An Exclusive Essay by Author Justin Cronin
Readers often ask where I get my ideas. The better question would be: Where don’t I?
Many people know that The Passage was born from a challenge laid down by my eight-year-old daughter to write the story of “a girl who saves the world.” This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear—it seemed a trifle ambitious—but a dare is a dare. For the next three months she joined me on my daily jog, following along on her bicycle, while the two of us hashed out the plot. As the weeks passed, I realized we were onto something much better than the book I was supposed to be writing. I put that book aside, wrote the first chapter of The Passage, and never looked back.
So don’t ever think you shouldn’t listen to your kids.
But my daughter’s challenge wasn’t the only inspiration. When I write a novel, my goal is to put absolutely everything I have into its pages, right down to the interesting thing that happened yesterday. I know I’m done when my mind feels as empty as a leaky bucket. So many influences, real and imagined, went into The Passage that I couldn’t list them if I tried. But one memory that stands out is the night my family and I tried to flee Houston in advance of hurricane Rita. Apparently, about a million other people had the same idea. After five hours on the road, we’d made it all of sixty miles. The highways were clogged with cars that had long since run out of gas; every minimart and gas station had been picked clean. I jumped the median and made it home in a little under an hour, my gas gauge floating just above ‘E’.
Rita missed Houston, slamming into a less-inhabited section of Texas and Louisiana coastline. But the experience of being in a large urban evacuation, with its feeling of barely-bottled panic, was one I’ll never forget, and is everywhere in the pages of The Passage.
So where did The Twelve come from?
Again, many places. But if I had to pick one source, it would be the strong women in my life. No bones about it: Gentlemen, if you doubt for a second that women are tougher than we are, go watch one have a baby. So here you have Alicia, the woman warrior with her blades and crossbow; here you have Amy, the spiritual leader and visionary; here you have one of my favorite new characters, Lore DeVeer, whose mechanical savvy is matched only by her unbridled sensuality; here you have a fourth woman (sorry, can’t tell you who) whose maternal strength is as powerful as any great spectacle of nature. As I wrote The Twelve, I came to understand that these powerful characters were the backbone of the tale. Even more, they are a tribute to all the amazing women I am privileged to know, befriend, and in one very lucky instance, marry.
Hope you enjoy The Twelve. All eyes.