Five Things That Inspired What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman

March 6, 2019 | 2:00 PM

Five Things That Inspired What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman

By Kate A. Boorman

When I’m asked about inspiration for a book, I often have trouble tracing my process back to inception, the idea that started it all. I think this is because a) I feel like I’m always writing a book, whether I am sitting at my keyboard or wandering a forest path or standing in line for coffee—the things I observe or think about find their way into what I will write, and b) for me, writing is a process of asking myself questions about the things I’m interested in or obsessed with, then discovering the story within.

So to the question: Why did you decide to write a book about two estranged siblings who go on a dangerous road trip to find their missing parents?

Honest answer: I don’t really know.

But! I can pinpoint certain things that were on my mind when I began writing it. Here are five: 

1. Desolate landscapes. I’m from the (Canadian) prairies, so I feel like this one might be sewn into my DNA, but nothing lets my imagination run wild like a wide-open, natural setting. In the desert, the threat of imminent death lends an obvious sense of urgency and, let’s be real, an extra thrill. It felt like the perfect setting for a surreal, dangerous road trip. Plus, in Nevada, there is the additional mind-boggling-ness of Las Vegas. Miles and miles of what looks like Mars, and then—BAM!—a veritable jungle of lights, plastic, glitter, and thudding bass. Thinking about it makes my brain melt.

2. Perfectionism. I was thinking about the ways expectations of physical perfection shape our self-confidence as children/young people, and how that affects our relationships with others. We are told in many insidious ways in everyday life that there is an ideal to which we should aspire (the beauty pageant industry is an extreme example). Liv and Jory are two siblings who have each gotten the message that the most important thing about them is their physical appearance. They’ve had very different experiences, though, and their different perspectives on that is at the heart of their estrangement.

3. Nonlinear time. Part of our experience of reality is, of course, our perception of time. I am so interested in how we think about this. I’m fascinated by our assumption that it is linear—that our future lies “ahead” and our past is “behind” us. I don’t feel sure about that, but my brain has a hard time conceptualizing it any other way. Jory has an idea about this, though . . .

4. The Simulacra. We live in a fascinating, frustrating time in history where social media and crowdsourcing play a role in creating truth. “Simulacra” refers to representations, imitations, of something—which sums up our media-saturated existence. We are obsessed with performing our identities for one another, and with consuming the small details of people’s lives (real or not). Liv’s experience as a reality TV star is an extreme example of this, but it happens in many small ways on social media, to the point where what is fact and what is fiction become a rather moot point.

5. Memory. This is a personal obsession of mine. Memories are potentially so fallible, yet so integral to how we define ourselves. If you and I remember the same event very differently, and we are forever changed emotionally, where is the truth? Does it matter? The conundrum of memory is cyclical: a child’s recollection of an event, real or no, bleeds into their sense of self . . . but the person they grow to become also colors their memories. Where it all begins and ends feels a bit like the tattoo of an ouroboros on Jory’s arm. 

And there you have it: five things that were swirling around in my brain as I wrote the road trip thriller What We Buried.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the ride!




What We Buried by A. Kate Boorman

Siblings Liv and Jory Brewer have grown up resenting one another. Liv—former pageant queen and reality-TV star—was groomed for a life in the spotlight, while her older brother Jory, born with partial facial paralysis, was left in the shadows. The only thing they have in common is contempt for their parents.

Now Liv is suing her mom and dad for emancipation, and Jory views the whole thing as yet another attention-getting spectacle. But on the day of the hearing, their parents mysteriously vanish, and the siblings are forced to work together. Liv feels certain she knows where they are and suspects that Jory knows more than he’s telling... which is true.

What starts as a simple overnight road trip soon takes a turn for the dangerous and surreal. And as the duo speeds through the deserts of Nevada, brother and sister will unearth deep family secrets that force them to relive their pasts as they try to retain a grip on the present.


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