J. Grace Pennington is one of my favorite science fiction authors, and today she's visiting my blog to talk about how she ended up writing Implant, her newest novel.
What makes a story a story?
Students of the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum will recognize that question as the phrase that starts the introduction of every lesson on every DVD of the course. And the memory of those simple words is intertwined with the writing process of my latest novel Implant, because I wrote the book to go along with the curriculum.
I wrote sci-fi because it’s what I do (try not to think of Geico commercials here). I didn’t, however, intend to write dystopia. At the time, I hadn’t even heard the word. I’d heard vague whispers of The Hunger Games (book, this was before the movie came out). My dad had mentioned 1984 and Logan’s Run and other sci-fi worlds gone bad, but the young adult dystopia craze was only just budding. You could still go into a Half-Price Books without being smacked in the face by Divergent, Matched, Uglies, The Maze Runner, The Program, The Lunar Chronicles, Shatter Me, etc., etc., etc.
Yet I somehow ended up writing a young adult dystopia.
It was an accident of sorts. My first spark of an idea was just about two men who respected each other and each hated everything the other stood for. My second idea was about a world where governmental healthcare turned deadly (yes, this was when Obamacare first came on the scene) and my third idea was to use the standard sci-fi trope where there’s only one person in the world who doesn’t have the technology that’s ruining everything. And getting such a person in such a world really ought to involve time travel, a la Star Trek: The Voyage Home. So I was really just combining a bunch of my favorite things--complex relationships, medicine, sci-fi. No apocalypse, no factions, no love triangles. And yet somehow, a dystopia popped out.
I have only read a small fraction of the current popular titles in that genre, but I’ve noticed a lot of them seem to suffer from copycatitis. There are good stories out there, but a lot of them fall flat and seem suspiciously like all the other stories. They seem divided into two distinct categories; those who said “I have a story to tell,” and those who said, “This is popular, I’ll try to do this.” Of course, I don’t truly know the authors’ minds. That’s just how it seems. There’s nothing wrong with writing something popular, if you really have a story inside you that fits that mold. But it’s most fun if, like me, you find your book’s niche by accident, spilling your words and then realizing they have a very particular shape. Taking what’s inside of you and letting it twist and turn into pixilated emotion and plot and character and something that makes your reader feel something that changes their world a little bit.
That’s what makes a story a story.
J. Grace Pennington has been reading stories as long as she can remember, and writing them almost as long. She is also a prolific medical transcriptionist, amateur musician, chocolate eater, daughter, sister, friend, and laundry folder. She lives in Texas, and if she was part of the Implant society, her role in the rebellion would probably be monitoring current events and correspondence in the computer center. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, check out her website, or buy Implant on Amazon.