This guest post is by Chad A. Clark, author of the end of the world novel Behind Our Walls. It’s fascinating and encouraging to see some of the influences that inspire people to write books. Growing up in the 80’s, I can sure relate to a lot of Chad’s inspiration! Thanks for sharing Chad! I encourage all of you other guest posters and readers to chime in and leave a comment and follow/say hi to Chad A. Clark.
Several years ago, I wrote a short story, titled Tomorrow’s Memory. It is set in an apocalyptic future following some undefined event in which the governments and societies of the world have collapsed. The main character is a man in his early twenties, traveling with a female companion. Along the way, he decides to start keeping a journal and the story consists of his entries in that journal.
I have always been fascinated with what the landscape of the end of the world might look like. And what I mean by that is, we have seen no shortage of films and books, laying out scenarios by which our society could meet its ultimate destruction. And while I have certainly enjoyed these stories, I also wanted to try going in a different direction. I was interested in the perspective of the people on the ground and how their lives are affected, where they go from here.
Just as an example, one thing that has always captivated me about the film Cloverfield is how it is essentially the telling of the Godzilla story, but from the perspective of the screaming mob trying to get away from the monster. This was the sensibility I tried to bring to this story. In an age where we depend so much on technology for our information, what happens when the world crashes down around us and the only means of learning about things is from the mouths of people you encounter on the road. People you may or may not be able to trust.
These were my favorite aspects of writing Tomorrow’s Memory and it would eventually spark my desire to write a full length novel in that same universe. It was from the seeds of that initial story that Behind Our Walls would eventually grow.
I didn’t want this to be a supernatural story. There are no zombies. I didn’t want this to be a techno-thriller. I wanted it to be a human story. I wanted to take genuine characters and see how they handled complete immersion in a hostile and violent environment. What would it look like if a group of survivors were to try and rebuild on the ashes of a society and start over?
The book I wrote was originally much longer and offered a few more backstory and clues as to what caused society’s downfall. In the end, I decided that I was being too ambitious and that it would be better to quickly immerse the reader in the world of this story. I wanted to challenge myself to bring the reader closer to the experiences of the characters.
Behind Our Walls is a dark book. It presents a bleak picture of our humanity and what people could be capable of, if left alone with each other and to their own devices. But I think there is also a hint of optimism there as well. As I wrote this, I definitely wanted to bring to bear all of the beautifully grim fiction I had read over the years but I also wanted to avoid the idea that all hope was lost. At the end of the day, I still believe in the inherent goodness of ourselves and I think that should be evident as the story draws to a close.
This book, as the rest of my writing in general, is driven by my love for dark fiction. There are any number of sources I could point to as the origins for my narrative sensibilities. As a child, I was reading at a very early age and by the time I was ten or eleven, I was given a fair amount of liberty in terms of what I was allowed to read. It wasn’t long before I found my way to the likes of Stephen King and Robert McCammon.
And of course, no discussion of the eighties can rightfully leave out the incredible horror movie franchises that came about. There was a special immediacy and dark reality of the practical special effects of the day. Watching slasher or zombie movies, you had an uncomfortable feeling that you were being made privy to something that you weren’t supposed to see.
All of this acted as a brine of sorts, in which my narrative outlook would start to develop. I love the visceral experience of the horror genre. I love the view you get of humanity in the reflection of horrific events of a story. I love reading and writing books with dark content because it forces you to be a part of the process. You have to bring your own morality to bear and evaluate the things that are happening and how they make you feel. That’s what I think all good art should do.
And if I can accomplish that at least some of the time with my own writing, I will consider myself to be a success.