What if everyone could?
In a future run by an oppressive government, the winter and summer Solstices are no longer just the longest and shortest days of the year. On these two days, the barrier between the living and the dead becomes thin enough that, if the circumstances are right, it is possible to meet somewhere in between with the deceased. However, the Government strictly monitors all interactions to ensure that the rules of the Solstice are complied with.
Bonnie Hawk is just an ordinary seventeen year old, with a tendency to attract trouble. Her father died before she was born, and her mother was killed a few years after. And on the night of the Winter Solstice, Bonnie’s adopted father is brutally attacked, forcing Bonnie to flee her beloved hometown with a strange boy, seeking out answers to questions she had never thought to ask. Thrown into the midst of an underground rebellion, Bonnie begins to see that the Government isn’t exactly what she thought, and she learns secrets about her heritage and the history of Solstice that force her to see the world with a new perspective.
Learning to let go of the living is hard. But learning to let go of the dead is impossible when you live in a world where the dead are never truly gone.
Targeted Age Group:: 14-20
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I came up with the idea for this book back in high school, when I was on a road trip with my family. I was sitting in the backseat of the car listening to Mariah Carey on my ipod, when all of a sudden, the whole story came to me. I used to get really emotional when I listened to Mariah’s, “Bye Bye”, and I decided I wanted to write a book where nobody had to say “bye bye”. Everything fell into place before the song even ended. I knew exactly how it would go. I knew the beginning, the end, and everything in between.
I’ve always loved writing, but taking the plunge and writing a full-fledged novel was never in the plan. I liked to write out the plan for the story, and draw all the characters and designate them theme songs, and then I would store it all away in a box and forget about it. I probably have fifty unfinished stories spread out in my room, on my computer, and in the garbage. For me, it was more about knowing for myself how everything would happen. But with Solstice, I had to show everyone. I wanted people to see the brilliant idea I’d come up with, so I sat down and started writing, and a year later, I sat back at my desk, stretched my arms, and smiled with satisfaction at the completed project.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character, Bonnie, is a combination of a lot of different heroines from books I’ve read over the years. I took the things I liked the most in the female protagonists, and I pieced them together to create someone complex, who could grow and mature as the series progressed. I wanted readers to feel like they’d watched a transformation occur in her, so I took away some of the strength I wanted her to have, and that’s where she started. As I wrote, I slowly gave back some of the strength I’d taken away, and I watched her become whole again.
Josh, the secondary hero of Solstice: Emergence, was a little more complicated. I knew what he would look like, but I couldn’t decide what kind of person I wanted him to be. After a lot of failed attempts and creating a complex, unique character, I decided I would make him a simple, static character, merely there for support. But once I got into the story, it was as if he took over the steering wheel and created his own character, and I’m so glad that happened, because he makes me laugh!
My favorite character to create was Mama Mitchum, and she is actually based (loosely) off a character from a video game I love! I won’t say who, but if you’ve played the video game, you might recognize her!
“This year’s Solstice Angel is…” everyone held their breath in anticipation, as the mayor of Ganlerds opened the envelope and pulled out the name, seconds away from revealing the winner of the biggest honor anyone in the town could receive. Bonnie clenched her fists, mentally crossing her fingers and biting her bottom lip nervously. Just minutes ago, she’d been outside dancing and laughing with that strange boy, but when she heard the music stop and realized what was happening, she’d gathered up her skirt and ran back inside as fast as her legs could carry her, barely pausing to say a quick “goodbye!” over her shoulder. Now that she was inside, she didn’t know where he’d gone to and what he was doing, but she guessed she’d probably have time later to find him and make plans to see each other again, or at the very least learn his real name.
Bonnie let herself squeal and look around as everyone started cheering and screaming for her. Her friends, in the corner, were chanting her name, and although the other candidates looked bummed, she knew they were happy that at least they’d lost to an anomaly like her, instead of someone else. Bonnie immediately made her way onto the stage, where the mayor handed her the microphone. She held it up and grinned at the crowd, “Thank you so much! This is such an honour. I’m so grateful that you all voted for me to represent Ganlerds this Solstice.”
