Ten writers for children. All with something to say.
interview with Heidi R. Kling
After our lively round of posts centered on the theme of collaboration, I wanted my critique group member, Heidi, to share about the collaborative process that lead to her upcoming debut YA novel.
The Creation of SEA
by Heidi R Kling
My debut novel SEA was inspired by my husband’s volunteer efforts in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami that devastated the region. He was a young psychiatrist fresh out of residency and wanted to do something different. He tried to recruit other likeminded psychiatrists, but in the end they all had an excuse why they couldn’t go—at the last minute, a member of the faculty went along instead. The two of them, this young guy, and a more seasoned doctor, headed to Jakarta, Indonesia to an orphanage where many survivors from the epicenter, Banda Aceh, were relocated after they lost their families to the rush of water that devastated their home.
After two long weeks, he came home. I was working on another book (I earned my MFA in creative writing from the New School) and he looked at me and said with urgency, “You should write about this.”
He’s not one to be emphatic like that, so I took it to heart and tried to figure out a way I could make his story my own. I created a character named Sienna, a fifteen-year old California girl who suffers from her own version of post-traumatic stress, experiencing recurring nightmares about her mother’s plane crash into the sea three years before her story starts—and had her father be the volunteer psychiatrist.
So while SEA is inspired by my husband’s experience, it is told from a teenage girl’s eyes.
Daryn read the multiple drafts and would help me if I had a cultural detail or logistical fact wrong. Because the characters and story are fictional, he only helped me with things like details of the earthquake etc. Indonesian young people and volunteers from the orphanage helped me correctly translate the language, which I use a bit of in dialog. The character of Deni (Sienna’s love interest) was largely inspired by a mix of several boys whom Daryn met and generously shared their stories with me.
We helped support a group of boys after they left the orphanage and had no money for rice or rent. Such goodhearted and brave kids, they are all in school (or have graduated) and we are so happy we were able to help get them through that incredibly tough transitional time. It’s amazing how well they are doing considering the obstacles they have faced. They are a true inspiration, as is my husband who continues to do incredible cross-cultural trauma work in Africa, Cambodia and will soon in Haiti.
SEA is an adventure-love story about hope after disaster set in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami. It debuts June 10, 2010 with Putnam/Penguin.
For more on the back story of SEA please visit my website at http://heidirkling.com