[From the jacket of SAFEKEEPING (Feiwel & Friends, 2012):
Radley’s parents had warned her that all hell would break loose if the American People's Party took power. And now, with the president assassinated and the government cracking down on citizens, the news is filled with images of vigilante groups, frenzied looting, and police raids. It seems as if all hell has broken loose.
Coming back from volunteering abroad, Radley just wants to get home to Vermont, and the comfort and safety of her parents. Travel restrictions and delays are worse than ever, and by the time Radley’s plane lands in New Hampshire, she’s been traveling for over twenty-four hours. Exhausted, she heads outside to find her parents—who always come, day or night, no matter when or where she lands—aren’t there.
Her cell phone is dead, her credit cards are worthless, and she doesn’t have the proper travel papers to cross state lines. Out of money and options, Radley starts walking…
Illustrated with 50 of her own haunting and beautiful photographs, this is a vision of a future America that only Karen Hesse could write: real, gripping, and deeply personal.]
How do writers predict the future? Like many, I started by studying current events and projecting the possible paths America might take. I was riveted to the radio, the television, and the Internet as the Tea Party burst onto the scene and made first a lot of noise, then inroads into our disputatious political arena. I watched with awe events unfolding in other parts of the world, too.
Next, I found experts on political systems to discuss my ideas. I grilled my daughter to better understand what would incite young people to rise up in protest, how much her generation would tolerate before breaking out of its comfort zone.
I spent months looking backward in time also, to WWII, reading books about living in a London regularly under attack, devouring diaries of ordinary people trying to understand their world in a time of instability. I read volumes about the German occupation of France, stories of the resistance.
Armed with all of this information, I set out on the road with my camera to walk my main character’s walk, to capture her landscape. And as I walked I thought about possibilities of the way the future might play out.
None of us can know what will happen in another hour, in a week, in a year. But we can do a pretty good job of predicting quite a lot based on behavior we have already seen. At my editor’s urging, I left much of my future world strongly tied to the present, just altering a few elements. In this way there is an eerie sense of familiarity.
In SAFEKEEPING, Radley, who has grown up indulged and cosseted, has some serious adjusting to do. But she discovers inner strengths, the rewards of caring for others, the kindness as well as the cruelty of strangers. She begins to understand how though she is only a small part of what is going on in the greater world her part is not entirely without consequence.
I can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow. A flood, an earthquake, a desperate street vendor, and the future changes, just like that.
What Radley learns, and what I learned walking in her shoes, is that we are actors in our own stories. What we do and say has an effect on the future in ways we can never predict. Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including OUT OF THE DUST, winner of the Newbery Medal, LETTERS FROM RIFKA, BROOKLYN BRIDGE, PHOENIX RISING, and SABLE AND LAVENDER. In addition to the Newbery, she has received honors such as the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Grant, and the Christopher Award (given to media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit”), and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.
© 2012 Karen Hesse. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Fresh Starts for the New Reading Year In Other Words: On a Writer's Journey, Finding a Fellow Traveler