What Inspired Me to Write The Fearless
by Emma Pass
I first got the idea for The Fearless when I attended a workshop run by YA author Julie Bertagna back in 2011. She told us she often got ideas for her books from newspaper and magazine articles, and handed out some articles which she asked us to use to come up with story ideas.
The article my group was given was similar to this one, about scientists developing a drug to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic events, and causes serious problems such as flashbacks, aggression and insomnia. It can start many years after the event that triggered it, and is particular problem among military personnel, who witness many terrible things while on active service. According to this article in the Telegraph, one charity expects PTSD rates to rise by up to 12% each year until 2018, so any drug that could help reduce this rate is surely a very good thing indeed. But as our group discussed the article, I started to wonder what might happen if the drug stopped people from feeling any fear at all – or love – or empathy. These questions became the basis for the new novel I started writing shortly afterwards.
The Fearless imagines what happens after a drug given to UK and Allied troops to stop them suffering from PTSD and make them into more effective fighters is discovered to have a terrible side effect – it strips them of any humanity or empathy. By the time people realise what’s going on, the enemy have managed to get hold of the formula and strengthen it so that the side effects start immediately, and then they start forcing it on the civilian population. Country after country falls to these super-soldiers, known as the Fearless, until at last, they invade the UK. Cass, the protagonist, is just ten when this happens, and after her father is taken by the Fearless, she flees with her mother to an island off the south coast of England, where her little brother, Jori, is born. Seven years later, Jori is snatched by a Fearless too, and Cass must return to the mainland for the first time since the Invasion to try and rescue him, helped by a mysterious boy named Myo who seems to know more about the Fearless than he’s letting on…
The Fearless was a lot of fun to work on. I love playing around with ‘what if’ scenarios and I’ve always wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel, imagining what the UK would be like after a disaster has wiped out most of society. How would people survive? What would places familiar to me look like once they were abandoned? As with my first novel ACID, many of THE FEARLESS’s settings are based on places I know, in particular Sheffield railway station and Meadowhall shopping centre (I considered using London, but as that was such a major setting in ACID, I decided to go somewhere different). I was also hugely inspired by reading blog posts and articles about urban exploration, and places like Hashima Island in Japan, upon which I based Hope Island, the refuge Cass flees to at the start of the book.
But most of all, I wanted to write a book where the monsters might not really be monsters after all – where the good guys could turn out to be the bad guys, and where nothing was quite what it seemed… It took several drafts and lots of hard work on both mine and my editor’s part to get it right, but I’m pretty happy with the results, and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!