Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Chelsea Cain's One Kick

Today's guest post is by bestselling author Chelsea Cain. Best known for her Gretchen Lowell and Archie Sheridan series, One Kick is the start of a new series featuring Kick a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker.
When my first thriller, Heartsick, became a bestseller everyone wanted to know when I was going to write a "real" book.  The question puzzled me.  I thought I had written a book.  But it wasn't a book-book, I guess.  So everyone assumed that I had a book-book up my sleeve, some opus, my stab at the so-called Great American Novel.  They all looked so disappointed when I had to explain that all I had up my sleeves were more thrillers.   "But what do you really want to write?" they'd ask helpfully, like I hadn't properly considered the question.  So I looked deep down into my soul and really searched for anything I might really really really want to write.  You know what I saw there?  More thrillers.  (What a relief since I, as a thriller writer, was in a unique position to publish thrillers.)  I decided right then that I'd write multiple series.  I'd set them all in Portland, Oregon.  I would be a thriller series queen.  It was settled.  There was one small delay:  I couldn't think of anything else to write about.  Or more specifically anyone to write about. 

Writing a series means spending a lot of time with a character.  It's like a marriage.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's work, but if there's not a connection at the center of the relationship it's not going to last.  I was looking for love in all the wrong places and waking up the next morning alone and only halfway through a chapter.  Until I met Kick.  She sprang into my imagination nearly fully formed.  A missing child case that had been big news when I was a kid was reopened and that cold case came together with the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard (two missing girls thought dead and later rescued).  I had been riveted by the Smart and Dugard cases.  I am riveted by most crime stories - sometimes when I'm bored I Google "crime stories" just to see what deviant misadventures people have been up to in the last few hours - Americans do terrible things to one another. 

 When I was a kid we drank milk out of cartons with missing kids on them, so I am a particular sucker for those stories.  I usually solve the crime before I've finished the headline (step-father, drainage ditch).  Happy endings are rare.  By the time the kids are on the news or a milk carton the hour glass has run dry.  So when a kid reappears months or even years later, it's a resurrection.  When the Salt Lake City police found Elizabeth Smart nine months after her abduction, she was our collective little sister.  I cried.  I read everything I could get my hands on from celebrity magazine coverage to court transcripts.  Why?  It's another form of exploitation, isn't it?  I cringed at so much of what I read, but I couldn't look away.  I wanted to know more.  I am a series lover.  I always want the story to continue.  I want to know what happens next.  So I came up with a fantasy version of a girl who is abducted and survives, a young woman who struggles with her demons and her family, but also has made herself a skilled escape artist and a master at self defense, someone who uses her power to rescue others.  She is every girl who had been abducted and survived, and she is none of them.  When I look deep down into my soul for what I want to write about, my "real" book, my book-book, she is what looks back at me.

More information about Chelsea Cain and her work can be found on her website.  You can also follow her on Twitter @ChelseaCain and on Facebook.

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