Guest Post: Erin Cashman

Written By: Kellie - Oct• 02•12

erin cashman

Erin Cashman is the author of The Exceptionals (february2012), a fantastic YA novel about a girl who can speak to animals and her journey to figure out who she is and what is important. 

What a Great Idea by Erin Cashman

Where does an idea for a book come from? I read that the idea for The Hunger Games came to Suzanne Collins while she was watching television. As she flipped through the channels, she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq, and then a reality television show where contestants competed against each other. And then her imagination took over, and the concept for The Hunger Games was born.  Stephanie Meyer said that a dream prompted the idea for the Twilight series.  Sometimes a great idea can strike you like a thunderbolt. BAM! It comes to you. Other times it is a long time in the making.

I had the idea for my debut novel, The Exceptionals years ago.  Growing up, my father often told me that we only use ten percent of our brain power. I often wondered, can some people use more? Did Einstein use more of his brain than most people? Did Shakespeare?  And what about people who are mediums or clairvoyant? My mother believed in ghosts, and she used to visit a medium. Maybe the medium could use a different part of her brain.  This became the foundation for The Exceptionals: a school for students who have “special” abilities. It was an idea that evolved and became fully realized over time. But when it came together in my head as a concept for a book, it immediately took shape.  I loved thinking about what different “specials” the students would have, and what they could do. When I finally sat down to write it, I tried to think of a unique ability for my protagonist, Claire, but I had a hard time finding something that felt right.

A few days later I took my dog for a walk, and two majestic hawks circled above me the entire time. And then it hit me – Claire could communicate with animals! And The Exceptionals was born. It is about a teenage girl who must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy.  Along the way she uncovers a chilling prophecy and meets a gorgeous but secretive boy – who may know more than he’s letting on.

For my new book, The Legend of the Four, which is a middle grade fantasy/adventure novel, I had vague ideas about incorporating the Irish myths and legends my mother had shared with me as a child. My mother was a great story teller. She believed in fairies, leprechauns, angels and ghosts.  She never understood why some people have to see something to believe it.

For this novel, I did far more research. I read several books on Celtic mythology, looking for inspiration. It was there that I came across the legend of the Tuatha De Danann, an immortal race who possess four magical gifts. This became the foundation for Legend of the Four, which centers on fourteen year old Braeden Greene, who discovers he is half-human, half Dedanian.  The Dedanians, though not immortal, are based on the Tuatha De Dannann.  I imagined that Dedanians had powers in conjunction with nature.  Some can manipulate the water, others the trees or insects, etc.  I changed the four gifts from the legend to better fit my story: a Spear that will find anything that exists in nature, a Cauldron that enables some to see into the future, a Stone of Destiny, and a legendary Sword.   When attacked by an evil Dedanian named Balor, Braeden must leave the world he knows and live in seclusion in a Dedanian village.  There he is trained in their ways and develops his own powerful relationship with the wind.  With the help of his scoundrel of a cousin, Eremon, and the beautiful and fearless Mairenn, he must rely on his wits, his skill and his instincts to safeguard the treasure from Balor, and ultimately, when both worlds are threatened, face him in battle.

Although the idea for Legend of the Four was born in my upbringing and the many stories my mother told me as a child, telling the unique story took many hours of research and writing.

What will inspire my next novel? I can’t wait to find out!

Visit Erin on her website or on twitter. Plus, be sure to tune in tomorrow for my review of The Excpetionals!

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