Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

So this month has been all author memes, which has been super fun for me (and hopefully you). But why all memes brilliantly created by others and no words from me? Here’s a mini vlog to explain!

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Some writers invent entire new worlds full of characters birthed entirely from their brains. I am not those writers. Instead, I like to take something real, most often from my own experience, and disfigure it with my imagination into fiction. Perhaps it means I lack the depth of other worlds inside of me, but I do usually prefer to pervert experience (even hearsay) into story.

Generally, reality is the inspiration, the launching point. Then the story blossoms or festers from there into its own unique manifestation.

And then there’s my book The Rest Will Come.

Of all my fiction works, The Rest Will Come is the most “inspired by” true events, the most infused with real people, places, and events. The core characters and opening events were ripped from the life around me, my recounting of myself, people I know, and things that happened around me (less than to me). Then as the narrative unfolded, I twisted these things into how I thought they could play out in a more fictitious, horror-comedy world.

If you endured all these horrible online dating experiences, how did you not snap and kill them all?

The challenge to using real life basis for both characters and plot events is making sure the audience is in on the full story. If they were not there for the precipitating events, they may not know all the contributing factors or influences. If they do not know the character inspirations in real life, if they do not pick up on the inside references, the characters may fail to be entirely developed. Since they were full and real in my life and then my head, it would have been easy to overlook the fact that I did not make them so on the page.

However, once the characters and the story were fleshed out enough beyond what resided in the echoes in my own head, it was fun to play with hidden references, inside nods, and Easter eggs.

Initially, I documented the “based on real” bits exactly as I remember/perceived. Then during edits, the inspirations and I decided to not really change them. Truth is stranger than fiction most times, and I just could not conjure better circumstances.

Then when I crossed over into horror and the blood began to fly, I changed from fully documenting things to little winks. Every person who contributed a dating horror story to the narrative got a namesake and a retributive murder somewhere within the pages. Places or turns of phrase would be recognizable to the right reader.

Ultimately, my goal was for people who never met me or knew my real life inspirations to fully experience the story, characters, and world within the book. For those who did know me or us, I wanted them to enjoy collecting all the little Easter eggs and laughing along their fictional journey.

Was I successful? Did I manufacture the right balance between my reality and your fiction? You’ll have to read The Rest Will Come and judge my efforts for yourself.

Now, since diving so fully into the “inspired by true” premise for The Rest Will Come, I have swung the other direction for my current work in progress. True to my nature, I only operate in alternating extremes. So, I am trying my hand (literally) at imaging an entire world and creating characters with no external reference. The change contorts my brain but hopefully in a good way. The end result and its reception will tell.

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

Since this pandemic started (or more since people began reacting to it), I have heard multiple times, “Your book Savages makes so much sense now” or “I really see what you meant in Savages” or “It’s just like you wrote about in Savages.”

The goal of any writer is to produce a work that is relatable and enduring. However, when we are talking about the apocalypse and bringing out the worst in humanity, those are not the themes you want to persist. I got the idea for Savages when I was freshly home from my civilian tour of a war zone and had completely lost my faith in humanity. These are not exactly ways I want to feel forever.

If you ask me what Savages is really about (and I’m the writer, so I suppose my answer does hold some weight), I would say that more than the byproduct of a Walking Dead binge (though that is in there too), the story ultimately is about questioning how human we really are. Are we civilized, or do we just pretend when we are comfortable enough? Are we all truly savage underneath it all?

I took a lot of anthropology electives in college. In those classes, we spent a lot of time trying to differentiate the common human base from the variable layers of culture applied over it. I took even more psychology electives in an attempt to sort out what was happening in my own head at the time (when did I actually have time to take the classes for my writing major?). In those classes, we compared varying theories on nature versus nurture. What are we born as, and what do we learn?

Somehow, all of this academic experience combined with the hopelessness and disgust I felt at my tiny sampling taste warside (plus a dash of zombie pop culture) left me wondering: are we all just animals, pretending to be evolved and civilized? But animals wasn’t the right word. Savagery was what I was thinking about. Savagery was I saw underneath our surface and wondered if it might be our true nature under all our “humanity.”

So I used the story in Savages to sort the problem out in my mind. Not surprisingly, my protagonist sounded a bit like me, asking all the questions I had batting around my head. She’s even as resistant and depressed as I would no doubt be in that post-apocalyptic position. Sometimes, you write what you know, and I know myself.

Where did I… I mean, she end up? What did she decide about humanity? To find out, you will need to make the journey through the fallout with her and read (or listen to) Savages!

And what about now? A decade later, I had improved my world outlook or fallen back into a comfortable complacency, however you want to look at it. I came home and lived my comfortable life, focused on my family. Then the world swelled back in ways I could not ignore. Pandemic, quarantine, police brutality, a scrolling list of awful—of savage.

But I feel the same way I did those years ago again; my mindset has returned. Savages makes sense. Everything I meant resonates for me again. And I don’t like it.

Last time, I dealt with these feelings with complacency. I accepted our savagery. I was able to accept the world being shit and focus on finding my own happiness within that. Yet, I am different now. I am less complacent. Perhaps it is motherhood, but I do not want to leave things this awful. I do not know how to change them, but I want to, and that desire is unsettling.

Maybe that is what my next book will be about.

At the moment, I am not happy to be reanimating the feelings of Savages. I would rather be reliving The Rest Will Come instead, if we’re picking from my bookshelf.

Christina Bergling

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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.

twd

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.

SavagesCoverChristina

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.