The Big Idea: Elizabeth Scott
Posted on September 21, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi
The writing process is romanticized, but the fact of the matter is that when ideas drop into a writer’s head, they don’t always choose the most momentous of times to do so — even when the idea is a profound one. You can have an idea good enough to write a book about when you’re folding socks. And to prove that point, here’s Elizabeth Scott, who found herself having a key realization of her latest novel Grace whilst deep in the throes of laundry. Hey, you take inspiration when it comes. Scott gives you the freshly-washed details.
I got the idea for Grace from a dream.
I know, how cheesy can I get? But I did. I dreamed of girl, sweating on a slow train, and she–
Well, then I woke up.
And, to be honest, I went back to sleep hoping to dream of a vacation. Or Fritos. Either one would have worked!
But instead, I dreamed of the girl–and now I knew her name was Grace–again. And there was someone, a guy, with her.
I woke up as she realized who he was, became terrified, and then I sat there, stunned and thinking, “What is this?”
I wrote it all down in the notebook I keep by my bed, handwriting slobbing all over the page (I’m not the neatest writer normally, and the middle of the night? Not my time!), and then put it aside.
A girl on the run? A girl seeing a guy who scared her? The train thing was different, and I had written down “sand, endless, hot sand,”–but what was that? How was that a story?
It came to me when I folding socks, of all things.
Grace is billed as a dystopian novel but it isn’t. It’s story of what was, what is, and what I’m–sadly–afraid will always be.
It’s a story about a girl who’s spent her life training to die, and what happens when she decides she doesn’t want to.
It’s a story about running for your life when you have no options. When you can’t run, but must crawl.
It’s a story about what drives someone to believe that killing people is a good thing. About a world where it’s okay for a teenager to kill people as long as it’s for the “right cause.”
It’s about how there are places–in the past, in the now, and, I think, in the future–where that has happened. Is happening. Will happen.
It made me wonder: who sees a child and thinks, “Yes, this will do for death.”
What sort of world is that?
Ours. And hers.
As Grace’s story unfurled for me, I wrestled with that and with finding a way to understand how someone could believe they had to die–and how they could come to not want to.
It turns out that believing you have to die is chillingly easy. Give someone no choice, give someone a belief system that stresses death as an honor, and there you go.
And if you chose not to die, like Grace does, you don’t just run for your life. You run from yourself. From why you failed. From everything and everyone you know because you are a traitor.
I wanted to know why this happens, and you know what?
I ended up not knowing. Belief is something that we all come to on our own, and that forms all of us in different ways.
What I did learn?
Death isn’t the answer.
But sometimes, in some places–then, now, and the future–it is. I don’t like that, but I think it’s important to see it. And more than that, to ask Why?
Why and what can make you believe that your death is worth more than anything else? And what happens if you somehow see your future, your death–and want more in a world that doesn’t offer it?
I don’t know if Grace provides any answers, but it made me ask a lot of questions.
It made me think about the will to die, and the will to live.
Which one matters more?
The answer seems easy, but it isn’t, and that’s what Grace made me see, and I’m glad I stayed with that dream. With that girl on that train.
With what I realized she’d done. What she believed.
And how, after all of it, she’d taken the biggest step of all.
She’d chosen her own path.
Grace: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Read an excerpt (click on the cover of the book). Read Elizabeth Scott’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.
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