As an author, I always find it rather amusing when I read a post or review about my book and someone says, “I love the homage the author made to [insert show I’ve never seen].” Or, “I really enjoyed how she used elements from [insert book I’ve never read].”
I think it just goes to show how many common themes there are in books, movies, and TV shows. Especially when you start getting into more specific genres like science fiction. Why are these themes so common? Because people relate to them. And when people relate to them, the stories reach a bigger audience, making it more appealing for writers to explore them in their next work.
Although there are many movies, books, and TV shows that I haven’t seen and, therefore, didn’t influence my writing (at least not yet!), there are several that were a huge inspiration for me when creating the world of Unremembered. These are the top five.
1) Alias (TV series)
This is by far one of my favorite shows in existence. I was hooked on Sydney Bristow’s every badass, kung fu move from hour one. Actually, anything that J. J. Abrams does is pretty much gold in my mind.
I’ve always loved the depth of Jennifer Garner’s character in this show. At work, she’s a tough, no-nonsense superhero (or superspy) and then at home, she’s just a girl who’s vulnerable and lonely and tired of hiding secrets from the people she loves.
But what I loved the most about Sydney Bristow was her ability to speak several languages. I just think that would be one of the coolest skills to have. So I decided to give the same ability to Seraphina, in Unremembered. Only, in my story, she doesn’t remember the fact that she can speak multiple languages. So discovering them one by one is half the fun.
Also, interesting side note. I don’t think I did this intentionally, but it’s funny nonetheless. Obviously, I’m a huge Jennifer Garner fan (as evidenced above). And it wasn’t until my first draft was finished that I noticed my main character’s name is Seraphina, which is Jennifer’s second daughter’s name. But when the character initially arrives at the hospital she doesn’t remember her name so, because of her purple eyes, the hospital staff all call her Violet, which is Jennifer’s first daughter’s name. So yeah, I felt pretty stalkerish at that point, but I loved the names so much, I couldn’t bear to change them!
2) Gattaca (movie)
This movie is a bit older but it’s such a classic, one of those movies I will stop whatever I’m doing and watch it to the end, whenever it comes on TV. The idea that, in the future, human beings are genetically modified to be, essentially, “perfect” fascinates me. I loved the way the filmmakers explored this kind of society and what it meant, especially for the outsiders who weren’t altered. Who were just…normal.
The Unremembered trilogy shares some similar themes to this story. Namely the exploration of the questions: What is perfection? How far will we go to get it? And, more important, What is the price of it? These questions are introduced in book 1 but come up a lot more in book 2.
3) The Bourne Identity (movie)
When I first pitched this book to my agent, I called it “Bourne Identity for teens…with a sci-fi twist.” He later used this same pitch to sell the book to my publisher.
I’ve always been fascinated by stories of memory loss. But Bourne took it one step further. It asked, “What if you lost your memories and then discovered you were actually…extraordinary?” The scene in the park when Jason Bourne suddenly whips out all these awesome fighting moves and takes down three bad guys at once is probably my favorite scene in the whole movie. He goes on autopilot, kicks butt, and then snaps out of it and is like, “Um…what was that?”
When I set out to write a story about a girl who loses all her memories and has to piece together her past, I really wanted to include a few “what was that?” moments as well. One of my favorite scenes to write took place in a bus station where Sera has a conversation with a stranger. She doesn’t realize until a few minutes later, that the entire conversation was in Portuguese.
4) The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (book)
It’s funny to think of a time when Mary E. Pearson and I didn’t know each other. We’re such good friends now, it feels as though I’ve known her all my life. But I remember when I first got her book in the mail. I had just sold Unremembered to my editor at FSG and she sent me a package of Macmillan books that she thought shared similar themes with my new trilogy. “For inspiration,” her note said.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox was the first one I read. It also deals with memory loss and a life impacted by science and technology. I devoured it and was so impressed and inspired by Mary’s writing and her ability to get inside the head of a character with no memories. I loved how rich and three-dimensional Jenna Fox was. She was clearly a character with a past, even if she couldn’t remember what that past was. I sought to accomplish the same difficult task in Unremembered.
5) ????? (movie)
Okay, so this last one is tricky. It had a HUGE influence on me but I can’t say what movie it is. Because as soon as I do, the whole big twist at the end of the book is spoiled. And I just can’t/won’t do that to you. I worked so hard to make sure that end came as a surprise, I would hate to see my efforts go to waste in one fell swoop!
But I will say this: once you finish the book, you might be able to come back to this post and figure out what movie this is. It’s one of the most popular movies dealing with this subject matter. And I did leave a clue in the book, as a little “homage” to its inspiration.
At the onset of the story, Seraphina is pulled from the wreckage of Freedom Airlines flight 121 after it crashed into the Pacific Ocean. And let’s just say I didn’t randomly choose that flight number…
So there you have it! My top 5 influences for my new sci-fi trilogy, UNREMEMBERED. I hope you enjoy the book and can see how these movies, TV show, and book inspired the creation of my new world!
UNREMEMBERED is Jessica Brody’s sci-fi debut. Check to see if Jessica will be coming to a city near you on the Fierce Reads tour this spring!
To learn more about Jessica and her books, visit her online at JessicaBrody.com