Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blending History With Fiction {author guest post and giveaway winner announcement}

I know you're all anxious to see who wins this great series, but first, some words from the awesomesauce author of said series.

My Ripple Trilogy, Rippler, Chameleon, and Unfurl tells the story of a girl who can “ripple” or turn invisible. All three books contain numerous excerpts from the journal of a scientist working secretly in the late 1930’s. He’s the bad guy. He’s observing and sometimes interacting with children with names like “Fritz,” “Franz,” “Gunter,” and “Helga.” It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out that the man running the experiments is politically and philosophically a Nazi.

However, when I wrote the first book, I had the experience of discovering his affiliations. At first, I only knew that he had performed behavioral experiments upon a group of children as part of an effort to create a new and perfected race. The word “eugenics” kept dancing around in my head, and one day when I’d written as much as I could for the morning, I hopped online and googled “eugenics.” Wow! As I delved more and more deeply into the world of this movement in the early twentieth century, I realized I’d found exactly what my scientist would have been attracted to.

What I read was deeply repugnant to me—this was not fun research. But gradually I came to see that to some of the people of that day, the goal of human “perfection” felt simply like an extension of the search to hybridize a perfect plum or breed a perfect milking goat. The really disturbing part was that many eugenicists felt that plums or goats or humans that fell outside of their set of standards should be eliminated. And of course at that point, we travel in a straight line to the Nazi “Final Solution” and the horrors of the Holocaust.

How to combine this back-story with a contemporary setting and a couple of teens just coming of age? I found that it felt most organic when I let my boy- and girl-heroes discover these things for themselves. That is, a comment overheard in biology class leads them to research the eugenics movement and connect the dots to Nazi Germany. They feel for themselves the horror and the attraction of the movements. (I don’t for one minute mean to say that eugenics is attractive, merely that my characters had to get a grasp on how or why it could have been attractive to someone else.)

So did I start out to write a contemporary story with a Nazi bad-guy? No. However, as my research took me further and further, I realized that I couldn’t have placed him better in time if I’d tried. My bad guy is, of course, entirely fictional. But the methods he employs to create his ├╝bermensch are grounded in early twentieth century eugenics and behaviorism. He is able (*teensy-spoiler*) to extend his life into the present day, but his beliefs have not altered significantly since the 1930’s. He’s one big, bad dude with a big, bad plan to complete what the Nazis left unfinished.

The blending of my fictional world with history created excitement for me as a writer. I’ve always loved history. While the research wasn’t much fun, it was nonetheless both rewarding and sobering. I’d love to hear how my blending of real with imagined works for you as a reader!

Cidney Swanson is an amazing author of teen fiction.  You can contact Cidney on her blog at www.cidneyswanson.blogspot.com or by email at cidneyswanson@gmail.com If you like twitter, please say hi to @cidneyswanson, or if Facebook is your thing, stop by facebook.com/cidneyswanson

And now, for our announcement: the winner of the Ripple ebook series is...

*Drumroll*

... Jessica from Diary of a Beautiful Soul!  Congratulations, Jess!  I'll be emailing you and Cidney about your prizes ;)

Meanwhile, my other lovely readers, don't fret - we've still got a few goodies available!

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