It’s time to meet the 21st featured author of the SSS! Introducing…Marieke Nijkamp!
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won’t open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
Research Topics While Writing
By Marieke Nijkamp
You don’t quite realize how important writer friends are until you find yourself on a couch, crying your eyes out during a writing session and you have a friend close by who is… well, probably somewhat concerned (sorry about that!) but also sweet enough to bring you tea and cookies.
Because a) tea and cookies.
And b) because writing friends understand you when you tell them “I’m okay, I’m just researching a book.”
That day, research led me to endless recordings of 911 calls from school shootings. From Columbine. From Sandy Hook. From too many schools whose names are etched in our memory.
Some days, the hardest part about writing This Is Where It Ends was exactly that research. I did a lot of it. For every hour I spent writing, I spent (at least) another researching. I didn’t just listen to emergency phone calls. I read firsthand accounts of shootings, I plowed through hundreds of pages of investigative reports, I talked to people, I kept up with news and social media feeds as active shooter situations emerged, I familiarized myself with the psychology of being held at gunpoint.
As much as possible, I immersed myself in what we know about school shootings (which is both a lot and not a lot at all).
And I often cried my eyes out. Because writing a book is one thing. Knowing that the situations I put my main characters through happen—far too often—in real life, is quite another. It’s terrifying. It’s harrowing. It’s heartbreaking.
It’s fiction, yes. But it’s fiction that, even despite its poetic license, is all too real and ought to remain respectful to real life.
So I researched. I listened to stories. I held and shot with different types of guns, to get a feel for the mechanics, all the while trying to keep it a rational exercise. I watched different types of shooter drills. I read more investigative reports, perhaps even thousands of pages. I drew on my own fears.
I still teared up several times.
And in the end, I tried to translate all of that to the story. Most of the actual research never made it in there, because while it was relevant for me to know, it wasn’t relevant to the characters. But what I did hope to translate were the respect and understanding that research gave me.
With a little help of writing friends.
Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language, and ideas, she is more or less proficient in about a dozen languages and holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. Her debut young adult novel This Is Where It Ends, a contemporary story that follows four teens over the course of the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire in January 2016.
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