Friday, November 9, 2012

Rebel Heart Blog Tour- In Which Moira Young Stops by to answer my buring questions on world building!

I was absoloutly enraptured with Moira Youngs Dust Lands series, when I recently ploughed through them (see my reviews of Blood Red Road and Rebel heart the past two days), but more than anything I was smitten with Moira's world building.  So I asked Moira a little about it.  What came first, the characters or the world? What inspires it?  How do you map out the travel, that sort of thing?

For me, a story starts as an itch. The only way to scratch it is to write. In 2006 climate change was high on government agendas. I was following the arguments in the media and found the politicisation of climate change deeply worrying. It revealed the profound disconnect between humans and our environment and a wilful disregard of the fact that our fates are inextricably connected. I read the main environmental writers, including James Lovelock and his ‘Gaia’ books. I felt helpless, powerless and anxious. It reminded me of how I felt growing up during the Cold War, and the Doomsday Clock counting down to our nuclear annihilation.

At the same time as I began to channel my anxiety about climate change into the writerly question, “what if?”, the story of a girl living in the future began to take hold. Her name was always Saba and her siblings were always called Lugh and Emmi. The earliest versions of her story were set in a new ice-age and it was a conventional third-person, dual viewpoint narrative.

Over the course of three years and with much difficulty on my part, I finished a first draft that was a complete mess. I couldn’t use any of it and had to start all over again with a blank page. I sat there for some time - perhaps a week, I can’t recall - just staring at the screen of my latop.
Then, as I sat there quietly, a voice began to speak inside my head. It was Saba. She said, “Lugh got born first. On Midwinter Day when the sun hangs low in the sky.” My fingers began to tap at the keys as I listened to this strong-willed girl with the unique voice, and we were off. Those are still the first words of her story.

I immediately realised that the setting had moved much closer to home and I was writing not just what I know, but who I am. The world of the story had shifted to reflect my mother’s depression-era childhood in the Alberta Dustbowl, my travels in the Canadian landscape and my lifelong love of epic and Western movies, most particularly, John Ford’s The Searchers.

So, as Saba herself roared into life, so did her world. They were both pretty much fully formed, as if they’d been there all the time, just waiting for me to settle down and listen. And Blood Red Road began to roll out, a classic hero’s journey of the kind that Joseph Campbell talks about.

There is no map of the Dust Lands. I do keep one in my head but, the thing is, a hero’s journey is just as much inner as outer. The landscapes of Saba’s world are also landscapes of the soul. As she travels towards her goal, she moves towards self-knowledge. You don’t need a map for that. When you reach your destination, you can look back and see how you got there.


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