In today’s ORIGINS, Steve Karas talks about the inspiration for his story “To Abdo, With Love,” which appears in the winter 2014 issue of jmww.
Around the time I wrote this story, I’d been reading Friend.Follow.Text, a short-fiction anthology edited by Shawn Syms that explores the intersection between social media and literature. The news about chemical weapons in Syria had recently come out and I had the idea to write a story about an American who follows the events through the chronicles of a Syrian blogger. How do these events impact us differently when we experience them through real people versus the lens of the evening news? For various reasons, my original idea didn’t pan out but did evolve into this story about a quasi-relationship between a young American girl and her pen pal, a boy growing up in Syria.
I don’t often write stories from the perspective of twelve-year-old girls, and that was definitely a challenge for me, but I wanted to create a character who I thought could sympathize with and who had the desire to embrace someone living through a horrible crisis six thousand miles away. As adults, I feel like we learn to be detached from tragedies happening across the globe, not to mention outside of our own homes, because it protects us from perpetual distress. But young people, I think, are vulnerable which gives them the capacity to be more passionate.
The young girl in this story is an Army Colonel’s daughter. She knows a thing or two about war and the fear of loss. Years ago, I spent some time at Fort Campbell and always wanted to include it in a story. The girl is going through her own sort of torment as well and wants desperately to connect with and battle through life with another underdog. So she clings to this boy although we’re never quite sure if he remembers her or if he’s even alive. His struggle inspires her, nonetheless, and sparks her own miniature uprising.