Tackling a Multi-Narrative and Suburban Unrest in THE BLACKBIRD SEASON: My latest novel, THE BLACKBIRD SEASON, takes aim at small town USA: a crumbling economical infrastructure, a deteriorating morale, and the aftermath of both a recession and a dwindling population. I do take quite a bit of inspiration from real life events: both the falling birds and a teacher/student affair are “ripped from the headlines” type of plot points. I was interested more in how it all converged: if I took these people — people who were maybe, actually good people and set them down in the middle of this decrepit pit of a village, with an almost supernatural phenomenon as a backdrop, what would happen? I grew up in a small town, and even though it was significantly less bleak than Mt. Oanoke, I became fascinated with the darker side of country life: what happens when there’s nothing to do except worry about your neighbors? Like life in a pressure cooker. Also interesting to me is the dynamics of a once thriving community, with well-off families who are suddenly plunged into unemployment, and forced to co-exist alongside incredible poverty. I’m always a fan of modern suburban angst and the natural drama between friends and neighbors, teachers and parents. While the mystery of “where is Lucia” is certainly a driver, my hope is that the reader is really just along for the character ride and that the various different relationships are as enticing to a reader as they are to me.
Most of my stories center around good people doing morally suspect things. I’m so interested in what pushes people to steal, lie, cheat, even kill. I think even people who are mostly good, in the right set of circumstances, would do any of these things that we always think are so horrible. In THE BLACKBIRD SEASON, Nate Winters, a teacher that uses social media to, as he says, be a better teacher is accused of an affair and because of his online activities, the evidence mounts against him. When the student disappears, he becomes the obvious suspect. But did he actually do any of it? It’s not so black and white. There were quite a few challenges with this set up. There are multiple point of views: Nate Winters’ wife, Alecia, his colleague, Bridget, and the missing girl, Lucia Hamm and of course, Nate himself. The events of the story bounce back and forth between before the birds fall and after in order to increase the tension. I loved the idea of using the birds as a structural pivot point: life before and after. But it became a huge challenge to keep track of the real, chronological events! I had several calendars: in both monthly and list form. Some scenes were told in flashback, and some were full in-scene dramatizations so that presented an even larger hurdle. I loved showing a scene one way, and then seeing it on the page from another POV, playing with the idea of perception. It could be difficult to do this without repetition, and still maintain forward momentum in the timeline. I admit to being exhausted by it at the end of the book and I’m not sure I’ll write a multiple POV, dueling timeline story again any time soon! Oh, wait. I’m planning one next!
The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti is published by Titan Books in the UK.