BEHIND THE SCENES
Author Rachel Carey Talks About Her Debut Novel, Debt
The original inspiration for Debt was my rediscovery, as an adult, of the works of Charles Dickens. I’d always liked Dickens, but I really fell in love with his writing when I was old enough and cynical enough to appreciate how smart he was about human weakness. But as I was reading Bleak House and Little Dorrit, I was also tracking the news about the financial meltdown of 2008, and I began to wonder what Dickens would have made of a figure like Bernie Madoff. What would he have had to say about students who owed a hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt, or bankers who received a government bailout and immediately paid themselves million dollar bonuses with taxpayer money?
I think Dickens would have understood those people very well, because people like that appear in all his novels: people who take out debt because they convince themselves it’s necessary, poor people who struggle against a system they don’t understand, rich people who justify any amount of self-indulgence by claiming that they are “important.” But if there was a modern American writer tackling our debt-ridden society with Dickensian scope, I wasn’t sure who it was. So I decided to take on a challenge: writing the book I thought Dickens would have written, if he’d been alive to witness our current social ills.
Of course, the book didn’t turn out at all like a Dickens novel, because my own voice and perspective quickly took over the project. But many elements of Debt are stolen straight from Dickens: the picaresque characters from all walks of society, the dense plot filled with fantastic coincidences and illegitimate children, even a little lame boy who says, essentially, “God bless us, every one.” I also created a protagonist — an orphan, of course — who shared some superficial elements with my own life, not out of narcissism but because Dickens frequently did so. One of my favorite qualities in Dickens is the democratic quality of his plots, the way he weaves together the lives of the rich and poor, so I tried to keep that essential truth in my plotting of Debt: social classes are more interconnected than they appear, and sometimes the pauper has the power to bring down the king.
This book was my tribute to my favorite social satirist. I hope it brings some of the pleasure to my readers that his work has brought to me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Carey is a writer and filmmaker. She received an MFA in Film Directing from NYU, a M.Ed. from Harvard, and a BA in English from Yale. She currently teaches college film classes — and lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey. Rachel is still paying back her student loans — and has dedicated her novel to the Sallie Mae Corporation.
ANNOUNCEMENT: For her outstanding and original writing, Silver Birch Press is nominating Rachel Carey for a 2013 Pushcart Prize.
NOTE: A FREE Kindle version of the Silver Birch Press release Debt, a novel by Rachel Carey is available through Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. You can download the Kindle version— which retails for $6.99 – for free at Amazon.com.
PHOTOS: Author photo and cover photo by Jeff McCrum.