One of the questions authors are asked most often is “where do you get your ideas?” I am almost always stuck for an answer when people ask me this question, because the way I get my ideas always seems to involve a little bit of magic. They aren’t there, and then suddenly they are. But with Replica, I actually have some clue where it came from.
A long time ago, long before I was a published author, I took a continuing education class on writing science fiction and fantasy. One of the exercises we were given in that class was to write out a long list of words, phrases, and images that appealed to us in one way or another. After we had spent a good long time coming up with items on our list, we were instructed to pick two items on the list at random and write a story that somehow utilized both of them—no matter how unrelated they might appear on the surface.
Fast forward many years. I had published a couple of short stories in small markets, but I still hadn’t sold a novel, nor had my short stories appeared in any of the major publications. Years of writing had left me with little bits and pieces of ideas scattered around. Bits and pieces that weren’t enough to be stories in themselves, or that didn’t interest me enough to inspire me to build a whole story around them. One of these ideas was the ability to make perfect replicas of human beings, indistinguishable from the original both in mind and body. The idea interested me, but there had always been others that interested me more, so this one remained simmering on the back burner.
Because I was not a gainfully published author in those days, I had a day job, working in a software company. I was variously a technical writer, a QA analyst, and a systems analyst over the years I spent at the same relatively small company. As I’m sure is the case with most companies, there was a lot of social politics and interpersonal drama within our company, with certain people rising within the ranks for reasons that seemed to be other than merit. With certain positions, it felt like there was an heir apparent, and if the person in the position were to move on, we knew who would be promoted to fill it. It got me thinking to how a small company like ours had some similarities to the hereditary monarchy system, and I had the kernel of an idea about writing a story where companies really were hereditary monarchies.
The hereditary monarchy idea amused me, and I’d always liked writing court intrigue; however, it didn’t interest me enough to really get the juices flowing to write a story. Right up until I wondered what would happen if I took two of my most unrelated story kernels—the human replica technology and the corporations as hereditary monarchies—and combined them. The very fact that one had overtones of a futuristic science fiction idea and one had an almost historical drama feel made it intriguing to me.
From that odd juxtaposition of ideas came a science fiction novel called The Mightiest of Towers. I really loved that novel and had high hopes that it was the one that would finally be my breakthrough into publishing. However, despite a couple of near misses, I was unable to sell it, and under the bed it went, never to be seen again. Except . . . I still loved it. Still loved the idea, and still loved the main character, even though he was something of an immature jackass who had a lot of growing up to do.
Fast forward again. I broke in to print publishing, sold a bunch of books, and began writing YA fantasy. I finished the YA series I was working on (the Faeriewalker novels), and was casting about for a new YA idea. And I thought about that “trunk novel” of mine, and its immature but loveable jackass of a main character. And a light turned on over my head. If my adult character is too immature to be truly loveable, maybe what I needed to do was make him a teenager—someone who’s not supposed to be super-mature and responsible yet. And from that realization, Replica was born.
The general concept and a couple of plot points are the same between Replica and The Mightiest of Towers, but they in the end turned out to be completely different books, with completely different stories. I haven’t even gone back and read the original (which I finished in about 2001), wanting to get the freshest start possible.
Let this be a lesson to other aspiring writers out there: no time you spend on writing is wasted. Even if the book or story will never be published, it may turn out to be the inspiration you need to write the one that will be published.
Replica hits the stands today (July 16)!