A guest post by Jamie Krakover
When I wrote the first draft of TRACKER220, the idea came swiftly and the words easily as well. What didn’t come easy was an aspect of the main character’s identity. The main character, Kaya Weiss, is Jewish. And as a Jewish author, you’d think that aspect of her story would be a natural progression of her character and the plot, and yet I struggled to find a way to make it meaningful to the story.
Early on, one of my critique partners pointed out that Weiss is a very Jewish sounding name. I immediately responded that’s because Kaya is Jewish. I knew that from the beginning, but it wasn’t part of the story from the onset. In fact, Kaya’s struggle to understand her identify as a Jew and how it fits in with the advanced technology in her brain that often conflicts with her faith came at the eleventh hour.
I’d just received a Revise and Resubmit (R&R) from an agent that had read the manuscript. A piece of feedback she’d given me “Kaya tells us a lot about the world she lives in but we need to be shown” wiggled its way into my brain and lodged itself there. About 24 hours later after periodically running those words through my head, I was in my bedroom and it hit me out of nowhere. If Kaya is Jewish, then the fact that she has technology in her brain like a cell phone that can’t ever be shut off is problematic for her and her journey. That technology would directly conflict with her ability to observe a tech-free Shabbat among other things.
I instantly had that piece I was missing, the way to show Kaya’s world through her eyes and her struggle between two important things in her life, her Judaism and the tech that gives her instant access to knowledge, her friends, and her family. While it seemed to make so much sense, I still worried that this was the right answer because the agent had asked me to show the world, not add Kaya’s religion to the story. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew her Judaism was the missing piece that was preventing me from exploring the Tracker world through her eyes. When Kaya’s tracker glitches, she sees what little tolerance there is for broken tech and people who don’t fall in line. During that time she gets a glimpse of what the world looks like on the other side, a world not constantly connected to technology, a world where she can figure out what being Jewish means to her without everyone telling her what it should be.
While the core of the story changed very little through the whole revision process, Kaya’s character came alive when I explored the Tracker world through her eyes and allowed her to find herself and her faith. And despite the likely original intent of the feedback, it helped me make the story come alive; it breathed new life into Kaya’s world, and her character. But most importantly, it helped me incorporate a Jewish character in a science fiction story in an impactful way, something I wasn’t sure I knew how to do. When Kaya’s story was complete, I knew her Judaism was the missing link, the piece she needed to find all along.
About the Author
Growing up with a fascination for space and things that fly, Jamie Krakover turned that love into a career as an Aerospace Engineer. Combining her natural enthusiasm for Science Fiction and her love of reading, she now spends a lot of her time writing Middle Grade and Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Jamie lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband, Andrew, her son, and their dog Rogue (after the X-Men, not Star Wars, although she loves both). When she isn’t being a Rocket Scientist by day and a writer by night, she can be found catching up on the latest sci fi TV, books, and movies as well as spending time on Twitter (maybe a little too much time :-P). And no, the rocket science jokes never get old! Learn more about Jamie at her blog.