The cheering roared even louder, and Bonnie had to wave her hands a few times to get everyone’s attention. “I just want to thank my amazing father, Hans, for this. If anyone else had raised me, I probably wouldn’t be up here right now. Thank you, so much. Now, everyone enjoy the Solstice Dance, and I’ll be right back to lead you all into Solstice.”
An older woman whose name Bonnie did not know positioned herself behind the piano and began playing a slow, sad song. Everyone in the room began linking arms with those around them, and swaying slowly to the sad melody of the song. Eyes were closing all around the room, and Bonnie could hear people whispering messages to those they would not be visiting tonight. The barrier was thin enough for these messages to be conveyed, although no one would hear a response until they next decided to call upon the soul they spoke to right now.
Bonnie stepped off the stage and made her way to one of the gym exits, knowing exactly what she needed to do. All the nominees had practised it relentlessly the days leading up to the masquerade. This time, thought, the hallway was entirely empty and no one was guiding her step by step. Nobody wanted to miss out on what was happening in the gymnasium right now. The Solstice Dance was hardly a dance—it was more like a warm up for the main ritual, but still a unique ritual in itself. For some reason, speaking the words to the deceased only worked when there was a group of people. The larger the group, the stronger and longer the messages conveyed. Bonnie had been told that it was because the spirits of the living realm needed to band together to reach the spirits of the dead. Many years ago, science had been an explanation for everything, but after science had failed humanity, Jonathan Aniston had introduced the Solstice and the new era had begun.
In the empty hallway, she picked up her pace and ran into room 108, in which she found her new attire for the night. She grinned excitedly as she draped the white gown over her slender body, fastening it comfortably. She kicked off her shoes and yanked off her excessive accessories—hairpins, earrings and all. Her mask was the last to go as she shook her hair free and tousled it over her shoulders, trying to fix the hairspray mess that had been made. She could hear the Solstice song, nearing the end, through the wall, and knew she had about one more minute to get ready. She grabbed the chalk and candelabra off the counter, and made her way back into the gym, slipping backstage unnoticed.
As the final keys were played, Bonnie peered from behind the curtains, watching as eyes slowly opened and everyone’s mouths stopped moving open and closed rapidly, like a sea of fancy-clothed fish.
“A child’s tool, used to draw and write,” as soon as the pianist finished the song, Bonnie stepped out from behind the curtain, feeling all eyes in the room fall onto her as she spoke the first line of the poem. She felt radiant, the only lights in the room pointed at her on the gymnasium stage, covered in fake icicles and snow, fog blowing gently around her feet as she moved forward. She held the chalk up in her left hand, a long, pale white stick that seemed to glow in her hand as the blue-y stage lights reflected off it. Once she reached the front of the stage, she lowered herself onto her knees, and lifted up her right hand, in which she held a silver candelabra, stocked with six candles. Placing both the chalk and the candelabra on the ground in front of her, she continued her recitation.
“Six burning sticks, completely white.” As she spoke, she closed her eyes and held her hands out towards the candelabra, palms outward, as if she were warming them in front of a fireplace. She felt a warmth prickling her fingertips and she smiled involuntarily. When she reopened her eyes, each of the tall white candles had been lit, and were flickering slightly before her. She gazed at them in awe, and everyone in the gymnasium stared at her with similarly amazed expressions. Every year, she saw the magic, but finally being the one to use it was a rush entirely in itself.
“Water of the dead man’s cross,” she whispered, so quietly that she wasn’t sure if anybody would hear her. But nobody in the crowd was moving or speaking, so even her barely audible murmur seemed to travel across the entire gymnasium like a shout. She reached out and took a goblet that was placed on the ground beside her candelabra. It was filled nearly to the brim with water—holy water. Bonnie stared at the surface for a moment, seeing a ripply, unclear reflection of her own face, wide-eyed, pale, and scared.
