Author Guest Post with Beth Revis (A World Without You) and Giveaway!!!
Finding Inspiration Everywhere
One of the most common questions I’m asked as an author is, “Where do you find your inspiration?” The answer is frustratingly simple: Everywhere. I gather ideas magpie-like, pulling out the bits that I think are fascinating and piecing together a story around them. It can be a memory of the way someone made me feel, it can be a chance encounter where I see something new, it can be a particularly good book that I want to emulate...or a particularly bad book that I want to prove I can write better. Ideas spark ideas. When I watched the The Time Traveller's Wife on television one day, it made me think about how different the story would have been had the time traveller been a bad guy; that one thought sparked an entire short story. Everyone gets ideas from the things they love--which is why fan fiction is so popular! But I think one reason why the question on inspiration is so often repeated is because people want to peel back the layers of writing to see where the inspiration falls. Usually, inspiration helps me in two ways: before and during writing. Before writing, I get inspired by things that make me excited to write my story. During writing, inspiration helps me move past the difficult parts.
A good example of this is with The Body Electric, my fourth novel. It's about a girl who can alter memories, but discovers that her own memory has been altered. Going into that novel, I had some key pieces of inspiration to work with--namely, the works of Philip K. Dick, "Total Recall" and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which is the basis for the movie Blade Runner. In those works, there are cyborgs that look human and people whose memories get altered. I didn't want to write fan fiction though; I wanted to create my own story. But I couldn't deny the source of inspiration. You can see it in subtle ways throughout the book--for example, the main character's name is Ella Shepherd, a nod to the title of Dick's book, "electric sheep." But while the story itself sparked up from this source, I still ran into trouble. I particularly had trouble with the male lead. I knew I wanted him to be a bit snarky, but also sexy. He knew some secrets, and I needed to show that without making it too obvious... his voice was giving me so much trouble! I had such a good idea of who I wanted him to be, but pulling it off just wasn't working.
I was chilling on my couch, watching Doctor Who and the episode with Captain Jack Harkness came on. And instantly I knew: this was my character's voice. Obviously I couldn't copy his character, but whenever I wrote my Jack, I thought of Doctor Who's Jack, and it helped me to make him real and right. I was lucky enough to meet John Barrowman, the actor who played Captain Jack, about a year after working on those scenes. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out he's an author too--he co-wrote The Hollow Earth series with his sister! I got him to sign a copy of the latest book at the time just for you guys ;)
After I finished The Body Electric and turned to my next project, I was struggling to come up with a concept I liked. I almost feel like I had too many ideas, and no way to focus them into one story. I wanted to talk about siblings and love and loss and I wanted something bittersweet--not a true happy ending, because sometimes stories just don't have them. Then I picked up Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. It's a brilliant novel, told entirely in images--the story is full color photographs and illustrations inside, and there's even online stuff you can explore to add to the story. It starts off as a normal forbidden love story between a girl and the new boy...but as the story develops, you discover it is something else entirely. That idea--that you can start one way but reveal the real story through layers later--really latched onto my brain. And suddenly all those disconnected pieces of my story made sense. A World Without You came from this mishmashed story--it's about a boy named Bo who believes he can travel through time and is at a superhero school honing his skills, but as the story continues, you discover that he's actually in a boarding school for mentally disturbed youth.
While I'm sure you can see the parallels between my inspiration--playing with what's real and what's not--A World Without You was also inspired by very personal things. The closer I got to Bo's reality, the closer I got to my own reality. Bo's relationship with his family started to echo my own family from when I was his age, growing up with a brother who also had a mental illness, one that wasn't obvious to outsiders, but that affected everything we did as a family. Tapping into my own past as inspiration for a new story was painful, but also something that has changed me. Ironically, this story about what was real and what wasn't became the most real thing I've ever written. It's personal and vividly true to my own life, and it's my greatest hope that it reaches someone like who I used to be, and maybe, just maybe, it can inspire someone the way these works have inspired me. In order to celebrate the upcoming release of A World Without You, I've put together an awesome prize pack below, inspired by this post on inspiration! And if you'd like to order your own signed, personalized copy of A World Without You, you can do so from my local indie bookstore, Malaprops, right here!
Meet Beth Revis!!
Beth Revis grew up in the Appalachian mountains with a cemetery in her backyard, but all the ghost stories she invented ended up with robots or unicorns. She still prefers her stories to have some sort of weird angle to them; even when she’s writing a contemporary novel like A World Without You, she can’t help but add some unexpected twists. Her other books, the Across the Universe trilogy, are New York Times bestsellers and have been translated into more than twenty languages. Beth lives in a house full of boys—her husband, son, and two massive dogs—and she forces them all to watch reruns of Firefly and Doctor Who in between planning trips to see the world.
Meet A World Without You,
Seventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his concerned parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have "superpowers."
At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofia, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Sofia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofia, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.
But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she's not actually dead. He believes that she's stuck somewhere in time — that he somehow left her in the past, and now it's his job to save her.
A big thank you to Beth Revis for this enlightening post! Now read on for the latest giveaway below!
*Click the Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway*
I would just like to commend the author for taking on mental illness as a theme; hopefully by telling stories about people with such problems you can help destigmatize them! Bravo, Kara S
Have you seen the Bones where a boy tries to protect a woman that is being abused by being a super hero? That brings tears to my eyes every time.
I like how you find inspiration in everything This sounds like an intriguing story, I look forward to reading it.
Hi, Beth -
As you write, do you use beta readers, or do you use them after you finish the novel, and how much of your editor's (or betas') input do you incorporate into your book?
Thanks for answering!
I'm starting to branch out more and read books outside of my comfort areas. So far, I like time travel and steampunk scifi the best. Beth, what caused you to fall in love with science fiction?
Love your books, and it was so fascinating to see some of the inspiration behind both The Body Electric (which I loved) and A World Without You (which I'm sure to love).
My question for you, and one I like to ask authors, is what was your favorite part of AWWY to write? Beginning, middle, end? A particular scene (if you can say!) A particular character? Whatever your fave was!
Thanks so much for creating such awesome worlds and characters! Looking forward to your future books!