It’s Christmas 1997 and Mariah Rowland’s freshman year of college couldn’t be more of a disaster. Her high school boyfriend dumped her, her course load is stressing her out, and the college parties aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. Craving some normalcy, Mariah heads home for the holidays, but after a shocking discovery, she realizes even home isn’t the same.
Now she’s on a cross-country quest to right a wrong. Accompanying her is ex-best friend, Mason Wright. Mason’s on a mysterious journey of his own as he makes his way to California. Wounds old and new are opened between the friends throughout their travels, including some feelings they thought no longer existed.
But as their road trip ends, Mariah once again discovers that nothing is as it seems. She has some life-altering decisions to make that will change things forever.
North Star Angel is a coming of age, friends to lovers, holiday romance with a guaranteed HEA. It features young adult characters in mature situations and may not be suitable for readers under eighteen.
Mariah closed her eyes and exhaled. The jig was up, but her agitation only amplified. “Look, it’s none of your business what I’m doing here—or what’s going on with my car. Can you please take a hint and go? I’m good. I’m fine. I got this. Bye.”
“Alright, I will. Didn’t wanna intrude…just thought it was strange seeing you out here like this.”
“And it’s not weird for you to be out here?”
“I’m ’bout to hit the road. That’s why I’m here—stopped to get gas.”
“Okay, and so was I. Happy?” she asked, crossing her arms. “I was going to drive to Texas to see my dad.”
Mason’s brow creased. “Figured you’d spend it with your mom like you’ve been the past couple years.”
“This year’s different. I decided not to. I wanted to spend it with my dad in Texas, but obviously that’s not going to happen now that my car’s dead.”
A long beat passed between them where neither moved and neither spoke. His eyes bored into hers and the gears in his brain could practically be seen turning. Her own burned with irritation as she edged toward a dismissive goodbye and returned to her car. Finally, a slight smile cracked onto Mason’s bearded face.
“I’ll drive you,” he said quietly.
“What do you mean drive me?”
“I’ll take you if you want. I’m headed to California. I’ll drop you off on the way.”
Mariah blinked and stared. Words scrambled around uselessly in her head. “Me and you? Drive to Texas together?”
“Why not?” he asked, turning his gaze onto the parking lot. His pickup truck waited parked on the opposite end. “I’m already headed that way.”
“It’ll add extra time to your trip…”
“I don’t mind. I’ve got the time for it,” he said vaguely. He shrugged again. “Choice’s yours. If you don’t want to, I get it. But I need to know. I’m already thirty minutes off schedule.”
The crossroads left her more conflicted than ever. On one hand, she couldn’t imagine spending the next couple days solely in his company, forced to endure the tight confines of his truck after what they’d been through. But on the other hand, the ghostly college campus and chaotic household with Mom and Bill seemed much worse. Then she pictured Dad, alone and sullen in his townhouse for Christmas. She drew in a shaky breath and listened to what her heart whispered.
“Okay,” she said with a hesitant nod. “I’ll go with you.”
Mila Nicks is an emerging romance author on a mission to pen heartfelt love stories featuring women of color.
From the time she was a small girl with crayons and an overactive imagination, she’s had a passion for storytelling. In addition to receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she is presently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. She has also served her country in the United States Air Force.
When she isn’t penning uplifting love stories, you can find this imaginative writer traveling across the globe, sampling new cuisines, or spending quality time with her spunky pet Chihuahua, Zayden.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have a tradition of writing a holiday story every year around December. At the time I wrote North Star Angel, I wanted to write a holiday story that didn’t completely revolve around Christmas, but instead a story that happened with Christmas as a backdrop. I was also planning a road trip in the coming months, which helped me think of the road trip element of the story. Everything else unraveled from there as I began writing.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m still on a mission to write love stories featuring women of color. I’m really looking forward to 2021 and the projects I have planned. So many fun ones!
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in North Star Angel?
Mariah Rowland is a stubborn, book smart eighteen-year-old freshman in college. She’s a little overwhelmed by all of the changes going on in her life right now, so she seeks solace at home during the Christmas vacation—at least that’s what she thinks she’s doing when she heads home and realizes everything has changed. Mason Wright is her ex-best friend who agrees to drive her on her cross-country quest. He’s laidback but secretive, and he’s on his way to California for reasons of his own.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Christmas and road trips were my two big ideas I wanted to incorporate with this book. Everything else I improvised from there since I’m a pantser. One of my favorite romance tropes is friends to lovers, so I knew I also wanted that incorporated. The characters created themselves as soon as I started writing. I had no clue who they were until I reached the end.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Titles are so difficult! Probably one of my least favorite parts of the book process. All of the good titles are taken, he he. I do try to make my titles as unique as possible, even if that’s not always feasible. With North Star Angel, it’s kind of a dual meaning for the characters. I can’t go into too much detail without giving away aspects of Mariah and Mason’s relationship. But the title is about both of them.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
This book was incredibly fun to write! From the setting to the characters, there were so many aspects that made it a treat.
