One of the most common questions you get asked as an author is, “Where do your ideas come from?” It’s slightly maddening for me, because — like a lot of writers — I don’t really know. You get a glimmer of inspiration here, have a weird dream, read an op-ed in the newspaper, see an old 80s music video, and then three weeks later suddenly there’s a story in your brain that isn’t directly linked to any of the above but wouldn’t have come into being without them.
Take, for instance, last March. I was touring in the US, Australia and New Zealand for BALTHAZAR’s release. Those of you who follow me on Twitter/Tumblr will be shocked, shocked, to know that one of the last things I watched on DVD before leaving for the trip was “Atonement.” I watched for the McAvoy, but what lingered in my mind was both the image of a high-strung, rail-thin girl who yearned for something beyond the ordinary, and one of the deeper themes, the idea that our inner realities are so often hidden from one another until too late.
And then there were days and days in hotel rooms, on airplanes. Dan Wells and Lauren Oliver, who are both as wonderful as traveling companions as they are authors, were pretty much my only constants in the US as we went from cold weather to hot weather, mountains to desert to seashore. That sensation intensified as I went to Australia, and my longsuffering publicist became the only person I saw day to day as I went to places even more unfamiliar to me.
Meanwhile, of course, with all that airplane time, I’m reading up a storm. I read NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA, and a couple of novels set in pre-revolutionary Russia. I read a nonfiction book about rogue waves.
I rewatched “Iron Man” in a hotel.
Someone at an event asked me about my favorite books as a child, and one of the ones I spoke about was the glorious A WRINKLE IN TIME.
And through that weird alchemy that every writer knows and nobody can explain, a story started to happen.
So now, ten months later, I can announce, as my agent and I just did in PUBLISHERS’ MARKETPLACE:
Claudia Gray’s CAN’T GET NEXT TO YOU, the first book in the Firebird
trilogy, about a girl who must pursue a killer through alternate realities
where she sees all the radically different lives she might have led, and
realizes her target may be far more than the cold-hearted murderer she’d
believed him to be, to Sarah Landis at Harper Teen, in a three-book deal,
by Diana Fox at Fox Literary (World).
The main character, Marguerite, is the daughter of two scientists — the scientists who developed a way to travel between dimensions. And the man she’s hunting is the man she believes killed her father. Some of the worlds she visits are very like her own; others are radically different, whether in a futuristic version of London or a Russia where the tsars never fell from power. But every single leap she takes into the unknown doesn’t just get her closer to the truth about what happened to her father; it makes her realize how easily all the people around her could be different. How she could be different, and how hard it is to face what’s really within people, both the darkness and the light.
(How do all the above ideas tie in? Some of them — like NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA — are already obvious. Others you can probably piece together. Others I can explain as time goes on — and still others will remain mysterious to me forever. But I know all those influences from that trip played a role in this story’s creation.)
There is SO MUCH I want to tell you guys about this book, and this trilogy. Most of that has to wait — right now, I’m concentrating on the SPELLCASTER series (and hope you are too, with the release date just two months away!) But I can say that, for me, CGNTY is what a lot of writers call “A book of the heart.” That’s what you call that story you love, love, love so much that you want to tell it all day, every day, forever. Sometimes a book of the heart is so personal that it’s a hard sell, or otherwise doesn’t make it out into the world. But I’m very happy to know that I get to share CGNTY with all of you.