The question that writers most hate is the perennial, “Where do you get your ideas?”
We could just answer, “from everywhere,” but even that isn’t big enough to cover it. When deep in the writing process, holding a hundred thousand words in our heads, writers hover half in this world and half in the world of the novel. The edges blur, and ideas roam freely back and forth. Not only do the events in real life influence the story, but the reverse happens too—the travails of those characters leak out to infuse reality around us.
I wanted to capture some of that dual state in Afterworlds. The odd-numbered chapters of the book are the story of Darcy, a young writer reworking her first novel under the looming pressure of a high-paying book contract. Having just moved out of her parents’ home, she has to balance the practicalities of living on her own with the allure of her shiny new membership in the community of YA authors, all while charging headlong into her first serious love affair. At the same time, Darcy is rewriting her novel from the ground up, applying the lessons of her new adulthood to the draft she wrote as a callow high school student.
The even-numbered chapters are the text of Darcy’s novel, a story about another young girl caught between worlds. On her way home from a visit to her estranged father, Lizzie Scofield is caught up in a terrorist attack at an airport. She plays dead to escape the gunmen, but she plays too well. From that moment on she can see ghosts, like the eleven-year-old Mindy haunting her mother’s home. As Lizzie unravels the mystery of Mindy’s death, she faces the secrets of her own family as well.
Both of these young women are in the process of transformation, and both have the power to transform the other. Darcy the writer, of course, holds Lizzie’s fate in her hands. But Lizzie the character is also the key to Darcy’s future, because Darcy’s publisher wants a happy ending, not the tragic finale of her first draft.
Each story not only influences the other, but also holds the secret of its salvation. That’s how us writers live, half in real life and half in our fictional worlds. Half finished and half rewritten, we are all made of drafts.
by Scott Westerfeld
Scott Westerfeld is renowned in the YA fiction market, this is a perfect blend of contemporary love story and fantastical thriller.
Darcy has secured a publishing deal for her three paranormal books. Now she must find the wherewithall to write the second one whilst she has a reprieve from going to college, thanks to her savvy sister. She has enough funds for 3 years in NY… if she eats only noodles every day.
In the story Darcy has written, the character Lizzie survives a traumatic shooting event only to discover that she has become a phsychopomp; a spirit guide to the dead. But she’s not dead.. or is she? With one foot in each world, Lizzie’s challenges are somewhat unique. Then there’s her hot spirit guide… and all those ghosts that keep appearing… and the ‘living’ friend she usually tells everything to…
More than all I’d seen and heard. It was coming back to life that made me believe in the afterworld.