Author speaks on historical-fiction novel


Sam Gauntt

Author Jessica Dall shows off her novel, “The Stars of Heaven,” at a book reading on Oct. 25.

Sam Gauntt, Associate Editor

The historical-action video game, “Assasin’s Creed,” and the events of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake served as inspiration for her novel, a Washington-based author told a crowd of students and faculty on Oct. 25. 

During the “Writers Reading” event, author Jessica Dall read a section of her book, “The Stars of Heaven,” which is about the life of a woman named Cecilia, set in Lisbon, Portugal in the late 1700s after a powerful earthquake. 

“It was a wonderful turnout,” Dall said of the 30-plus person audience. “I was surprised how we almost ran out of seats. And so once I got into the flow of it, it was wonderful and I loved talking to everybody.”

The event was one of Dall’s first in-person readings of her 2020 novel  since the pandemic began. 

“It was fantastic,” professor Garrett Brown, the coordinator of AACC’s creative writing program, said. “I think it’s great for students to have the opportunity to meet and talk and ask questions of a professional writer. … It’s always good to get an outside perspective. And I know the students really seem to enjoy it.”

Dall said Brown organized the event after he read the book and contacted her. 

“He reached out to me and I looked into it,” Dall said. “This just seemed like a wonderful program. And I love interacting with students. And so I live closer to DC. And so I just drove on out here and it was a wonderful experience.”

Students who attended the event praised the opportunity to speak with a published author.

“I think it’s really important,” Zoe Hunter, a second-year creative writing student and member of the Amaranth literary journal, said. “It gives people with creative writing experience a chance to learn more about the craft.”

Dall said that aspiring writers shouldn’t try to be perfect on their first attempt.

“I think the biggest piece of advice I give people is that … you can’t edit an empty page,” Dall said. “You need to sort of put perfectionism to the side and be very careful about comparing published works to your own. Where this [“The Stars of Heaven”] went through, probably seven drafts just by myself before it even hit my editors.”

Hunter, who introduced Dall to the crowd, said the Writers Reading series “gives people a chance to get to know authors and get to know their process and how they get started.”