This one takes place in the 1990’s. As a 90’s kid myself, I’m a sucker for 90’s stuff. I used this manuscript as an excuse to listen to throwback music, which made the writing experience extremely nostalgic and enjoyable. Though music doesn’t necessarily play a big role in the plot, I still wanted to evoke a 90’s type of feel with the characters and overall vibe of the story. I can say that for the 90’s setting in general. I wanted to include as many references as I naturally could in order to make it feel realistic.
Another thing I enjoyed was exploring Mariah, Mason and the other young characters. The average age of my characters tends to be mid-to-late twenties. Writing two eighteen-year-old protagonists was definitely different, but in a good way. I really leaned into their immaturity and inexperience, because they both are still figuring things out. It was also fun writing two characters bicker over a couple things that maybe aren’t the most important, but at their age, it’s more about being right than it is being mature.
The last thing I enjoyed about writing this story was the road trip aspect. I’ve been on a couple of road trips myself. While they can get old after a while, it’s such a memorable experience to go on a road trip with someone. It was interesting to write the characters exploring as they traveled but also rediscovering the bond they thought they had lost.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
The female protagonist in North Star Angel is Mariah Rowland. She’s an eighteen-year-old college freshman who is still figuring things out. She’s a perfectionist who assumed she would excel at college the way she did in high school, but she soon learns that things don’t come as easily to her as they did in the past. She doesn’t know what to do now that she feels like a failure and that’s what motivates her to seek out the familiar. The problem is, the familiar is not-so-familiar anymore. She spends the duration of the story trying to find her footing and learning everything is not what it seems.
The male protagonist in North Star Angel is Mason Wright. He’s an eighteen-year-old working a part-time job with dreams of becoming a police officer. He’s mysterious and a bit rough around the edges, but he has a good heart. He’s on a journey to California when he runs into his ex-best friend, Mariah, and offers to give her a lift. His main goal this road trip is to experience the sights and sounds. He’s motivated by living life to the fullest, because everything changes for him once he reaches California.
How did you come up with the title of your novel?
Titles are always difficult for me, especially because I try to think of titles that are one of a kind. I can’t exactly go into detail about the title, because it’s connected to elements of the plot. I will say the title represents both Mariah and Mason and describes their relationship.
Who designed your book covers?
My book cover was designed by Elle Maxwell from Elle Maxwell Designs. She’s incredible!
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
One thing I have learned as an author is that there’s always something you wish you had done differently with your book. It’s basically a given. I could write a whole list of things, but I also like to think what’s done is done. The book is written, it’s finished, and I’m happy with it.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That’s one of my favorite parts about writing. For Chasing Wild Horses, I learned about horse riding and ranches. With North Star Angel, it was all research on geography, road trips and driving routes, and even 90’s pop culture. It was a lot of fun!
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I usually don’t visualize particular actors or actresses for my characters, more so an overall aesthetic. Mariah embodies the girly, slightly preppy aesthetic from the 90’s. Mason is more so the grungy type with his flannel and band t-shirts.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
Without giving away too much, North Star Angel has a few flashback scenes. I loved writing them. It was a closer look at who the characters used to be in the past and explore Mariah and Mason’s old friendship before it soured. It was interesting to develop them over the years and see why they behave the way they do at the start of the story.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
It’s a toss-up between the two leads, Mariah and Mason. Both would be fun to hang out with as an eighteen-year-old. I see the days going differently. A day with Mason would probably be a game of baseball or the movies. A day with Mariah would be listening to music and hanging out chatting.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
None of my characters are based on anyone I know. I admit sometimes I will take a personality trait or a like/dislike from someone I know, but I tend to avoid outright writing real people into my stories.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
The characters without a doubt lead the way. I’m a pantser, so I go into my stories with nothing but a general idea of the story and the characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing with one key story element in mind, but then one of my characters decides to go in the exact opposite direction. It’s definitely one of the challenges of pantsing.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
If you like a coming of age romance between friends, enjoy things like Christmas and road trips, and dig a little 90’s nostalgic, then North Star Angel might be for you. ;)
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I’m currently writing my follow up to Chasing Wild Horses, called Taming Wild Horses. I’m also working on a winter romance novella that I hope to be out soon.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
I feel like it’d be a Christmas scent. Definitely something sugary to match the characters and their sweet tooths. Maybe gingerbread or hot cocoa.
What did you edit out of this book?
Surprisingly, there wasn’t much I edited out of this book. It’s a fairly short book.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’m a pretty big fan of Alyssa Cole. I’d love to sit down and gush over her books with her—or pick her brain for advice. Either or.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?
I may have done a self-insert on Mariah’s opinion of a certain boyband. I grew up as a big fan and couldn’t help slipping Backstreet Boys in there somewhere!
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