If there’s one thing authors can be expected to have to answer left and right, it’s “What is your book about?” Makes sense, right? Nevertheless, sometimes I find myself reluctant to mention that I’m a writer because doing so inevitably means I’ll have to mention The Notice and that means I’ll have to talk about how I got the idea and what writing it was like and I end up talking for 30 minutes.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking about my book—I just feel extremely conceited when I do. It’s like parents who keep bragging about their children. I’m worried that if I say too much people will just stop caring.
But since you’re here, I’d like to talk about how The Notice came together. The idea for the book was inspired by the stories of my fiancée, Nina, who I met at Centre College. We’ve been together five years now, but about two years into our relationship, she told me the story of a recurring dream she’s had since her childhood in Bosnia & Herzegovina during the war. In the dream, she tore down the obituary (more closely translated to “death notices” over there) of a woman—this obituary had been placed in a public square to alert people of deaths in the community. When she tore down the notice, she said the elderly woman’s ghost appeared before her, slapped her on the wrist, and hung the paper back on the wall. That may not sound like much, but it was the jumping off point for my story.
I had researched the Bosnian War as a student at Centre and continued writing about it during my M.A. work at the University of Kentucky. I had read horrible, heartrending accounts from that war and had researched specifically its toll on women. The Bosnian War brought rape as an instrument of warfare to the forefront of international political discourse, as did the Rwandan War in 1994, which reflected many of Bosnia’s symptoms. After reading Peter Uvin’s fine book Aiding Violence and watching Hotel Rwanda and interviewing refugees from the Bosnian affair, I knew that I wanted to construct a narrative that could shed light on why genocide happens and how people are affected by ethnic cleansing, while also breaking down some of the stereotypes that are typically associate with nationalistic violence in developing countries.
My fiancée’s story served as a vehicle for me to show that, regardless of the war, innocents by far outnumber the lunatics you see in the news and largely account for the human toll of any war. It took me approximately three months to construct the story for The Notice, another six months to write it, and another month or two to edit it. I promise you that The Notice will give you an eye-opening perspective of a wonderful culture that I am lucky to know well. You will see the dark and unthinkable side of what fear and violence can do to a country, as well as what good people can do for each other during the worst times imaginable. And if you’re not satisfied with the ending—I truly believe you will be—you have my sincerest apologies.
I mean that about the ending. The last chapter came to me not long after I started writing the story and then I worked backwards from there. If you see it through to the end, I think you’ll be rewarded with the resolution. If you download The Notice, I hope you enjoy the ride, and know that you have my thanks.