Today is my stop on The Rules blog tour and I am very excited to be bringing you a guest post from the author, Tracy Darnton on what books inspired her to write The Rules.
The Rules was a hard-hitting, intense read that had me gripped and wanting to know more come the end. My full review can be found here.
A big thank you to Little Tiger and Stripes for allowing me to a part of this amazing blog tour and do please go and check out the other stops.
Books That Inspired The Rules – Tracy Darnton
My YA thriller The Rules has just been published by Stripes. The Rules is a YA thriller about Amber on the run from her prepper dad. Her whole childhood was spent preparing for disaster like civil unrest and pandemic, and having to live by her dad’s strict set of Rules.
The first rule of writing is to read, read, read. So which books fed into the story of The Rules and the issues it raises? These include the role of rules within family and society, how someone charismatic like Amber’s dad, Ellis Fitzpatrick, can take a hold, and whether we should all be preparing for a catastrophic scenario and the effects of permanently dwelling on disaster. Writing last year, I never imagined the book would be reaching the shelves at such a time as this when we are acutely aware of the terrible changes a ‘SHTF’ or ‘shit hits the fan’ scenario can bring.
When I was devising the rules for Ellis Fitzpatrick, I was drawing on a mix of the Ten Commandments, the Laws of Gilead from A Handmaid’s Tale, the doublespeak from Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell’s slogans like ‘War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength’ and how the rules in Animal Farm are twisted as power corrupts. “All animals are equal” is extended by “but some animals are more equal than others.”
I was thinking about how the Ark (Ellis Fitzpatrick’s ultimate prepper bunker) would work, or not, informed by books like Lord of the Flies and a lifetime of watching disaster movies. I wanted Amber to experience at a domestic level the essence of unfairness and powerlessness that Winston feels in Nineteen Eighty-Four or the bank clerk K in Kafka’s The Trial. And I justified watching loads of episodes of Channel 4’s Hunted as research into how to stay under the radar when Amber is on the run from her dad who taught her everything she knows about survival and evasion.
So all those books, films and TV have fed into my brain, been mixed around with my own imagination, a dash of current affairs around the rise of populism and its tricks and popped out as The Rules.
While in the most intense part of writing or editing I try not to read other YA as I want to stick with my own voice. Instead I dip into non-fiction roughly in the same area, which can help with the background setting and research. In this case; Educated by Tara Westover who was raised by a religious survivalist in America in a childhood full of violence; The Way Home – Tales from a life without technology by Mark Boyle was useful as an insight into life on a small holding; SAS Survival Guide and reprints of The Air Ministry’s emergency survival pamphlets from the 1950s helped me with my camping and foraging knowledge; and Protect and Survive, the government’s leaflet on how to survive a nuclear attack which scared me to death when I was at secondary school in the Eighties.
There’s a serious rabbit hole of prepping and survivalist sites to disappear down too, alongside more mainstream foraging and bushcraft sites. For major SHTF planning and thinking about the skills Amber would need I raided my son’s bookshelves for The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (which has the best cover quote ever from the New York Post: “A tome you start reading for fun and then at page 50 you go out and buy a machete just to be on the safe side”) and The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World after an Apocalypse by Lewis Dartnell. If you’re serious about learning how to generate power or purify water, this is the one for you and I suspect its sales have rocketed recently.
Anyway, remember the first rule of writing – read, read, read. And I hope you’ll start with The Rules.
The Rules by Tracy Darnton
Published By: Stripes
Released: 9th July 2020
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Amber’s an expert when it comes to staying hidden – she’s been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you’re hiding from taught you everything you know?
When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she’s got to move – and fast. He’s managed to find her and she knows he’ll stop at nothing to draw her back into the extreme survivalist way of life he believes in.
All of a sudden the Rules she’s spent so long trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?
Tracy Darnton’s The Rules is published by Stripes. Tracy’s last book The Truth About Lies was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and was a World Book Night title. She lives in Bath and is slowly disappearing behind piles of books.