For the blog tour, Kathleen was awesome enough to write up a guest post. Enjoy! Then head to HCC Frenzy's Tumblr for a giveaway. :)
Topic: The historical events that led to how those infected with the werewolf disease are seen or treated.
The idea for Hemlock came to me in the flash of a scene.
A girl lying in a hospital bed. Small and blond and tougher than she looks.
Two boys fighting. One dark, the other light.
Accusations of betrayal as one boy learns the other is a werewolf.
Disbelief that something so big could have been kept secret for so long but not a shred of incredulity at the idea that werewolves could be real.
In whatever world my shiny new idea took place, one thing was clear: everyone knew that werewolves existed.
From there, it was a matter of working my way backward.
Say werewolves suddenly began turning up on street corners and in hospitals and on the nightly news. How would people explain it? Not as magic. They would look to science and try to find rational explanations—even for something as impossible as a man turning into a wolf. Doctors would call it a virus and try to keep it from spreading as they searched for a cure.
But what about the government? What about the general population? How would they react?
When it came to both groups, historical events and personal experience shaped the world Hemlock became.
During World War II, a large number of Japanese immigrants and American and Canadians of Japanese descent, were relocated to camps in both countries. In America alone, almost 120,000 people were removed from their homes and shipped to internment camps. When I thought of the fear that would accompany an epidemic like the one in Hemlock, it was easy to imagine the government might pass legislation similar to Executive Order 9066, the order which authorized the relocations and internments during World War II. Thus, the idea of the werewolf rehabilitation camps—camps which didn't rehabilitate at all—was born.
As for the level of public fear and paranoia in Hemlock, some of it was based on general history and speculation, but some of it was influenced by my own recollections of the emergence of HIV as well as family stories of tuberculosis.
Growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s, AIDS was a terrifying new thing. Blood, needles, unprotected sex—we were told that was how the virus spread, but we were still paranoid. We wondered if you could get it from kissing. My best friend lived near a vacant lot that was often strewn with discarded condoms (so unbelievably gross) and I remember being terrified that I would accidentally step on one. If AIDS got on my sneakers, could it get on me? If it got on me, would I catch it? Those fears are beyond ridiculous and embarrassing now, but we really worried about things like that—at least I did. Even sitcoms tried to reassure and educate us. In an episode of The Golden Girls, Rose learns that she may have contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. Dorothy and Blanche explain to Sophia that it's safe to use the same washroom and the same dishes as Rose, and when Rose wonders how she could have become infected when she's a good person, Blanche tells her, in no uncertain terms, that AIDS is not a punishment or a bad person's disease.
"I know, intellectually, there's no way I can catch it, but now that it's so close to home, it's scary." ~ Sophia in The Golden Girls
And things really are scarier the closer to home they are. In Thornhill, Mackenzie and her friends enter one of the werewolf rehabilitation camps—a camp that was built on the grounds of an old sanatorium where tuberculosis patients were sent for treatment. It wasn't a random or whimsical decision. My grandmother grew up in a time when tuberculosis was common. Her aunt died from the disease and her sister was sent to a sanatorium. Each letter sent home was quickly read and then burned on the instructions of a local doctor, and the fear of contamination and gems lingered long after the disease left. That bit of family history is why the grounds of the camp (which were loosely inspired by Danvers State Hospital) became a former sanatorium.
All fictional worlds—no matter how fantastical—are influenced by the world around us. Margaret Atwood said, of The Handmaid's Tale, "I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behaviour."* For me, the world in Hemlock is one I can easily imagine because it was partially shaped by things that have already happened.
* Quote from "Haunted by The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood in The Guardian, on January 20, 2012 (http://www.theguardian.com/
Thanks so much to Kathleen for this guest post, and thanks to HarperCollins Canada for asking if I'd take part in the blog tour. :)