Stephen Cox’s debut novel sounds like the perfect book to help you overcome the January blues.

Set in the 1960s, in the year of Woodstock and the moon landings, Our Child of the Stars follows married couple Molly and Gene Myers. When a meteor crashes into their small town, nurse Molly is caught up in the thick of the disaster and given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage, a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother. The Myers will do anything to keep Cory safe, but soon the whole world will be looking for him.

This story of a lost child and a mother who tries to protect him against all odds has been praised as ‘fresh and intensely gripping’, and promises to put Stephen on the literary map as one to watch.

We sat down with the author, who lives in Enfield, to discuss his inspiration, favourite authors and making the move to London.

What was the inspiration for the book?

I wrote a short story, and the characters in it seemed to have such potential. It was the US, it was the past, Gene and Molly were childless but they now had this strange little boy, Cory. They can’t keep him safe unless they keep him a secret. I drew on wise, beautiful writers like Ray Bradbury and Ursula Le Guin. Being a parent changes your life, and it became a book about the joys and fears of being a parent, trying to protect your child. Children help you see the world afresh, which is what every type of art needs. (Of course, Cory must see our world as new, being from another planet!)

Why did you decide to set the book in the 1960s?

It came to me set during the Vietnam War, and the contrast between Cory and the moon landings was too sweet to miss. Writing the book was an excuse to wallow in the sounds of the Sixties, I explored the full range of singers like Joan Baez, and that bridge between art and comment became important. I’ve always been interested in all the movements for change which really took off in the Sixties, such as racial justice and the role of women. There were the great struggles for peace, a dishonest government and a divided country, a backlash. In fact, the more I wrote, the more I realised it spoke to our own times, without ever preaching. Also, if you’re writing an adventure, mobile phones and CCTV get in the way.

You read an early draft of the book aloud in the Big Green Bookshop Haringey – what was this experience like? How did the audience react?

So over the years I’ve been in several writing groups, which was a mixed experience. My group is informed, supportive, and honest (some groups fail at least one of those). Reading aloud as we do, there is a slow reveal in the first chapter about just how strange Cory is. The air was electric… and I got a gasp. That told me I should finish the book. We all help each other, they encouraged me to find an agent, and cheered me on when I got the deal. Writing a novel can be weird and lonely and having a group that understands really helps. But yes, reading aloud to strangers is nerve-wracking.

What kind of books do you like to read?

I like stories which immerse you in the world, and interest you in the people, and where something happens. All stories are made up, and a lot of what I read has some tinge of the speculative or fantastic. I’m trying to keep abreast of new people writing in science fiction and fantasy – where a lot of exciting newish writers are making waves. Claire North writes thrillers built around exciting ideas, Jeanette Ng rewrites the Gothic novel, Frances Hardinge is supposedly a children’s writer but she is good for adults too. Nnedi Okorafor writes crisp intelligent stories with African heroines. On low effort days I retreat into Woodhouse, Saki, and detectives and thrillers. And history and science.

You were born in the USA – what prompted your move to London?

It wasn’t my choice. My British parents were working at Harvard University, I arrived, and they returned to the UK when I was two. Hence, I feel British, but I’m always interested in the US. After a decade orbiting London, I moved in with my partner. London has major issues but it’s enormously exciting and diverse. You can stand and see a Roman wall, a Norman castle and a 21st century skyscraper. I wouldn’t like to live in a sleepy town like Gene and Molly.

What’s next for you?

The response to the book so far has been great. We hope to announce US distribution before long and everyone says the book is very filmic and who would not want a film deal? I’m revisiting Cory and his family for a second book, which is really exciting, and after that, I think I’ll be writing something else. What’s sloshing around in my head is Englishness, climate change, and families… Currently I have three jobs - promoting Our Child of the Stars; writing the second book; and freelancing, parenthood, and fixing the sink.

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox is published in hardback on January 24 by Jo Fletcher Books.