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Cleveland Author Imagines World Where Moles Predict Fate In 'Body Of Stars'

In response to a prompt at a writing workshop, Laura Maylene Walter imagined a world where moles and freckles on the bodies of women and girls predict the future.

“There would be a lot of tension over who gets to control the future, who gets to read the future,” Walter said. “It's on women's bodies, but are they really controlling it?”

The Cleveland writer explores these questions in her debut novel, “Body of Stars,” published by Penguin Random House. It’s a coming-of-age story for the main character, Celeste, and her brother, Miles, as they navigate what they can and cannot change in their lives.

“Celeste, throughout the book, she often wishes she did not have these predictions. She wishes she could just live what she calls ‘blankly,’” Walter said.

Akin to a palm reading, interpreters examine the placement of freckles and other markings to make predictions. Opinions vary in the book about this aspect of life and the accompanying cultural traditions.

“Some women in this world, a lot of them, view it as, it's an honor,” Walter said. “It is almost holy to be able to use your body to predict the future, but it also carries a heavy weight.”

In her research for the book, Walter said she looked into fortunetelling techniques and visited spiritualists living in New York’s Lily Dale community, not far from Chautauqua. Regardless of whether people believe psychics or tarot readings, Walter said she, like others, is drawn to them.  

“It's really compelling to wonder if you can actually plumb the mysteries of the universe,” she said.

Walter works as a writer and editor in the marketing department of Cleveland Public Library. She’s also a teacher with Literary Cleveland and an editor for its Gordon Square Review. She credits her persistence and help from others in reaching this milestone.

“I had to grow into who I am as a writer. Even when I started 'Body of Stars,' I wasn't quite there yet. So, I had to grow into being the writer who could write 'Body of Stars.' And it was a big learning process,” Walter said.

Walter’s book launch events, including a Cuyahoga County Public Library discussion, will be virtual because of the pandemic.

“I would have loved to have a huge in-person launch party, but that is just not in the cards,” Walter said.

But she said there is one plus to having digital book events: The ease of connecting with readers outside of the region.

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