Time for an update on Mr. Valentine’s latest big thing. A bunch of writer friends are writing similar posts about the books we’re currently writing, so be sure to check out their blogs, as well:
- Celia Breslin, author of Haven
- Amber Belldene, author of Blood Vine
- Paula Millhouse, author of Dragonstone
- Tricia Skinner, author of Angel Bait
1: What is the working title of your book?
Purple Cow (as in the doggerel poem by Gelett Burgess)
2: Where did the idea come from for the book?
It is the result of the collision of a couple interests of mine:
- The relationship between creativity and madness
- The wilderness island I recently wrote about.
3: What genre does your book come under?
Science fiction with (as usual) generous dollops of romance.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In their youths: Shelley Long for the female lead, David Suzuki for the Japanese-Canadian male lead.
5: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Ursula K. LeGuin pops to mind, though no specific book.
6: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The book Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison. The book’s subtitle tells it all: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. I read many other books, too (I’ve never researched any novel so thoroughly) but that’s the main one. In my near-future thriller, I postulate the following:
- A incurable, degenerative illness that partially mimics Manic Depression. Like Manic Depression, it increases the creativity of a minority of its sufferers–if it doesn’t kill them first.
- A wilderness island where sufferers are dumped. Slowly at first, then faster, works of genius flow from the quarantine island.
- Wannabe creative geniuses bribe their way into the quarantine, willing to risk their lives to improve their art. One of these is my heroine, Janet Davis, who had given up her literary dreams for a cheating husband.
In a salute to my Belgian heritage, my hero is inspired by Saint Damien of Molokai, once voted the greatest Belgian of all time. (Nobody but me, and now you, knows or needs to know the inspiration for Kendo Carlisle!) Janet admires and has a crush on Kendo; if he wasn’t The Saint of Gilford Island, she wouldn’t have gone there, creativity or no creativity.
7: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
How about a selection? Here’s how the manic phase of my imaginary disease affects another major characters, Billy Seaweed.
Standing with his toes over the edge of the sea cliff, fourteen-year-old Billy Seaweed squinted into the misty drizzle so typical of Gilford Island at this—or almost any—time of the year.
“I’m a totem pole,” Billy said to the wind. The hood of his bright orange jacket made his voice sound odd, as though it belonged to someone else. “My legs are cedar, solid and immovable.”
From his vantage point, alone atop the cliff, Billy saw the supply boat pass the sophisticated electronic buoys that imprisoned the island. He ignored the boat, just as he ignored the drizzle, the complaints of the seagulls, the chill in his fingertips and the wild energy that mushroomed inside him like a marshmallow zapped in a microwave.
“Unmoving,” Billy chanted, “unbending, unblinking, untouched by time, wind or rain.”
Or fucking disease. But he didn’t say that aloud—it’d be bad luck. And he was in a tough place to invoke bad luck: the edge of the cliff that gave EchoBay its name, with his toes hanging over a twenty meter drop to the submerged rocks at the base.
“Eagle,” he said louder, moving his lips as little as possible. “Raven. Beaver. Salmon!”
The energy growing inside him was becoming difficult to control. Soon, then, soon. Like shaking a pop can, pointing it at a meddlesome asshole who hadn’t yet learned to leave Billy Seaweed alone, and then stabbing the can with a pocketknife. Whoosh! And then pointing the knife at the asshole and staring with the expressionless face that always sent white guys running in fear.
Soon. Just concentrate and bottle up the whizzing unrest churning through his body. Concentrate, and then boom. Yeah!
Boom, he could fly….
But the supply boat? Two days early?
“Concentrate, damn it!” Billy fingers writhed at his side. He wanted to laugh from the fucking energy, and at the same time cry because he was losing the battle to bottle it. Battle to bottle to boodle to beetle….
“You stupid fucker,” he shouted at himself. “Concentrate!”
Billy stiffened his arms and legs like a mythical creature carved on a cedar pole, stiffened his limbs until they hurt. If he didn’t concentrate he couldn’t fly, and if he couldn’t fly, he might die. Like a guy cooked in a pie, he’d die in the sky.
Shit. This wasn’t working. And he didn’t want to die like a fucking spy in a pigsty. The tide was low, which meant the rocks were near the surface. Water pounded the base of the cliff, thrusting watery fingers toward him, beckoning him to its chilly embrace. So concentrate, motherfucker!
“Tsonkwa!” Billy hoped that sheer volume would give him the energy of the creatures his ancestors had carved on totem poles. “Sisiutl! Komokwa!”
But the supply boat coming early meant another eager, soon-to-be-dead, crazy white guy who had paid to get himself smuggled through the quarantine.
He tried not to think about that. Instead, he imagined himself one of the three watchmen that the Haida up the coast used to carve atop their poles. Each watchman looked in a different direction: left, right, or straight ahead. In the old days, people didn’t need a watchman to guard the back of their poles, which faced home. Nowadays, that was the most dangerous direction.
He wondered who was in the boat.
“God damn you, boat!” Billy’s adolescent voice cracked, low then high then low, robbing the cry of any hope of magic. He exploded like fireworks gone mad, lashing out at the red berries on a nearby soopalallie bush, kicking rocks over the cliff, spouting a black torrent of swear words taught him by the endless stream of crazy white guys who’d died as he watched their chests for the stillness of death.
He ended on his hands and knees, his concentration gone. He was mere flesh and blood, not mighty thunderbird. Jesus, he acted as crazy as a white guy, sometimes.
Speaking of which, the new crazy white guy would have stuff he could borrow, if he got to him first. Billy popped to his feet, propelled high in the air by the wild energy that fizzed through his limbs. The supply boat had reached Hotel Point. Soon someone in EchoBay village would see the boat and dash out to borrow the crazy newcomer’s good stuff. Living near the mouth of the bay, Billy usually got first crack, but this time he wouldn’t get to borrow anything, and that fucking sucked a mucking buck.
Unless he flew down.
Except that in the past, he’d survived the jump before by harnessing his explosive burst of energy until the last possible moment. It was hard to leap past the submerged rocks. None of the white guys could do it. They all went splat, turning themselves into itty bitty squishy fishy food.
Not him, though. He was Billy Seaweed, the last of the fucking Mohicans. He was Kwagiulth, not Mohican, but the principle was the same. He could fly, man. Fly!
With as whoop that startled gulls off the cliff, Billy backed into the bushes clogging the edge of the forest. He was enough in control of himself to brace one leg against a lodgepole pine so he could push off.
“Not dumb,” he shouted. “Not fucking crazy. Not me-ee-ee-ee-ee!”
And with that he ran as hard as he could for three meters, until suddenly there were no rocks under his feet or moss or kinnikinick or bird-dropping stains, only rain and air and wind, and he was flying through the mist toward the supply raft, shouting and laughing maniacally.