The Day the World Exploded: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa by Simon Winchester.
While she read this book, a vague image of a girl exploring a wondrous jungle popped into her head.
"What if…?" the woman, who had written several unpublished novels, thought.
And she began to research.
Books about rainforests. Books about volcanoes. Books about tsunamis. Books about Java. Books about Dutch colonialism.
The woman scoured the Internet for historical photos. She used Google Translate to understand captions written in Dutch or Indonesian.
When the woman took a cruise to Belize, she stood in the jungle and let the feel of it sink into her—the light, the heat, the sounds. Even though the rainforest in Belize and the rainforest in Java were not terribly similar (she knew this from her research), it helped her feel more like that girl the woman saw in her head.
strangler fig in Belize
photo by Sara K Joiner
She saw strangler figs, which the woman had learned were in Java, for the first time. Awestruck, she studied their roots and the way they wrapped themselves around another tree.
The woman took her time writing the story. She wrote and revised and wrote some more.
Three years after that first spark, she decided she could not make the story any better. Then she began looking for an agent. After a short search, she found an agent, and that agent knew how to make the story even better. So the woman wrote and revised and wrote and revised some more.
In 2014, the agent sent the story to an editor. The editor loved the story, but she, too, knew how to make it even better. The editor and the woman worked together. Once again, the woman wrote and revised and wrote and revised some more.
Finally, the story was the best it could possibly be. After six long years of research, writing and revising, the story is coming to readers in October.
That's the story of the origin of the idea for After the Ashes—the story of a girl who explores the jungle and the volcano that destroys everything she holds dear. You can enter a drawing for a free galley copy of After the Ashes from GoodReads.
In addition to writing, Sara K Joiner is a public librarian in Texas.