, that people just fell into the writing process, but I don’t believe that anymore. The writers of the world write because they have to and because they respect the craft.

– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I removed the word “had” so many times I never want to see it again!

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser for sure! I can’t plot everything out or I’d get bored.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I make myself laugh a lot, so when I’m writing and I bust out laughing it just feels good. It might never be funny to anyone else, but at the end of the day I’m not writing for everyone else. Sometimes writing takes a toll and is very serious, but if I can laugh through it, it makes the process that much more enjoyable.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Finding time. I have to schedule my day in such a way that I can meet with all my clients (I’m a sex therapist), be present for them, teach (I teach at Kennesaw State University), and sit down to write or edit something. Luckily, there are 24hrs in a day or I’d be sunk!

– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I write in my home office mostly, though I’ve been known to venture out to my local teashop. I light candles, turn on my salt lamp, blast some music usually by Sleeping at Last, and get to work–– oh and can’t forget the tea!

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

No. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. Why push myself until it hurts? That’s no fun.

– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Oh yes, girl, you’re going to be an author! How insane is that?

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Does my second book count? It’s on the way to publication, I just have to finish it!

– Do you have any writing quirks?

I need tea or it isn’t happening!



I’m a bilingual sex therapist in Atlanta, GA. When I’m not doing therapy I teach the class, Love and Sex at Kennesaw State University.

– How did you get into writing?

While in graduate school I needed more self-care options. I started rewriting Dawn Among the Stars because it felt good and slowly I realized I had something special I wanted to share with the world.

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Tell us about your passions. What gives you an absolutely thrill (besides writing of course).

I love doing yoga, hiking, and hanging with friends. My biggest passion is changing the narrative around sex, mental health, and relationships. The best decision I’ve ever made was to become a therapist. I love being a therapist. I love helping people and I love changing the world around me. I can’t describe what it feels like to know that I’m witnessing someone’s life change. And even though my clients like to believe I’m making them change, they are ones doing the work. I simply get to be around for their journey during the time they need to heal.

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’m a blogger. You can visit and read my thoughts on mental health and how to live your best life!

– How about other artsy stuff?

I think writing is as arty as I get…. Nope, I lied. I can do make up pretty well and have been known to do a bride or two. That’s about it!

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I hated words when I was younger. Being diagnosed with two learning disabilities I thought writing and reading were for other people. I’m so shocked this is where I am today, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

– Which book influenced you the most?

Though it’s problematic, Gone With the Wind had an ending that still haunts me to this day! Come on Scarlett get it together, girl!

– How do you think being a sex therapist has influenced your writing? With all of that knowledge and expertise, what do you see as really wince-worthy in common tropes of writing about sex?

Can we for the love of god use the worlds PENIS, VULVA, and VAGINA when describing the act of sex? How hard is it to call it what it is? I think as a sex educator and therapist the way I see the world and how people interact in it is all over my writing whether it’s in Dawn Among the Stars or on my blog.

I want people to be free to express themselves and their feelings without fear of ridicule. I really wanted to create an anti-masculine male character and I did that with Henry Rickner. Some people will not get it because it goes against everything we’ve seen in Sci-fi/fantasy over the last decade or so. It’s time to allow people to be full humans without limiting themselves by stereotypes or gender identities. It’s 2018, we need to move beyond that and show the world for how complex it is. I think readers are ready.

– Furthermore, what do you want to see more of (or more accurately portrayed)?

I want to see CONSENT. In the follow up to Dawn, Fading Starlight, I make sure there is consent in every single love scene. I want it to be so clear what is and isn’t consent that it begins to change the way we understand it because, frankly, no one understands and that’s a major problem. I teach sex ed and it’s amazing how so many students don’t get it and they’re already having sex. I want that to change and I want to make sure we are learning to be healthy and safe sexual beings.



– What are you working on right now?

The follow up to Dawn Among the Stars, Fading Starlight.

– Does your debut have a sequel planned?

Oh yes and I’ve already started writing it! I can’t wait to share it, hopefully sometime next year!

– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Practice, practice, and then practice some more.


– The book you’re currently reading

ROOK by JC Andrijeski

– What book has really stuck in your head lately – do you have a story you can’t stop thinking about?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say my own–– I’m obsessed. But recently, ROOK has captured my imagination and I love figuring out what’s going on. I love a good story that can keep me on my toes. I never know what’s going to happen next!

– What’s your favorite part about having your debut forthcoming?

I’m excited to have other people to talk to about my work. My dream would be to create a community of awesome people thrilled about the book and aliens as much as I am. I can’t wait for others to get to know Kayin, Henry, Melissa and all the Shielders!


They say ignorance is bliss, but at what cost? Aliens have made contact with Earth and Humans are having a hard time digesting the new reality. Weak and unprepared, Earth is immediately plunged into intergalactic chaos. As the governments of the world scramble to incorporate aliens into political and religious texts, the everyday citizen struggles to live day by day.

Dawn Among the Stars, set in a time of war and upheaval, follows three humans as they deal with their inner demons, while adjusting to the suddenly changing world. With Earth in the middle of an intergalactic war, Kayin, Henry, and Melissa must follow separate paths to reclaim their planet.


We reached for the stars, the stars reached back.


Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and more:

Samantha Heuwagen.jpeg


Samantha Heuwagen is a sex therapist, author, and activist in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not doing therapy, she teaches the class, Love and Sex, at Kennesaw State University. Her debut novel, Dawn Among the Stars, will be released in May 2018.



Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD


Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS


Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS



Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. Taking interesting concepts and dropping complex characters into fantastical worlds is my jam. I also raise dairy goats and herd cats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

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