Where do stories come from?
The truth is, all ideas come from the same place: our experience. An experienced house painter will know that steel blue looks better with the echo of the mountain behind the house, while the green would be drowned in the trees. When it came to A Long, Long Sleep, my experience told me that the story of Sleeping Beauty was inherently flawed – the interesting story wasn’t how she was put to sleep. It was simply an act of evil. Possibly it was the lesser of two evils – sleep vs. death – but evil by itself is dull.
When it comes to a person, the interesting thing is not how you have suffered, but what you do to overcome it. Everyone has a sob story. I have several myself. My friends have had worse. But what they do with their lives, how they climb out of the darkness, what help they needed and what skills they had; that is what makes a life, and that is what makes a life interesting.
Life is story. The act of telling a story is to invoke a tiny life. You draw the story from your life, and the lives of others who have touched you, and other story lives, research to make it as true as possible, add in a few spices (like undead killing machines to personify the true evil) to make it taste better, mix all these elements into a stew, and let it simmer. Eventually, hopefully, you come up with something palatable; something people can swallow; something that will warm them from the inside out and touch them and become part of their own story.
When I started writing fiction, I was doing much the same. There was something wrong, something that I needed to direct people’s attention to. Whether it was with my life, their own lives, society as a whole, or just the general unjustness of existence. There are problems. They need fixing. But the wonderful thing about fiction is, you can also direct people’s attention to how things are fixed. "Look, look!" I say. Wake up. Open your eyes. Reach out, and most of your problems can be sorted; most of your wounds can be bandaged, if not healed.
That’s basically what all my ideas are, and what all my books are about, and why I write. "Look, look!" I’m saying. See that? This is the world as I understand it. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll interest or entertain you. And if I’m lucky, it might even direct your attention.
Anna Sheehan is the author of A Long, Long Sleep, published in America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, France and Russia. A Long, Long Sleep is Anna’s first book. Find her at annasheehan.com.
And now for the giveaway: