Smartphones. The first novel I completed was a modern adventure with teen protagonists, and I was fed up with smartphones.
No, that’s not a problem, they’d Google. No, they’d message each other. No, they have time to text the Mayor that they’re in danger. No, you can’t use signal problems or running out of battery AGAIN.
I would’ve gotten away with it – if it wasn’t for those pesky smartphones…
In Our Child of the Stars, it’s true that law enforcement with modern tech would mess with the plot. But that’s fixable.
Stories come to me, and the setting and period is one of the things that come unbidden. Sometimes, I need take a step back and challenge my subconscious for being boring or obvious. This kept feeling like a period piece.
The original short story was written after reading Ray Bradbury, a writer who is nostalgic even when writing about the future.
We mythologise the past, and the Sixties in particular. It was another country, and they did things differently there. The novel is posed at that point of high idealism souring, at a time when the wave of change was reaching into further corners.
To write about the past is not to be backward looking. The book is first and foremost about family. It isn’t a preachy book, but I knew that it would touch on difference – sex, race and sexuality. It’s about the morality of violence – peace and war, and the dishonesty and power of the state. The Sixties was a time when all those issues were in ferment, even in out of the way places like Amber Grove. Arguments exploded and if you look at the news, the pieces haven’t landed yet. Our Child of the Stars does have a nostalgic streak, but also it might make people think, could we have done better? Can we now do better? It remembers what we gained as well as what we lost.
Why small town America? Biggest, it would be easier to hide Cory. And, I didn’t want to write about radicals in a big city, but peaceniks living in a small town. Inclusion mattered to me, which is why there are honest, decent people, friends of Gene and Molly, who support the Vietnam war, however reluctantly. That was part of the tragedy of that conflict.
A book needs a soundtrack. I write to music. I knew whose records Gene and Molly are listening to in the original story. The more I listened to the classics of the era, particularly the folk-protest tradition, the more music became important. It quickly became central to Gene’s character, and the framing of the tale.
There were so many good reasons to go with when I did. But, also, smartphones.