Scarlett Savage, Author of “Narcotic Nation”

slide1-img What is your book about?

It’s about an alternative America where all drugs were legalized fifteen years ago. The country is split by this decision, into the Realists, who believe that it’s time to accept things as they are and make a profit from drug use rather than spent trillions trying to stop it, and the Idealists, who believe our new economic stability comes at the cost of our humanity. A rock band, Deus Ex Machina, making its first tour, holds both Realists and Idealists in its ranks—some, like Ashe Brecken (bassist) is one of the country’s most ardent Idealists and hopes to overturn the legalization; others, like his girlfriend, lead singer Raven Lashua, is determined to secretly undermine his attempts at all costs. Her success in this matter forces Ashe to do something more violent and dangerous than he ever dreamed possible… and on whose hands is the blood?

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I first started dabbling with this idea in college, when I was about twenty. I completed the first draft at twenty-five—that seemed a lifetime back then!! At forty, after fifteen years of trying to publish it, and getting told, “It’s brilliant, but we can’t touch the subject matter”, I decided that eBook publishing was the way to go.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I took a philosophy class in college; some economist had written a paper, saying that if we legalized drugs, the country would go to hell for twenty years, then be the better for it. I thought, “How interesting it would be to write about that twenty years.!!”

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Jessie is very much like me; I had a traumatic childhood, so I never really got to be “innocent”; therefore, my psyche held onto my innocence much too long. When I DID “grow up”, I delved into all kinds of things I had no business doing. Like Jessie. Later on, I became very much like Raven—all-knowing, all-seeing, very protective of my friends.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Probably Bryce. He doesn’t judge. He would never have sought out becoming a rock star—he’d planned on a more reliable future—if it hadn’t been thrust upon him. He knows he’s not the best looking thing on two feet; he knows that kids get all excited about a band, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best thing in the world. He’s realistic about his celebrity; he doesn’t expect it to last forever. But he’s also very much, in his own way, looking for true love.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Chase. Chase is one sick puppy. He’s based on a truly evil guy I once knew; probably the only truly evil guy I ever met.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Because they all hope. They all want something that’s out of their reach. Fame and fortune doesn’t give them everything they want; it isolates them, so they have to depend on each other, and they don’t always get along—like any family.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Very little. I knew that there would be the Legalization; I knew that Ashe would be based on a guy I went to college with. I knew that Jessie and Raven would be both parts of me. That’s it. The rest just came along.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

I talked to a lot of detox/drug rehabs, to find out how someone would act when they were whacked out of their heads on coke, because at that time I didn’t know anyone who’d ever done it. That changed later!! I spoke to a couple of different economists and sociology professors about how the Legalization would effect the country—and it should be noted that while not all of them were for it, they all (reluctantly) thought it would be good for the country, long-term.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The bond between the characters. The fact that they’re rock stars. The fact that it seems to answer questions they’ve always wondered about our country.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I based them on people I knew. Ashe is based on a guy I went to college with; Bryce is based on a guy I knew after college. Chase was originally based on a very, very good friend of mine, but then, in the second draft, he became this horrible sexual predator. That hadn’t happened in the first draft, and it came out of nowhere. I love it when that happens—when your own characters surprise you.

I always “cast” my characters—I imagine people I know as the characters, then they sort of tell me what they’ll say. That’s just how I work.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I want them to really think about whether or not the things we’ve made illegal in this country, is the best thing for the country. Maybe it is, in some cases, but maybe it’s not, in others.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Don’t always accept things as they are. You can fight.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

It absolutely did. I always thought of drug addicts as these low-life people, who just didn’t care. But after talking to a bunch of them, they care a whole lot—some of them too much—which is why they needed the escape of drugs.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Oh, yes. Since age five, when I first read, “Little House in the Big Woods.” It was my first book without pictures, but in the first few pages, I realized something; the words made pictures in your mind. I thought that was about the coolest thing ever. So, being the kind of kid I was, I thought, “I can do that.”

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

The characterizations and especially the dialogue come very easily for me.

My acting teacher, Cate Davis, once told me, “Your character wouldn’t say that, it’s too blatant,” and then I realized, “Wow. We talk in code.”

How do you deal with exposition give readers the background information they need?

I write out backgrounds, hundreds and hundreds of pages, then cut it down to, “What is the absolute minimum needed to get this point across?” The first draft of Narcotic Nation had them all meeting as young teens. It was interesting, but the story didn’t need to be told; it had nothing to do with the plot. It didn’t push the story along.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My website, http://www.scarlettsavage.com will tell you everything you need to know!!

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