“Lastly, the symbol of love and loss,” she spoke the last line with confidence, her voice cutting through the calmness of the room, and she set the goblet down and moved her hands into a praying position in the centre of her chest. She closed her eyes once more, and tilted her head up towards the ceiling. Now for the hard part… Bonnie kept her eyes closed, nervous, as she willed herself to think of sad things. In her mind, she played images of the nuclear war—photos and videos she’d been traumatized by in school, when her teachers were promoting the new Government and exampling the old ways and why they did not work. Children being tortured, beaten and abused. She imagined mangled corpses and the devastation that occurred because of the nuclear launch.
When none of these brought tears, she switched her thoughts to those of loneliness. Of how she missed her parents, especially her mother. Her beautiful, smiling mother. With her father, she had no memories—nothing to go by but an old photo and a few hazy memories of her mother mentioning him. But he’d died shortly after Bonnie’s conception, and her mother had dealt with the pregnancy alone. From there, she’d raised her daughter the best she could, but Bonnie remembered a childhood of always being on the road—she never had friends, or a sister, or been given the opportunity to learn how to play and share. Bonnie often blamed her mother for her somewhat manipulative, selfish behaviour, but in spite of all her mother’s flaws, Bonnie loved her. Not a day passed that she didn’t think about her mother, and how she missed those long days spent playing with her two ragged dolls and her laughing mother.
Bonnie had long since stopped crying over that though, and she quickly realized that thinking about Melissa was not going to bring the necessary tears. Changing her focus one more time, she imagined her adoptive father, Hans, being murdered. The concept quickly deformed in her mind, warping into a vivid premonition as Hans’ smiling face was butchered by an invisible enemy. Bonnie felt as though she was trapped in her imagined scenario, unable to move and stop the unseen foe. She could do nothing but watch, horrified, as a shadow hacked away at the body of Hans, which slowly crumpled to the ground, becoming limp and bloodier with every stab. His eyes were still open, and his head lolled onto one side, his eyes glassy and penetrating as he made eye contact with Bonnie. She let out a slight shriek and flung herself back into reality.
Bonnie felt a chill run down her spine as she straightened up, her praying hands falling into her lap and her eyes flying open. The whole room was staring at her still, and she touched her cheeks gently. They were warm and puffy, and very, very wet with tears. Satisfied, she pushed the morbid, gruesome thoughts aside and lifted the goblet up to her chest, blinking her eyes shut with a slight squeeze that forced a few tears to roll down her cheeks and land with a “plop!” in the cup.
She placed the cup beside the candelabra, and took the chalk with shaking hands. Standing up, she began to draw the Solstice Pentagon. It consisted of a pentagon, with five internal lines coming from each of the corners, meeting in the middle. Inside the pentagon were two five-pointed stars, one slightly larger than the other. Extending from the centre of each side of the pentagon she drew a line, partly in and partly out of the shape. Lastly, a small circle, touching the tips of each cross and touching the inner points of the smallest star, the only thing inside the circle being five lines touching to one point.
She removed a candle from the candelabra, placing it on one point of the pentagon, and then repeated the action with four more candles, before placing the sixth candle in the centre of the pentagon. Raising the goblet of holy water above her head, she smiled brilliantly at the crowd, “Long live Solstice! May the visitations commence with the blessings of Aniston!”
About the Author:
Hi! My name is Carley Steel. I’m a nineteen year old Canadian writer. I love to bake, draw, and hang out with friends (or cats, those are cool too!). I’ve been a reader ever since I was a little girl, and I have a diverse collection of authors I hold dear. I love everything from teen fiction to the classics, but if I had to pick three of my biggest inspirations, I’d choose Scott Westerfeld, Victor Hugo, and Darren Shan.
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