Author H.A. Raynes published NATION OF ENEMIES, A THRILLER with HarperCollins & Witness Impulse. A timely political thriller in the current election year as the United States ushers a polarizing figure into the White House.
The Meandering “What if” Thoughts of Birthing a Book
People often ask me how I – a seemingly well-balanced, part-time working mother of two – came up with the plot of my novel, Nation of Enemies, A Thriller. It’s based in the near future in a (civil) war-torn United States with a new caste system based on DNA. I don’t even read thrillers. And yet…it just came to me.
I remember Beatrice, not quite five feet tall, sweet and funny, yet sturdy and fierce when she needed to be. Though I’m sure it was born into her, surely her childhood strengthened those qualities. One day, sitting next to her at a family party, she talked to me about escaping Poland in WWII as a Jewish child. I watched Bea, then in her early 80’s, wavy white hair and grooves in her cheeks that deepened when she smiled. Of course, I’ve read many books and seen several movies on World War II, but there was something about her words that pulled me in that day. This story wasn’t on a screen or in a book. She gripped my arm as she described her neighborhood in Poland, watching her friends and family fleeing, the neighborhood and everything she knew abandoned or destroyed. The realized fear of absolutely everything when you’re meant to be carefree, enjoying the simple moments of childhood.
She leaned closer and asked me, “Imagine that? Everyone and everything you know, just…gone.”
And I did. I thought often of her story. Until one day my imagination wandered and I felt compelled to answer her question. Her question lead to an unfurling of my own, one after the other, unending.
What if I brought the war home, to the United States? To my neighbors. Parents. Children. Government. The FBI. I considered war – civil war – from all sides and on a personal level – how would it affect a person in different positions? What would they think and believe and what is most important to each of those people? What would they die for, risk everything for?
Then, importantly, what could actually spark a war? Obviously we have plenty options for this lately, but I was asking these questions in the year 2003. Something not so far-fetched, pieces of which we read every day in the paper. Terrorists. Technology. Religion. A very real, very frightening scenario emerged. What would Americans do if war moved into their cities, into their suburban neighborhoods?
I read an article about a biochip that is currently being used in people with high-risk medical symptoms or disease. If they are ever in danger and unconscious, the hospital simply scans them and their medical history is revealed and he/she is treated specific to his/her condition.
The possibilities with such a chip are endless. What if the government mandated that citizens get biochips under the guise of protecting them against home-grown terrorists? And what if DNA was included on the imbedded data? Made public and shared with employers, insurance companies, banks. I imagined a rating system, one that would discriminate between those with longevity in their blood versus those with risk of developing disease. A modern-day caste system. Suddenly I had a thread, and then the threads of several characters whose lives would converge at fateful moments throughout the novel.
I got to work. I developed separate outlines for each character, discovered when, where and how their paths would cross. Then came research. Not my favorite part, but it was my own fault for creating characters in worlds I know nothing of. The FBI. The medical community. The medical biochip. The (near) future of technology from weaponry to security at hospitals.
Then came the writing. The completion of a meandering first draft. Thanks to a very talented and highly critical writers group (I might want to hear how brilliant the writing is, but it’s not very productive!) They were always ready with constructive questions and comments. I grew a very thick skin. Another year passed with the second draft. And then a third.
And then, holy mackerel (as I say to my kids), it was…done. Finished. Or at least as far as I could take it. It was time to go after the Holy Grail, or my own personal Holy Grail. A traditionally published novel.