If your parents love you enough to erase you, who would you become? This is the question that haunts sixteen year old Savannah Van Duyn, but it’s the answer that nearly drives her to the brink of insanity. The idea that an ugly duckling of a girl could rely on genetic modification to solve her body image issues is the central theme that launched the epic Swann Series novels and turned one girl’s extraordinary story into a novella, seven full length novels and an eighth novel in the making.
For the past fifteen years I’ve had an obsession with genetics and the inner workings of the human mind, specifically where we impose our own sets of limitations. The best sales pitch we ever ran on ourselves is this: “I can’t do that.” This thought keeps us from attempting the impossible, driving through failure to find success, growing as people in all walks of life. Part of my curiosity of stretching the mind and body came from my many years in martial arts. There were so many things that we did at first that felt impossible, but then one day we were doing the impossible and that sort of wakes you up to the world of infinite possibility. Then I watched Scarlett Johansson’s epic movie LUCY and I was like, holy cow! The concept instantly resonated with me.
The other part of my intrigue, and truly the driving force behind the more chilling aspects of the series, came from reading the case study of Cathy O’Brien some 20 years ago. O’Brien claimed to have survived and escaped the brutal CIA-funded mind control program called MK ULTRA. Her story was like nothing I’ve ever read before. MK ULTRA was a program from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s that was so inconceivable and so horrifying to the average American that it would’ve fallen under the heading “conspiracy theory” if not for the overwhelming amount of evidence dredged up in the Church Hearings on the abuses of the CIA against unwitting US citizens. There are a few things that move you in your life, that really change you at a DNA level, things that claw open your eyes almost against your will, and O’Brien’s story was one of them. Out of this single case study, whether it was true or not, the conspiracy “enthusiast” in me was born.
In the Swann Series, I set out to give readers something more than vampires, werewolves, angels, demons and the dystopian landscape. I was obsessed with the idea of crafting something new and exciting. A series like this is captivating and a bit scary because a lot of the underground science in the books is not so underground anymore. To me, the greatest fiction always incorporates truth into the fiction; if my readers had any idea how much of these stories are rooted in fact, their minds might actually crack. For me, intertwining truth with fiction was one of the most exciting literary devices I used in crafting this series. It also presented some weighty challenges. How do you incorporate some pretty intense characters and subject matter into a series and still make the story fun, intelligent and relevant to today’s youth and times while being mesmerizing, a bit creepy and ever so thrilling at the same time? The short answer is, it’s delicate. The long answer is slightly more detailed. It takes great characters plus character growth and development plus plot movement all working harmoniously with each other to drive the story through layers of conflict and conflict resolution that ultimately bring you to that satisfying, unexpected outcome. Say that five times fast!
In upcoming blogs, I’ll touch on some of the more emotionally-charged elements of the books and how they shaped the stories, namely body image issues, bullying, cyber-bullying, familial relationships, our obsession with pills to solve our problems, etc… I also delight in the more controversial and disturbing aspects of this series and how they’ve become front and center not only in Hollywood and literature, but in today’s scientific advancements.
In the mean time, I hope you’ll pick up your copy of Swann and let me know what you think! If you want to stay in touch with the latest developments or join in the discussions of the series by me and readers like yourself, just head over to my facebook page, www.facebook.com/ryanschowwriter and press the LIKE button.