Monday, March 2, 2015

Billboards and Basements: The Germination of A Novel

I've been writing since I was in middle school, as anyone who's been reading this blog for a while probably knows. 

After over ten years writing I've gotten used to grabbing a notebook and jotting down notes no matter where or when inspiration strikes. So a couple years ago when I saw a billboard for a mummy exhibit at the Philadelphia Science Center, and asked my friend Dom why mummies have been left out of the "sexy science fiction stories" trend, I took a second to write the question down. 
The half hour conversation that followed between me, Dom, another friend Lea, and my (now) fiance Jeremy is where the general idea for "The Continuing Stories of Starbuck McLaw" were born. 
Starbuck McLaw, we decided, would be the sexy lead in this new book, obviously penned by yours truly. But how does a mummy come back to life? And don't mummies get buried without their internal organs....including their brains? And isn't it hard for a mummy to be sexy when he's just a person wrapped up in cloth strips?

My Dream Boy Is Made of Nightmares

Vampires have been sexy and cool for decades now, but only since the massive popularity of the Twilight series have them become suuuuper cool among young adult readers. Then around six years ago zombies took over as the trendy undead, and I thought I'd be safe from sexy supernatural creatures. I was wrong. 

Bring on the zombie love stories, the zombie erotica, the zombie whatever. And I thought to myself....really? No one in these stories stops to think "holy shit. this is a reanimated dead dude. Where did he even come from?" That was how my story was going to stand out. Enter Starbuck's leading lady, Desert Orchid (because don't they always need romantic and over-the-top names?). While everyone else was fawning over Starbuck, Dezi would be investigating his origins. They'd become friends. 

So I started outlining this strange story where no one would fall in love, and there was a mummy wandering around a suburban town making friends with the wildlife.

My College Does NOT Use its Resources

I went to a tiny, private college in Baltimore with a really interesting history full of urban legends and weird factoids. (and also some shame, considering we are built on a plantation.) 

John Goucher was the founder of my school and he traveled all around the world before settling back in Baltimore. While still travelling, ol' Johnny boy would bring back (read: steal) artifacts and put them in the library. On one trip to Egypt, he brought back a whole mummy. And that mummy was on display at the library for a while until someone brilliantly moved it to the basement of the library and used it to prop up a broken table. 

At an undefined date after that, someone over at Johns Hopkins realized that an ancient Mummy isn't something that should be used for storage, and they took it over to their campus where she would be preserved and taken care of like a real lady. 

This whole story was fascinating to me, and still is. I have retold it a thousand times--and I figured that this would make the perfect setting for my "what if a mummy met a high schooler" story. And I imagined a rivalry between the science department at Goucher and the science department at Johns Hopkins. 

And A Story is Born

So this whole thing started with an off-handed comment about a billboard, and a weird story about a mummy in the basement. 
This was all I knew when I headed in to National Novel Writing Month 2012. Sometimes that's all it takes for a whole book to take off. 

Tune back in Wednesday for a character sketch of the man himself!

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