Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guest Post: The Exceptionals

Today I am happy to welcome Erin Cashman to the blog to talk about the inspiration for her novel The Exceptionals. Here is the synopsis:

Buy The Exceptionals on Amazon
In a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker is ordinary . . . or so she leads everyone to believe. Yet the minute she steps out of line, her parents transfer her to Cambial Academy: the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities, or “specials”. Although Claire can’t see ghosts or move objects with her mind like the other students, she does have a special she considers too lame to admit: she can hear the thoughts of animals. Just as she is settling in, one by one the most talented students – the Exceptionals – go missing. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire uncovers a dark prophecy involving a plot to destroy Cambial and a mysterious girl who can communicate with a hawk. Could she be that girl? Does the gorgeous but secretive boy she meets in the woods know more than he is letting on? After years of ignoring her special gift, Claire decides the time has come to embrace her ability . . . before it’s too late.

A great idea can strike you like a thunderbolt. You wake up from a dream, or are brushing your teeth, and BAM! It comes to you. Other times, however, your imagination is whispering softly in your ear, and if you don't pay attention you might not hear her.
I had the idea for The Exceptionals years ago.  Growing up, my father often told me that we only use ten percent of our brain power. I often wondered, can some people use more? Did Einstein use more of his brain than most people – and what about mediums? My mother believed in ghosts, and she used to go to a medium. Maybe the medium could use a different part of her brain.  This became the foundation for The Exceptionals: a school for students who have “special” abilities. It was an idea that evolved and became fully realized over time. When I finally sat down to write it, I tried to think of a unique ability for my protagonist, Claire, but I had a hard time finding something that felt right.
Erin Cashman
A few days later I took my dog for a walk, and two majestic hawks circled above me the entire time. And then it hit me – Claire could communicate with animals! And The Exceptionals was born. It is about a teenage girl who must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy, a school for teens with special abilities. Along the way she uncovers a chilling prophecy and meets a gorgeous but secretive boy – who may know more than he’s letting on.
For my new book, The Legend of the Four, I had vague ideas about incorporating the Irish myths and legends my mother had shared with me as a child. My mother (like many Irish people) was a great story teller. She believed in fairies, leprechauns, angels and ghosts.  She never understood why some people have to see something to believe it.  She has been very influential to my writing, since the two most important words to any writer are “What if?” I read several books on Celtic mythology to help me paint the broad strokes of the world I wanted to create. My main character also became like a real person to me and I knew I could conjure him up with ease.
However, the secondary characters and the story eluded me. I sat in front of my laptop, fingers perched above the keys, waiting for the story to emerge. It didn’t. Day after day I tried to wrestle the story out of my head. Finally, I shut the keyboard and took a break. A couple of days later I was on a hike in the woods with my dog -- no phone, no music, just me and Riley. I wasn't even thinking about Legend of the Four, but soon into the quiet rhythm of the walk, my mind began to wander. And then the story slowly emerged in my mind.
What I have learned is this:  inspiration often whispers softly in our ear, and we may need to tune everything else out to hear her.
Visit Erin Cashman's Website

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