I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Louise Curtis to drop by. Louise is going to tell us about the genesis of her new YA novel.
In November 2010 I was busy. I was far, far too busy to do the National Novel Writing Month. So the beginning of November came and went with nothing but a wistful sigh on the writing front. And then I had a dream about a group of empaths that saw everything by its emotions – cars, dirt, people – to such an extent that a skilled empath could become invisible to others. And one of the empaths had turned against the rest, leaving every last one of them shattered.
My contemporary fantasy YA novel SEE THROUGH was finished three weeks later. (And by “finished” I mean the first draft was written – you’ll notice this was over two years ago.)
I had no time to research or design an unusual setting, so I set the story in a place I’d always meant to use for a fantasy, simply because almost no-one else had – my home town of Canberra. After an eerie night-time trip to write with other NaNoers in the small town of Collector (there was a dead rabbit just outside the door of the hall, and half the lights didn’t work) I set a vital part of the story there. The cover photo was taken in Canberra, too – from a boat on Lake Burley Griffin looking towards Rydges.
It wasn’t the first time I’d written about people with empathic ability – and I always made the skill both a gift and a curse; never something that could be switched off.
I know exactly why I was so fascinated with the idea of strong emotions hitting more than one person at a time. For seven years I struggled with a mental illness that fell under the category of “social anxiety”. One part of that disorder was that I felt convinced I was channelling the emotions of people around me – only negative emotions, of course – stress, anger, grief. Some of it was based on reading body language and on my knowledge of a person’s struggles or personality. But the feelings were out of control and out of proportion. It also made me a terrible friend, because if someone was upset then I was devastated – even though nothing had happened to me! Mental illness is a strange world, and I enjoyed imagining a place where the pain and uselessness I felt had an up side.
My very obvious reference to the Stolen Generation in the prologue (a child is taken from her natural parents by law) was
completely unconscious. I’m glad (though a little scared) that it’s there. It’s a fitting part of an Australian fantasy novel. You can read the prologue for free, incidentally (here), and it can stand alone as a short story.
The book goes on to explore some of the different ways minority and majority groups in Australia see each other, and negotiate the difficult path to peaceful co-existence. There aren’t any easy answers in real life or the book: it is always simply hard work and careful kindness.
SEE THROUGH by Louise Curtis
Amy is a young empath stolen from her Normal parents by law on her fifth birthday – with deadly consequences. Her carefully constructed serenity is ripped away a second time when her empath community is attacked from within.
Louise writes about writing, steampunk, and her one-year old daughter on her blog. She has no superpowers that she cares to disclose at this time.