Arts and Entertainment Editor
Small monsters – it might be an oxymoron to most people’s ears, but for Holly Goddard Jones, it was the perfect spectacle — an oddity that became the enemy in her newest dystopian novel, “The Salt Line.”
Jones’ newest book is sure to delight, as she has received raving reviews by The New York Times and Gillian Flynn, the author of “Gone Girl” for her past novel, “The Next Time You See Me.”
“The Salt Line” begins with these small monsters, also known as disease-carrying ticks, that are running rampant outside a scorched ring of earth on United States soil. Most civilians live inside the ring, keeping themselves secure, but there are a few that desert the safety and roam outside. One of these are a pop star and his girlfriend Edie, as well as a technology wizard named Wes, and the somewhat harmless housewife, Marta. They find themselves held captive by Ruby City, a community of people living on the outside – doing what they need to survive. The three create and destroy friendships and alliances as they try to go back to the security of inside the ring.
“The Salt Line,” is the third book published by UNCG’s Creative Writing professor, Jones, and the first dystopian novel she has completed. “[The dystopian] genre I have read, but never wrote before,” said Jones, as she discussed the challenges with writing something entirely different. “[I had to] imagine a universe where environmental consequences would act like that.” Her biggest concern was the ability to answer plot holes and make sense of the story for herself.
Originally, the major goal for “The Salt Line” was neither to become a novel nor have a dystopian-based plot; instead, it was destined to be a short horror story. In 2012, Jones was brainstorming new ideas for a project, which is when she thought of including a monster that did not fit the usual stereotype. This is when deadly ticks became the focus. The more Jones thought about the story, the more depth it required, making it the perfect novel. Once she switched her aim towards the dystopian genre, she struggled, saying, “it felt vulnerable,” and questioned her knowledge about technology;“Am I smart enough to write big ideas?”
“The Salt Line” is more overt in the way it questions the realities and boundaries of gender and class, unlike her previous published works that had a subtler take on such issues. “I hesitate to boil the themes down,” Jones says, but she does want readers to know the book is hopeful, even though it focuses on some of the destructive themes characterized by the dystopian genre.
Jones owes a lot of the book’s insight to her role as a mother. She also owes some of her inspiration from one of her favorite authors – Margaret Atwood. Just as Atwood is adept at writing novels featuring various genres, Jones would like a diverse career as well. “The Salt Line,” though still fiction, is a change in landscape from her first book, “Girl Trouble,” a collection of short stories, and her second book, “The Next Time You See Me,” a crime/ psychological mystery novel. From all her published books, it is easy to see that Jones is on her way to creating a line of work that she has always desired to make.
Now that Jones has experienced more in her life, she said she has more ideas, but less time to write. Jones uses her time productively, something she wished she knew how to do when she was a young writer. After four years, and two children, “The Salt Line” was finalized and ready to publish.
Jones also has a wealth of knowledge to share, by giving concise and easy-to-use advice for amateur writers. “Like exercise, make yourself do it when you don’t want to,” Jones said, as she explained the need to force oneself to write even when there is no inspiration.
She also debunks the idea of ‘writer’s block’ by saying, “It is less a failure of ideas and more of a failure of craft.” Though this may come off harsh to the novice writer, she further explains by saying the longer you wait for inspiration, the harder it will be to write, but the more you write the easier it comes. Jones also cannot deny she had her own cases of writer’s block, but mostly in her youth. Now, writing seems to come in the form of an itch, where she lets scenarios dance in her head until they develop complete thoughts.
With “The Salt Line” hitting shelves on Tuesday, Jones reflects, saying, “writing it was a process of discovery,” as if she was “unearthing the story.” With such a mystery, readers should find time to unearth “The Salt Line” for themselves by purchasing a copy through Amazon.