Carolyn Crane, author of the Disillusionist series, book two of which (Double Cross) was just released, has graciously agreed to post a bit about her writing process for the series. I found Mind Games, the first book, to be a wonderful read. I was particularly impressed by the daring choice to make the protagonist have a serious mental illness, e.g. rampant hypochondria that was destroying her life.
Having had a grandmother with the disease, I know how messed up it can make someone's life.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to reading Double Cross.
And...if you want a shot at winning a copy of either of these books, leave a comment here on the blog. Further instructions at the bottom of the post.
Random science and setting ingredients!
Hey everyone! So, I’ve been following Writtenwrydd forever, or at least since I entered blogland. I love all the cool factual and world building information here - mixed with the reading and life items of one Ms. D. Lynn Frazier. So, I’m so psyched to be here! Anyway, I thought I’d do a post on things from my real life that ended up in the world of the trilogy, mostly just inadvertently.
Brochures I was hired to write
As a freelance copywriter, I pay my bills by writing brochures and websites for companies, which leads me to learn a little bit about a lot of things - mobile clean rooms, shipping logistics, etc. A lot of that stuff shows up in my novels in a skewed way. For example, in Double Cross, book #2, there is this weapon this guy Avery invents. I won’t give plot stuff away, but the technology involves waves carrying information, and is tweaked off info I learned from writing this website about EMFs. For a different new series, I found myself building on things I learned about reflective technology. (Thanks 3M reflective vests brochure job!)
Fairytales where people are magically imprisoned
One of my favorite ever fairytale tropes is when somebody is magically imprisoned somewhere. Merlin, Rapunzel, ogres and various other characters, good or bad. I love imprisoned characters! In Mind Games, my tortured hero, Packard, is imprisoned for eternity in a Mongolian Restaurant in Midcity, but he makes use of his time recruiting messed up people to be on his psychological hit squad.
Most people think he’s the owner, and don’t realize the restaurant is his prison. His nemesis has power over force fields and has been stashing people all over town—coat check booths, gas stations, you name it. All three books have imprisoned characters, and they’re all up to something.
The most depressing book ever
I got the first spark of the idea for the disillusionists after reading Straw Dogs by John Gray, a hugely depressing sort of philosophical book that takes a SUPER dismal view of humanity. It made me feel really awful, and I thought, if I had an enemy, I would give them this book as a gift, so that they could feel as disillusioned as I did. Then I thought, what if there were people who disillusioned other people for money? Hey, that would make an interesting UF plot.
My friend who struggles with mental illness
So, the disillusionists are able to zing their darkness into victims - their emotions are weaponized, so to speak. The way it works comes partly from my experience with a friend who was slowly going insane—conspiracy theories, voices, the whole deal. It was really terrible, and sad. And whenever I’d hang out with him long enough, then afterwards, I’d feel a little crazy and wired, too, as if I’d soaked up his crazy energy. I remember when I first realized that this was happening, and it really surprised me that I’d feel so messed up after seeing him. That was the prototype of zinging.
I think it happens a lot, in negative as well as positive ways. You hang out with somebody who’s intensely angry or depressed or incredibly light and happy, and it greatly affects you.
Anthroposophical theories of Rudolf Steiner
Steiner was this thinker and scientist who lived in the early 1900s in Germany; his system of thought, Anthroposophy, spawned new techniques in farming, architecture, medicine education, and more. Some of his ideas were appropriated from Hinduism, like his one about humans being made of several bodies, only one physical. According to this theory, emotions live in this “Astral body” that pervades the physical body, but also extends out of it.
Ready made for urban fantasy technology! I tweaked it for my book. This multiple bodies thing is an instrumental part of my characters ability to zing dark emotions into their victims.
Genetics and stem cells
I like when paranormal things seem like they could happen, which is why I was attracted to a genetic explanation for characters’ strange powers. In the Disillusionists Trilogy, these genetic mutations endow some characters with extra brain capacity—these characters are highcaps. (Short for high-capacity brain.) Each highcap has a specific power.
The highcap gene is a kind of wild card, like a stem cell—it’s blank until it’s told what to do at a certain point during toddler-hood. A toddler who wants something from across the room ends up a telekinetic. A toddler who wonders what others are thinking ends up a telepath. And there are dream invaders, memory revisionists, you name it.
Childhood car rides in Chicago
When I was a little kid, I lived in Lombard, IL, which is a suburb of Chicago. My experience of the world was limited to family dogs and swing sets, except when we would go to Chicago. I loved how big and industrial it was, and the steely, rusty, underpasses, the decrepit buildings, the boarded-up storefronts. It struck me as a kind of enchanted forest. Midcity is really that Chicago of my childhood car rides, blended with Milwaukee, another place we rode to in the car. It has very little to do with the reality of Chicago.
Chicago’s Spaghetti Bowl interchange
There is this snarly highway interchange in the books, called “The Tangle” based on Chicago’s famed “Spaghetti Bowl.” This, too, comes from my experience as a kid, riding in the car with frantic mother driving. This thing seemed so wild and frightening and monstrous. In the book, there is a chance the genetic mutations don’t actually come from the river, like people assume, but from the Tanglelands (the strange no-man’s land under the Tangle.)
So! Some background stuff. And, there’s a contest! Leave a comment to win your choice of book #1 (Mind Games) or, if you’ve read it, then book #2 (Double Cross).
And again, D Lynn, thanks so much for having me!