I'm delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to The Hippo today. Leigh is well known for her crime novels but her latest novel, Rachel's Story, sees this successful author head off into the world of dystopian fiction.
Before I hand over to Leigh to talk about her inspiration for the book, let me introduce you all to the lovely lady herself.
|Photo courtesy of Leigh Russell
Leigh Russell has written twenty-four novels, and her Geraldine Steel crime series has sold over a million copies. In addition to her crime series featuring detective Geraldine Steel, Leigh has written two trilogies and two stand alone psychological thrillers. Rachel’s Story is her first dystopian novel. Leigh chairs the judging panel for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Debut Dagger Award, and is a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.
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THE INSPIRATION FOR RACHEL’S STORY
It’s always difficult to say for sure why some books are written. From all the ideas that swirl around in our minds, what makes one narrative stand out and come to life?
Writing my Geraldine Steel crime series, I made a deliberate decision to ignore coronavirus. For me, as for so many of us, fiction offers an escape from the real world, and I didn’t even want to think about the pandemic while writing, let alone consider how it was affecting our lives. So my detective continues with her murder investigations in a kind of parallel world free of coronavirus.
But covid must have been in my mind, even when I had dismissed it from my conscious thoughts. Perhaps it was crazy of me to think I could completely ignore it. At a time when the government was addressing us in daily broadcasts as though we were at war, thousands were dying every day, we missed seeing our families and friends, and a vaccine was merely a distant hope, covid was unavoidably present in all our thoughts. On reflection, it’s hardly surprising that my imagination wandered to a dystopian future where a toxic virus threatens not just people, but all life on earth.
Once the idea occurred to me, somehow it took hold, as some narratives do. It could be a scene or an idea for a plot that inspires us, or a character demanding to be heard. As writers we don’t go looking for stories. They find us. So the idea of a virus threatening all life on earth, led me to the character of Rachel and her world.
Rachel’s Story explores a society that develops in the wake of a pandemic that threatened to destroy all life on earth. It is written in the first person, which hopefully helps readers enter an unfamiliar world of a dystopian future, where nothing is quite the same as it is in our own lives. The prologue takes the reader into Rachel’s childhood home in a world where food is scarce, the government has absolute power, and strict laws are mercilessly enforced. The government use fear and deprivation to maintain absolute power over the people who are faced with a stark choice, to obey or die. When her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, she manages to escape. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins a community of outcasts struggling to survive in the desert beyond the city walls.
As well as offering what I hope is a gripping narrative, Rachel’s Story looks at the role of women in society, the dangers of handing over too much control to the government, love and betrayal, and addiction. As crime novels explore the place of individuals in society, so dystopian fiction considers the place of mankind in the world. One deals with the death of individuals, the other with the survival of mankind. In their different ways, both are explorations of our mortality.
In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness? As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins the outcasts struggling to survive beyond the city walls.
Thank you for sharing your inspiration with us Leigh. It's really interesting to hear how stories evolve in author's minds. I have been known to venture into the world of dystopian fiction and after reading this I think I'll be adding Rachel's Story to my TBR.
You can find out more about Leigh, her books and connect with her using the links below:
I'd like to say a big thank you to Leigh for taking over today and writing such a great post. I wish you lots of success with the new book and I hope it brings you a whole new bunch of fans.