Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cynthia Hand Guest Post

Stopping by today for the Angel Event is Cynthia Hand, author of Unearthly and it's sequel Hallowed. Cynthia has provided a guest post about why she wrote about angels. It's fascinating to see what drew an author to a particular subject!

Thank you Cynthia for taking part in this event.

 Why did I choose to write about angels? This is a question I get a lot these days, and I always feel a little funny answering it, because the truth is, there was never a clear, definitive moment where I said to myself, “you know what? I’m going to write about angels!” It just sort of came about organically.

The seed that became Unearthly was always Clara—I clearly started to hear the voice of this character, this girl who knew that it was her destiny to save a boy who she kept seeing in visions. (For the record, usually in life it’s not a good sign when you’re hearing voices, but as a writer that’s how it usually first comes to me, a voice that wants to tell a story. Call me crazy, but I can accept that kind of craziness. It’s worked out pretty well for me so far. ) So I started to hear Clara’s voice, and she began to tell me about this mission that she was on. Then I lit on this fantastic image of a forest fire, and once I had that, the story began to unroll itself. With the forest fire came the setting of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and with the setting came the character of Tucker, this other, more rough-and-tumble boy who captures Clara’s attention and complicates everything beautifully. So suddenly I had the who, the what, the where, and the when.

Now all I had left to do was think of the why. And write about the how.

The why led me to angels. First off, I knew that I wanted Clara to be special; I wanted her to be a modern-day, bona fide hero. But I also knew I wanted her to be human. I didn’t want her to be a vampire or a fairy or any other kind of wholly supernatural creature—even though I love reading those books; don’t get me wrong. I wanted her to have some unique problems, sure, but I also wanted her to have very normal, human problems. I wanted her to be a high school girl who gets completely tongue-tied around the boy she likes.

I kept mulling over the word “hero,” and then, in one of those freakish writerly flashes of inspiration, I remembered this one obscure little passage in the Bible that talked about heroes—the Nephilim, the offspring of angels and humans.

I’d been interested in the Nephilim since I was a little girl and read Madeleine L’Engle’s book Many Waters, in which the main characters travel back to the time of Noah where there are angels walking around on earth, and some of the angels have children by human women. This idea always fascinated me—what would it be like, I wondered, to know that you’re part angel, the blood of the divine running through your veins? It would be crazy, right? Maybe it would be cool, maybe you’d have all these neat powers, but it might also be a lot of pressure!

As soon as I hit on the Nephilim idea, I knew that’s what Clara was, and all the other pieces of my story tumbled right into place. Then I had loads of fun coming up with the rules and mythology of the new world I was creating. That’s where some of the real joy of writing comes from—it’s just wildly fun to invent all these cool things and see them play themselves out on the page. I also kind of fell in love with how the story immediately began to operate on two levels, the surface level where Clara faces all her real-life challenges, and another deeper, spiritual level where she is forced to confront all of the big questions of life, the “why am I here?” questions.

That’s the tricky thing about writing about angels—they are, at heart, a topic steeped in religious connotation. I never wanted to write a book that advocated any one religion or set of religious beliefs, but I also didn’t want to ignore the spiritual implications of the story. I did a lot of research on angels and their history, which was incredibly interesting stuff, but I also gave myself permission to take the pieces of information that lit up my imagination and leave the rest—to create a world that was fully Clara’s own. So in the end, I just wrote what happened to this particular girl and tried to make the situation as real as possible: if you found out you were part-angel, how would you feel about life? About the idea of God? About your duty to that God? About your place in the world?

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE how the Clara's story came about for Cynthia. I always find it so fascinating to see when, where and how that seed of inspiration was first planted and how it grew from there into the amazing novels we read today. And it's especially intriguing to hear Clara's birth into fiction!

    I love how she found the perfect balance between supernatural and human problems in Unearthly, I'm excited to see how they both affect Clara in Hallowed!


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