Hi, and welcome to my post on the SFR Brigade’s Midsummer Blog Hop–your chance to read great posts and win wonderful prizes (more on that below)! The theme this year is “Starry Nights” — and as soon as I heard it, I knew what I’d be writing.
Even as a newbie writer, I’ve discovered that people are fascinated with the writing process. A question common to most writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer is generally pretty complicated–ideas can come from a snippet of conversation overheard, a news article, a bit of science, a “what if?” question. They can spring whole into the author’s head as a story, or as a character begging for a story. Or they can be sparked by a photograph.
In the case of my novel Spark Rising, it was a series of photos called “Darkened Cities,” created by photographer Thierry Cohen, that led to brainstorming that led to a character, hiking through the southwestern US desert that I love. It was night, and starlight swirled all around her, lighting her way. That vision, of course, fed into weeks of character sketches, plotting, and research into eco-terrorism, nanites, the US petroleum industry and protection districts, and a grab-bag of conspiracy sites (all of which likely have me on a watch list somewhere!). But it all began with those breathtaking photos.
It’s funny, because the scene that I imagined, and ultimately wrote in a short story prequel to the novel, was of a young woman in the wilderness. It would seem that those darkened cities would have little to do with the quality of starlight for her. But in the back of my mind, I knew that the world had gone dark and the same starlight that lit her path was now visible the world over. Not only was it more visible, but how the survivors of this world felt about it defined who they became.
Excerpt from Ghost Story:
Darkness fell over their camp, and their eyes adjusted to the gradual loss of light. They were aided by the brilliant blanket of stars that lit the sky above them. As always when she was out at the same time as the stars, Lena stared up at them, tracing the bright whorls and shapes with her eyes. The Natives believed there were answers and truths hidden in the stars. The old people, those who had died before the Second Dark Ages, had scoffed at such things. Lena wasn’t sure which was the truth, but she found peace in them. That was enough.
“You don’t mind the stars?” Ghost asked her. His quiet voice from where he lay on his side a few feet away barely disturbed the night.
Lena looked up at him. “Mind the stars?”
He nodded. “Some don’t like them. They remind us of how small we are. And alone.”
Lena chuckled. “I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea of being small,” she said, referring to her child-like height, “and I prefer being alone.”
“Why are you alone?” He stared, waiting.
Lena used her index finger to trace star shapes and swirls into the sand beside her. “I was always alone,” she finally answered, “even when I was surrounded by family. They knew I was different from the beginning, I guess. In the relo-cities, different is dangerous. When they sent me for my testing year—” She glanced up to be sure he understood. “They send us to be tested when we’re five years old, to see if we are Sparks?”
He nodded understanding.
“When they sent me,” she continued, “I was supposed to pretend to be weak.” She looked down at the shapes she’d drawn into the earth. She drew the side of her palm across them, wiping them away. “But I couldn’t. I forgot. So my father made me hide, instead. I lived like that, hidden in the house, until he died. After that—” Lena shrugged. “I left. And there is nothing that could ever make me go back. No one will ever tell me who to be or how to live ever again.” Her voice had risen, but the wind snatched the remembered fury and helplessness and carried them away. She could feel Ghost’s eyes on her and, sheepish, she shrugged. “I got tired of hiding.”
“I can imagine.” He shook his head. “But it’s good that your family was able to resist the blood price. I didn’t think your kind—city dwellers—had that kind of loyalty. So that’s something to be grateful for, at least.”
“The blood price the Council offers for girls like you?”
Lena swallowed. The wind chilled her cheeks. “What are you talking about?”
I tried to imagine what it would feel like to live in a world that had been devastated by forces the average person didn’t understand. What would it be like, as a tiny human looking up at the vast, star-whorled sky, to be reminded of our place in the universe? And how could that shape those survivors? The answers to those questions became a novel.
I hope you found this glimpse into the creative process fun — and that you were as inspired by Thierry Cohen’s photos as I was! To be entered in a random drawing here on my personal page, please leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite sci fi inspiration — whether it’s a book, a movie, a science article, or a photograph.
Thanks for visiting! Both Spark Rising, my debut novel, and Ignition Point, a free companion book of short stories set in the same star-lit world, will be released this year. Please consider following me here or on my Facebook author page for updates. And have a blast on the blog hop!
Those of you not participating in the blog hop, please reconsider. The stories written and the prizes provided by the author members of the SFR Brigade are amazing, ranging from $25 to $100 gift cards to amazon or Barnes & Noble PLUS 11 to 41 ebooks!
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