Archive for the ‘savage/civilized’ Category

When you publish a book, the first thing people ask you is where the idea came from.

The honest answer (that it just one day materialized out of the gray matter between my ears and started knocking on my skull until I wrote it out) always sounds like a vague copout, so I guess the real question is what inspired that idea in the first place. What planted the seed that bloomed into (in my case, a dark and twisted) alternate reality in my head.

For me, with Savages, the answer is a combination between a short civilian deployment to Iraq and a season long marathon of The Walking Dead.

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The two might be seemingly unrelated, yet they have one common vein for me: savagery.

When I traveled to Iraq, I was a young, naive civilian girl. I had experienced messy and rough patches of life but all under the pillowed safety of American culture. I never wanted for food or shelter; my life was never in daily peril. I lived the good and easy life without realizing or appreciating it.

In Iraq, I did not see any action. I spent my time on a few different bases (Victory, Liberty, Slayer, Tallil, Taji, War Eagle) but never outside of the wire. I only traveled by plane of helicopter. My interaction with the soldiers was in a living capacity, as we shared living areas, laundry, and dining facilities, and professionally, as I trained them on software. My interaction with actual Iraqis was slimmed down to only an Iraqi troop store on War Eagle.

The impression made on me was an issue of exposure. Feeling the blast of an IED in my boots and the walls of a trailer around me was different than a passing news story on TV. Hearing the sirens for a mortar was different than the idea of the threat. Talking to soldiers who lost brothers or had missions go awry was different than some cold article in a magazine or link on Facebook. Seeing wounded warriors still walking and still serving was different than donating to a charity in their names.

My little taste of war, my front row sideline seat, made me appreciate my cushy life back home, but it also highlighted the worst in human nature. The stories I heard, the reports I saw, the realities all around me painted humanity in a very depressing and unfavorable light. To me, it seemed if you removed a flush and comfortable society to take care of our needs, people reverted to animals.

So into my brain went the seed that people are savage in nature. Enter twelve straight hours of The Walking Dead.

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My favorite part of The Walking Dead, aside from the gruesome zombies, is the examination of what the apocalypse does to the survivors. I appreciate how the show tracks their slow exchange of humanity for survival. No matter how the characters try to cling to the humans they once were, with each threat, they ransom off a little piece of that person they remember. Not to mention the entirely savage other survivors they encounter.

Psychology is my favorite part of apocalyptic media.

So with my brain saturated half a day’s worth of post-apocalyptic dead fighting and living fearing, the mood and the imagery permeated my mind, reached down to mingle with my own memories, my own life imprints.

I started to think about how savage we are underneath all our socialization and civilization. I started to brood on how those animals within would come screaming out at the smallest threat, much less the end of the world. Gradually, these ideas grew legs, formed into bodies, started speaking in dialog inside my head. I could see their world, and I only followed.

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Savages tells the story of two apocalypse survivors navigating through the ruins of America and battling through lingering savages with no answers, searching for the last strain of humanity. Until one discovery changes everything. The infant’s cry shatters their already destroyed world. For Parker, the babe invokes the ghosts of her dead husband and sons. For Iraq war veteran Marcus, the child embodies his hope and gives him innocence to protect.

As far as inspiration, Parker is the most pessimistic and damaged parts of me, the rational parts of my mind the believe the worst of us as a species. Marcus is the embodiment of the best I saw out of the soldiers I was deployed with. The savages are representations of what might be at the core of every one of us.

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What do you think? Are we savage at our core? Would we all devolve in the face of the apocalypse?

Savages is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (with more formats and sites to come). Feel free to step inside my brain and see how I imagine the world falling apart.