Melanie Cusick-Jones discusses the background to Hope’s Daughter and The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, covering ‘writer’s inspiration’.
Once Upon a Time … there was a boy named Balik and a girl named Cassie and they lived on board the Space Station Hope. But where did they come from?
People will always look for autobiographical elements to someone’s writing, perhaps in the belief that you can only “write what you know”. I’m sure for every writer there are elements of them in each book they write – it might simply be a single phrase you use or a description of how you feel about something, which you then put in the mouth of one of your characters. But I think writers must appear in their own books somewhere.
I can tell you honestly that I am not Cassie, but we have similarities… I don’t like silence when you’re with people: I’m definitely a nervous waffler; but with people I’m comfortable with and care about, I’ll happily be quiet. We both have sarcastic tendencies and similar taste in guys We like the same school subjects and she probably got her mildly argumentative streak from me. But I don’t live on a space station (surprise, surprise), or rock climb in my spare time (I am clumsy to a point that would make Bella Swan appear graceful and coordinated), and my medical expertise is limited to a basic first aid qualification.
Balik is – unfortunately – not someone I’ve met personally. But some of his strongest personality traits are familiar. The “have to know how it works” thing is another little piece of me – not necessarily in the practical sense as my lack of co-ordination inhibits me there J – but I love learning about new things. His strength and protective nature, putting someone else before himself, is something I have seen in loved ones close to me and is perhaps the most desirable quality anyone could possess. Who wouldn’t want the warrior with a heart on their side?
So where did the rest of the story come from?
Before I began Hope’s Daughter I was stuck in a rut with another novel I’d been working on (I probably hadn’t done any real writing in six months or so) and knew that I wanted to start something new, just to get myself going again. I had also been through a bit of a sci-fi phase in my reading (lots of Philip K Dick and HG Wells among others) and so I decided to do a very short piece for myself in this genre, just to see what it was like. At first it was just the Married Quarter, Balik and Cassie – but once I was writing it the story kept growing: I would drive to work listening to music and would see scenes pulling themselves together in my head, like a mini-montage and the outline of a deeper story began to come together.
I’m not a sci-fi specialist by any stretch of the imagination and so when I started building the world Cassie lives in, although I knew what it looked like, I had to refer to other people’s versions of space stations and outer space colonies to understand where technology we have now, might genuinely take us in the not too distant future. Although some of this detail was edited out of Hope’s Daughter, some things remain like the body scanners (which are real today) and waste recycling systems – naturally The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, which is Balik’s story shows much more of these things 🙂 You know how he is!
Similarly – and quite scarily – Cassie’s answer to the exam question posed at the beginning of the novel is based entirely on newspaper articles I have read. Often I would grab a copy of the free paper on my way into work and each day there are odd little science snippets alongside the more prominent articles on which celebrity is doing what or bizarre news stories. These tiny, single sentence items usually reference research being done or scientific predictions being made, which if they prove accurate could well affect the whole world…and they are hidden in a small text box alongside a page of celebrity fluff, which says a lot about what people think of as important. I cut out and kept the one that first made me think about this:
Metro – August 5, 2009
GLOBAL WARMING WILL SEE ‘BILLIONS AT WAR’
Billions of people will go to war as they are forced to leave areas made uninhabitable by global warming, climate change expert Lord Stern has warned. Much of the world’s population will be put into ‘severe conflict’ unless temperature rises are tackled, he added.
Billions of people…Billions… That’s the whole world isn’t it? As post-apocolyptic views of the future go (zombies, global plagues, giant monsters from outer space) for me, this is the one I could actually imagine happening. I could imagine us sleepwalking into a devastating situation like this, brought about mainly through a lack of interest and co-ordination. Today’s science fiction being tomorrow’s science fact…? A terrifying thought.
There is obviously more to the creation of Hope’s Daughter, most of which I can’t share because of the spoilers! But it is surprising, even to me, when I go back to my notes and research from the beginning and see how a single idea became an entire book. It is interesting to see what changed – a lot – and what remains from the original concept.
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