Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guest Post: Marsha Cornelius

What if . . .
My ‘what-if’s started at a young age.
What if my body shrank and I got sucked down the bathtub drain?
What if Barbie had really short hair, and it was blue?
I had my share of pubescent imaginings—okay let’s call them curses. What if Susie Jackson had pus-oozing poison ivy blisters all over her arms and legs like me? Then I bet Bobby Schindler wouldn’t think she was so cute.
Thankfully, I moved on past the petty jealousies, and by adulthood, my imagination was focused on fiction.
I loved books like Contagion, and Hot Zone. I sat transfixed at movies like The Andromeda Strain and Outbreak. But they all had one thing in common. The contagion was stopped—and I was a bit disappointed. I couldn’t help wondering what if they couldn’t stop an epidemic?
This was the basis of my first novel H10 N1. (A play on H1N1, but much worse.) My two main characters, Rick and Taeya, are survivors of a deadly flu pandemic. The make their way across the country, fleeing cutthroats and dodging marauders as they search for a safe haven.
Next up? Cryonics. I read that Ted Williams had his body frozen, and several questions came to mind.
I was told as a child that once a heart stopped beating, our soul left our body. Ted Williams’ heart certainly was not beating in that frozen body, so it only stood to reason that his soul was out there somewhere. But where? Certainly not in heaven, because it has to come back once he’s thawed out.
What if his soul is just hanging around with other dead people’s souls? That question inspired my second novel, The Ups and Downs of Being Dead. And a lot more questions, like if my character Robert, who is frozen, meets Suzanne, who was killed in a car crash, can they fall in love?
Ever since Rhett swept Scarlett off her feet, threw her on the bed, and showed her what a good man could do, I’ve been hooked on romance. But so much of the genre is based on unrealistic characters. The man is always ruggedly handsome, (and usually filthy rich.) The woman is stunningly beautiful, (and occasionally she’s filthy rich.) Come on now.
What if I took an average young mother—her husband abandons her and their two small children, she loses her job, falls behind on her rent, and gets evicted—and I throw in a homeless guy who’s been drifting ever since he came back from Vietnam. 
If these two could overcome their challenges? Now that’s a love story. I called the book Losing It All.
Still drawn to speculative fiction, I based my last novel on our country’s obsession with pills. I’m over-weight but I don’t want to exercise, or eat right, I just want to take a pill. My child is disruptive in the classroom, and the teacher suggests he needs a pill to settle down. We take pills to stay alert, to relax, to sleep, to wake up again. Where will it end?

I created a future where college-aged Luna takes pills for everything: to concentrate, to keep a positive attitude, to maintain her weight, even to stifle her sexual desires. She decides to see what her life would be like without all of these supplements, and kicks the habit. But as she falls in love, and her emotions run wild, she discovers that sometimes Habits Kick Back.
And my next book, coming this spring? What if women ruled the world?

After working for fifteen years as a cafeteria manager in an elementary school, Marsha Cornelius turned in her non-skid shoes for a bathrobe and slippers. She now works at home, writing novels, acting out scenes with her cats, and occasionally running a Swiffer across dusty surfaces.

All of her books can be found on her author’s page: (US) (UK)

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