Joseph, the lead character in Trevor Shane’s debut novel, “Children of Paranoia,” is a soldier in a deadly, secret war — a bloody game of tag that’s been going on for centuries — in which two sides must kill one another or else be killed themselves. The only guidance they have? “The Rules." Trevor Shane talked to us about developing a dystopian premise but how, in the end, he just wants to make your pulse “quicken.”
How did the idea of “Children of Paranoia” come about?
The first chapter, where Joseph follows a woman home at night and kills her, jumped into my head. The idea of a secret war going on in the shadows of everyday society arose out of an attempt to make this character who had just committed a horrible act sympathetic, maybe even heroic, without resorting to a oversimplified version of good versus evil.
When in the writing process did “The?Rules”?come about?
Rules of war always seem somewhat counterintuitive but, when you think about them, they make perfect sense. Once someone has been ordered to break the most basic tenet of modern society — do not kill — they have to be given new rules so that they can maintain some sort of moral center. Once someone is ordered to kill one person, to violate this basic tenet, what’s to stop them from killing another? Or from doing anything else for that matter?
The added factor in “Children of Paranoia” is that no secret war could exist for hundreds of years if it frequently leaked into regular society. Hence, rule No. 1: No killing innocent bystanders.
How do you find the creative process to be when you’re writing action?
I try to put readers directly into the action by writing the way a person trapped in the middle of the action would think. There’s no place for long sentences when you’re writing action. There’s no place for rumination. If Hamlet were a solider in the “Children of Paranoia” world, he would have been killed in the first act. I want the reader to forget that they are reading and to feel like they are part of the action. I want them to feel their pulse quicken and their skin tingle.