Last week, I posted this at the Avon Romance blog to introduce my novella, Before the Witches. Because I’m sort of obsessed with keeping all of my blog posts in one place, I am now cross-posting this here for posterity.
There’s nothing quite as embarassing as writing a novella about an apocalyptic event — and/or series of events — and have it signed, sealed and delivered right before an eerily similar state of events happens in the real world. As I watched the news, I remember telling the mancandy, “Seriously, do you think people will be emailing me with accusations of being some sort of psychic or something?” He laughed at me, reassured me that no one would think that I was psychic or capitalizing on the misfortunes of the world, and then…promptly started telling his friends that Mother Nature had clearly torn a page from my book. Literally.
Really? Well… okay.
See, I’m fascinated — even addicted! — to disaster stories. Movies, short stories, novels, you name it, I love it. As bad as some of them really get — 2012, anyone? — I can’t help but love it. The whole concept for my Dark Mission series came while suffering in the demonic throes of a sick day. I was miserable, curled up on the couch and vegging with a blanket and hot tea, my various cats draped around me like particularly mellow kinds of ambulatory meatloaf, and staring blearily at the Discovery channel. As I recall, the quietly epic narrator was talking about supervolcanoes.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but from the seeds of my fascination with real-world apocalyptica, the concept for Before the Witches grew. Suddenly, I found myself obsessed with the destruction of Seattle. How would it go? What would be the most likely disaster? What would the inhabitants of the Emerald City think? What could they do to survive?
And then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was more to the story than just the mechanics of a cataclysm. What would be left? What would be changed? What, in fact, would rise to take its place? Most disaster movies focus on the events of the cataclysm itself. Very few look beyond to what happens after. 2012touched on it, but I always wanted to know: what would the people do once they disembarked from the boats? Would they immediately start warring for land and space and power? Would they try to work together? Would they each have different ideologies and find themselves fractured in neighboring city-states like some kind of Civilization game?
Our world, here and now, is a mix of peoples, thoughts, beliefs, wants, dreams. Those who call themselves witches are, more or less, tolerated in the US (particularly stringent parts of the country notwithstanding). In other countries, they are revered as shamans, accepted as guardians, vaunted as connections to the spirits. Still others persecute them, driving them out, killing them or imprisoning them. This is the life we know. A witch could comfortably live a fine life in, say, inner city Seattle. Perhaps start a shop, give Tarot readings, own a bookstore. Whatever appeals. What, I thought to myself, could be so terrible as to revisit the Witch Hunts that Salem made famous?
Simple: an unexplainable, irrational series of epic events that threaten humanity as a species. Include the usual individuals who inherently understand how to take advantage of events to gain power, a wealth of victimization and wash down with the blood of the so-called wicked. Voila! One grim, insular community, complete with near-martial law and a beaten down, paranoid, even degenerate population.
Before the Witches is so different in setting to Blood of the Wicked, and when I explain what it is, I always call it my Etch-a-Sketch end of the world. Think about the life you know. The city you live in. The people you befriend and the beliefs they hold. Imagine what would happen if a giant cosmic hand shook it all up.
Chicken Little gets a lot of flak for his squawking, but wouldn’t it be wild if maybe, just maybe, the sky really did fall?
Katya Zhuvova and Nigel Ferris are two in a city of hundreds of thousands, and as the sky falls on the city they live in, they’re going to have fight with everything they’ve got to survive. See what life was like before the towering city of glass, before the Mission’s dark mandate… Before the Witches, an original novella by me, Karina Cooper (http://www.karinacooper.com), and hopefully not some kind of psychic projection on the future of the world. If I’m going to be known for anything, I’d rather be known as “that lady who writes totally made-up and wildly speculative fiction”, thank you.