How a tweet inspired a novel
Acclaimed author Lauren Beukes has recently published “The Shining Girls”, which has been compared to “The Silence of the Lambs”, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” for its imaginative yet convincing qualities. Beukes, who resides in South Africa, will be appearing at BookCourt in Cobble Hill next week to promote her new novel, which has already received widespread praise from writers and critics.
Beukes tells the story of Harper Curtis who, during the Depression-era in Chicago, uncovers a mysterious key that transcends the limitations of time. But there’s a catch: when time traveling, Curtis must kill the shining girls – bright young women who populate various eras. He stalks the girls until one of them, in a surprising twist, reverses the hunt.
In anticipation of Beukes’s Brooklyn appearance, Brooklyn Eagle spoke to the author about her motivations for this story. She reveals that her book came from “a throwaway tweet” and shares with us which app helps keep her focused on writing.
Your novel is so imaginative – what inspired your story?
The idea came from a throwaway tweet that I should write a book about a time-travelling serial killer. Then I realized how much I could do with that. The inside of my head is pretty weird – like a crazy hoarder house full of influences that sometimes come together in interesting ways. I was inspired by how the 20th century has shaped who we are now, the loops of history, the issues that come up again and again, what violence does to us, and telling an entertaining, challenging story that would hopefully mess with your mind a little bit.
You do such a great job of blending the realistic and fantastical – has that been challenging for you?
If you’re trying to make the incredible seem credible, it helps to hang the weirdness on real details. Being a journalist taught me that the real world is usually more inventive and surprising than anything you could make up, so I do a ton of research, location scout, interview relevant people to try to make it as real as possible and then weave the strangeness in; the warp and woof of story.
Have you always had an interest in thriller and horror stories?
For sure. But I read very widely; Alan Moore to Lorrie Moore, Jennifer Egan to David Mitchell, Patrick Ness and William Gibson. I love books that have the capacity to surprise you, that say something about who we are in the world.
What does your typical day of writing entail?
I work in a shared studio space with a bunch of insanely talented illustrators and designers. I’ll get a cup of coffee, shoot the breeze and then spend about two hours avoiding actual writing for as long as possible – doing interviews, doing research, messing around on Twitter (which often feeds into my research or the cool stuff I keep in my hoarder house – I follow some great curators of interesting things), answering emails, general admin, then getting down to it seriously by lunchtime. I’ll go home at five, have three hours of family time in the evening, then work til about ten with a glass of red wine, watch an episode of a good TV show and go to bed.
Do you have any habits or rituals that you find enable your productivity as a writer?
I use a wonderful app called Freedom that locks me out of the Internet for set durations of time. It’s also great to work in coffee shops with no Wi-Fi, but enough of a buzz that you feel part of the world. I’m very productive on long plane flights. Basically, anything you can do to avoid the Internet.
What are you reading now?
I get to read a lot of novels before they’re published, from friends or because I’ve been asked to possibly blurb them, if I love them totally. At the moment, I’m reading Richard Kadrey’s new YA novel “Dead Set” and fellow South African Sarah Lotz’s disturbing plane crash thriller, “The Three”, both out next year. Stuff that’s actually out that I’ve recently read and loved? Max Barry’s “Lexicon”, Warren Ellis’s “Gun Machine” and Noviolet Bulawayo’s “We Need New Names.”
Are you working on any new projects?
I’m working on my new novel, “Broken Monsters”, and my editor at Vertigo is harassing me to write more comics now that we’ve wrapped up “Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom”, which I’d love to do, just as soon as this novel is in the bag.
Beukes will celebrate the launch of her novel in Brooklyn on June 13 at BookCourt. BookCourt is located at 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill.
Lauren Beukes is the author of the acclaimed novels “Moxyland” and “Zoo City.” She is a recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, finished runner-up to Lev Grossman for the John W Campbell Award, was shortlisted for a plethora of other awards, and received rave reviews from around the world, including the New York Times and The Guardian. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with her husband and daughter.
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