Getting Out of the Comfort Zone: Inherent Cost (with Map)

by Alicia Cameron

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One of the great things about writing is that you get to create your own characters—and the worlds they live in. For me, this can be a very involved and detailed process. While my editors have helped me to not bore you with too many details, rest assured that I can describe every room in Wren and Jere’s house, the color of the exam tables, the width of the streets. When I first created this world, the home and m
edical clinic in the fictional town of Hojer was more than just the home for my characters, it was a second home for me as well. The vividness with which I can imagine their setting amazes me sometimes.

Cover for Inherent CostHowever, most of us don’t really want to spend our entire lives in a single building. For the first installment in the Inherent Gifts series, this worked—after all, there was just so much to get to know about the characters and the world itself. Stepping outside of the house was a risk, both for Wren, and for me as an author. Stepping outside brought conflict.

But all worlds must expand, and by the time Inherent Risk, the second in the Inherent Gifts series, came out, I found myself exploring the community a little more. No longer were Wren and Jere hiding inside their house all the time, they were getting involved in the community, even when they were unwilling. The four walls of their house and medical clinic couldn’t contain their adventures, and this trend became even more important by the time I reached Inherent Cost. One of my favorite parts about the third book in the series is that I got a chance to explore the larger world. The book starts with a trip, taking Wren and Jere not only outside of their home, but outside of their comfort zones. To me, they’ve conquered everything else: their fears and insecurities about each other, the prejudices in their small town, the challenges of family life. While the first two novels were full of domestic conflict and the alluring “getting to know you” stage, this story needed to go bigger.

ICMap_FinalIn Inherent Cost, the boys get involved in some political drama. As the first two books hint at, the outside world is a dangerous place, but they keep on going back, refusing to be limited. Their encounters land them in the middle of the “Slavery Reformation Act,” as well as some health and disease-related issues. The opportunity to explore the politics of other countries within this world demanded that, as an author, I give these worlds at least a fraction of the attention that I gave the city of Hojer. Suddenly, my utter lack of knowledge on the subject became apparent. What is a president anyway, or a mayor, and when is a state a country and when is it not a country? How do the laws of one location affect those in another? I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure this out, hoping to place my story in a setting that was realistic, if not necessarily real. To add to the complication, the books are staged in a more or less post-apocalyptic setting: on one hand, all rules are off; on the other hand, I needed to create a relatable setting.

One of the exciting things I got to add during the development of Inherent Cost was a map of the locations. Given that I once drove from Boston, Massachusetts to New York City thinking the entire way that I was headed Northeast—the complete opposite direction of where I actually drove—this was quite a challenge! Fortunately, the team at ForbiddenFiction are a little more skilled in this area, and in no time at all, they took a simple image of a map with some very, very bad drawing markups on it and turned it into something that actually resembled the shape of the world I had created. It is with great pleasure that I have gotten out of my comfort zone and expanded the world of Inherent Gifts, making Inherent Cost bigger, better, and more exciting.

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