Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Origins of "The Blinds" by Adam Sternbergh

Every story has a thousand inspirations, but I can safely say ‘The Blinds’ was born of three ideas: 1) My fascination with isolated communities, whether it’s the Amish in Pennsylvania or the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas; 2) the very real notion of memory erasure as a treatment for severe trauma, and 3) my on-going obsession with the fundamental weirdness of the Witness Protection Program. (The notion of a government program in which criminals are not punished, but rather relocated to unsuspecting communities and given new identities is, to me, so fantastical that, if you invented in a book, no one would believe it.)

All three of these ideas were rattling around in my brain until one day, magically, they collided — and I had the inspiration to write a story of an isolated community in which witnesses and criminals escape their former lives by having all memories of their criminal pasts erased.

The other inspiration for ‘The Blinds,’ of course, is Westerns — and the classic myth of the frontier town where people go to forget their pasts. In the US, the frontier was itself a kind of isolated community, not because it was purposefully cut off from society, but because it was established in a place where society did not yet exist. So communities of people were left to invent their own mini-societies. In today’s world, there are few if any geographical places that still offer this kind of freedom — we’ve navigated, conquered, and colonised nearly every inch of the planet — but I think this spirit still survives online. What is a role-playing game like Second Life but a chance to be someone new in a new world?

Of course, the urge to reinvent yourself often comes hand in hand with a desire to outrun your past — so I was especially taken with the notion that you could have your past, or at least the worst parts of it, erased. On its face, it’s easy to see the appeal of this — all your mistakes, forgotten! All your sins, forgiven! But those mistakes and sins are as much a part of who we are as our successes and our triumphs. The extent to which those sins still haunt us, even when we’ve technically erased them, is a classic topic for noir novels and a big part of what made this story appealing to me to explore.

Some people have asked, in light of ‘The Blinds,’ whether I believe in nature or nurture, but I think that’s beside the point. The nature versus nurture question is about what causes us to do what we do. In ‘The Blinds,’ I was more interested in what happens once the deed is done and we have to reckon with our actions — and whether there’s any hope for redemption. That’s the question that truly intrigued me. It still does.

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh is published  on February 01, 2018 by Faber & Faber (£7.99)

Imagine a place populated by criminals - people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who have been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don't know if they've perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. All they do know is that they opted into the programme and that if they try to leave, they will end up dead.  For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace - but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town's residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her - and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway, it's simmering with violence and deception, heartbreak and betrayal, and it's fit to burst.

More information about the author and his books can be found on his website.  You can also find him on Twitter @Sternbergh.

No comments: