Part Two of the “Behind the Scenes” peeks at my work. This installment is the 2004 dystopian future novel, One Nation Under God.
Fact #1 – People Do Judge Books by Their Covers
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. After all, the purpose of having an attractive cover is so that people make the judgement to pick the thing up and look at it. But in this case, a lot of people judge it by not only the cover, but the title, too.
In my last blog, I mentioned an outrageous incident that occurred at the California State Fair some years ago. Here’s a less outrageous one. A guy sees the book and gives me two thumbs up and says something like, “One nation under god… right on, man!”
I gave a slight smile and said, “It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.”
“I don’t care,” he said. “Right on, man.”
Look at that cover. It’s meant to offend the shit out of people. Replacing the stars with crosses? That’s absolutely not okay, folks. But evidently, some people disagree.
Fact #2 – I Had to Change a Character’s Name
In the first draft of the book, President Christopher’s wife’s name was Laura. But then this dude who was running for the office in 2000 somehow “won” the election, and wouldn’t you know it, his wife’s name was Laura.
I didn’t model this character after Laura Bush, but this bonehead:
I knew, though, that readers might make the Bush association, so I changed her name to Sarah. No, not because of Sarah Palin. At that time, I thankfully had no idea who that airhead was.
Fact #3 – It’s Clearly Not as Prescient as I’d Hoped
I’ve been asked frequently how I “predicted” some of the things in the book that eventually came to pass in the real world. My answer to that is that I didn’t “predict” anything. I just saw the writing that had been on the wall for a while, and just projected what would happen if the Prez and Congress went ultra-conservative and uber-religious. I mean, more than they were at the time.
However, there’s one thing I did not see coming whatsoever:
Social media wasn’t even on my radar when I was writing the book. Would it have changed the story? Well… no. Because of certain plot points, I wouldn’t have had the protagonist actually using social media, but minor characters would have, and it would have been nice to have included them, if only for more accurate setting.
Any book that’s set in the future invariably will either over- or underestimate how much technology will advance. We don’t have flying cars, yet, after all. But we have the interwebs. Sci-Fi writers of the 50s would probably be surprised by both facts. So I suppose that, even though I didn’t see social media on the near horizon, I’m still in okay company.
Fact #4 – The Book Came to Me Fully Formed
No, it didn’t come to me in a dream, but it might as well have. I was living in Utah at the time (essentially a theocracy) and was sitting at my temp job when the idea just sprang into my brain. Not just the ideas for the characters and general thrust of the story, but also the formatting, a sort of 21st Century epistolary novel, with diary entries, email exchanges, newspaper clippings, web pages, etc. I just knew this was how it needed to be told.
Ironically, it was this form that prevented me from getting agent representation. I kept being told, “Epistolary books are a tough sell.”
Fact #5 – The Book is Actually a Scrapbook… and a Handbook
The format of the book is meant to reflect the scrapbook that the teenage protagonist put together, a chronological telling of her family’s story. This is why many of the aspects of the story are not examined in much detail – they are things only of passing interest to her.
But I also meant for the novel to be a sort of handbook, a very loose primer on many different unconventional ideas, many of which are near and dear to my heart. Just a few of them are: alternative communities, alternative religion, alternative education, alternative relationships, and so on.
Educating while entertaining. That’s always been my goal.