The Story Behind the Story – Researching “Gated” by Amy Christine Parker
Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in? Amy Christine Parker’s young adult debut, Gated, published from Random House on August 6th. She joins us today to talk about the research behind her novel.
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Shelf Pleasure for inviting me to talk about my book, Gated. I’ve very much enjoyed visiting this site myself and am excited to be here!
The idea for Gated came to me all at once one night while I was watching television with my husband. We were watching a documentary on extreme underground bunkers and their increasing numbers in recent years. This program is very similar to the one I was watching:
What interested me most wasn’t that these shelters were being built, but that they were so elaborate. Contractors were basically building underground luxury condos in large underground facilities modeled after cruise ships (amenities-wise) and selling them for hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars. And lots of people were buying them! With no real concrete proof that the end was near (just conjecture from theorists), how could these people make such a large financial leap? I couldn’t fathom it, and yet, I couldn’t dismiss them as crack pots either since most of the buyers were people who were articulate and obviously very intelligent. It made me think about how extreme belief in a concept…or a religion could make people do things that seemed ridiculous to someone on the outside of their situation looking in. It wasn’t long before this line of thinking led me towards apocalyptic cults. Once I linked the two together, I had the foundation for my story.
When it came to researching, I looked up everything I could about survivalists and cultists. Since the plotline for Gated deals with some very intense topics, the research for it got pretty disturbing at times. To begin with, I read through the transcripts from the final hours in Jonestown.
Let me tell you, they are not something that I will ever forget. Chilling is the only word to describe them. The people there weren’t all blindly following at the end. There were several voicing concerns, but they’d allowed themselves to be isolated in the jungle by that point and Jim Jones was determined not to let them go.
I watched videos of David Koresh during the Waco siege with several of his children gathered around him laughing and talking right before their deaths.
This video in particular I think illustrates the type of relationship I wanted my cult leader, Pioneer, to have with the children in his community.
I also looked at the “exit videos” created by Heaven’s Gate members.
It is an eerie thing to watch people smile excitedly as they speak about their upcoming suicide. These videos helped me explore the mindset of a cult’s most enthusiastic members.
All of the above served to inspire the way Gated unfolded. Although, maybe one of the most influential of all of the videos I watched about cultists (though not as widely known) was this one on Wayne Bent and his followers.
I’ve included the link for the first part in a multipart series of YouTube videos. I will warn you though, that the documentary is very disturbing, so watch at your discretion. While the leader of the community in my book is not sexually involved with his followers the way that this particular cult leader is, he shares a similar creepy control over them. This video also showed the way that some of the teenaged girls in Mr. Bent’s Strong City community worked to support each other’s belief in him as their Messiah while also excusing his inappropriate behavior towards them. They talked to each other in such a weird, surface way that was full of statements obviously straight from their leader’s mouth word for word. It got me wondering if either of them ever doubted what they were saying and if they did, whether they’d ever open up to the other about it. This wondering eventually informed the way that I constructed the relationship between my main character, Lyla, and her best friend, Marie.
For this book the research was crucial. I really needed to get into the mindset of someone living inside of a cult so that the story felt as authentic as possible. I spent just as much time researching as I did writing. Hopefully it shows in the finished story.
Amy Christine Parker was born in Pennsylvania and spent most of her early years there. Many of her best memories are of hiding out in her room where she made up elaborate pretend play scenarios most often involving orphaned baby dolls and Barbies dressed in fashions made out of Kleenex.
Amy was always attracted to writing, but she tried a lot of other jobs on for size first before settling into writing full time. At some point or another, she has been a collectible doll-maker, a fondue waitress, an inner city school teacher, and a stay at home mom. Currently she is writing full time and lives in a suburb of Tampa, Florida with her very supportive husband, their two creative and energetic daughters, one absurdly fat orange cat.
Learn more and order your own copy of Gated here:
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