"Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.
Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.
As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .
In this smart, compulsively readable novel, master storyteller Marie Rutkoski has crafted an utterly original world, characters you won’t soon forget, and a tale full of intrigue and suspense."
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"Knowing what I know now, I'd say my foster mother had her reasons for throwing the kitchen knife at me."
This is the first line to The Shadow Society, my new novel about a girl who discovers she's not human and belongs to an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened. The idea for this book came from a real-life story a friend of mine told me about how, when he was in high school and in the midst of a huge argument with his mom, she threw a knife at him. It hit the fish tank and broke it. I began by wanting to write about a similar event-- about what could compel a mother (or foster mother) to do something like that, and about why she would have missed.
Although it's true that there are some almost mystical aspects to writing (I've had stories come to me in dreams, and I'd be hard-pressed to say exactly how I get my ideas, even if I can point to a moment of inspiration), the vast majority of crafting a book is putting one foot in front of the other, word after word-- in other words, just getting the thing done. The way you get it done is by asking yourself questions and answering them. Once I asked myself the whys and hows of a thrown knife, it occurred to me that there could be a paranormal reason why the knife missed its mark. And so I created Shades, creatures who can vanish at will. Once I had that in place, more questions came: if a whole species of people could vanish at will, what would their society look like? How would they interact? What would they value, and what would they disdain? Where would they live? Most importantly, what kind of power would they hold over humans-- and what kind of power would humans hold over them. In The Shadow Society's alternate world, humans and Shades have been at war for generations, ever since The Great Chicago Fire caused an interdimensional split.
When I built my alternate world, I made it a mix of things I love about our Chicago and things I wished it had. For example, Chicago has a very rich immigrant history, and that's reflected in both Chicagos in my book, where characters have different ethnic backgrounds. And I made sure my alternate Chicago had plenty of the neo-Gothic architecture I admire so much in our real-life city. But I added some things just because they were fun (if there are multiple worlds, shouldn't there be an Interdimensional Bureau of Investigation?) or because I wish it were so (the election of a woman president, a trend of 1920s fashion, clean technology, superfast subways). What was especially intriguing was to consider what would have happened to people who were living when the Great Chicago Fire happened. Would they exist in both our world and the alternate one? My answer was yes. But they couldn't have made the same decisions, which is why you'll find that in my alternate world, artists born before the fire painted slightly different paintings (also, though I don't go into this in the book, people alive when the fire happened wouldn't have had the same children in both worlds, since the moment of conception could result in something very different if it had happened a moment before or later-- or with different people).
Patricia Wrede has a great post about world building that I'd recommend to anybody-- and that I wish I'd read before writing The Shadow Society! http://www.sfwa.org/
Thanks so much, Savy, for inviting me to talk about my creation of a new world in The Shadow Society!
Thanks so much for talking to us about The Shadow Society!