Sarina, Sweetheart by Megan Carney
Publication date: March 5th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction
Her name is Sarina Wocek. Her breath is poison. She was not born out of love.
Twenty-three years ago, government officials traced the budding epidemic of hemorrhagic fever HF186-2A in south Florida to the Wocek family and their adorable six-week-old daughter, Sarina. Her father, Gregory, admitted his role in genetically engineering a biological weapon with pride. She was taken to a lab hidden in a rural area of New Hampshire. She hasn’t left since.
Her government keepers could cure her, but they won’t. Genetically engineering a child to be a weapon of mass destruction, that’s unethical. Refining a weapon of mass destruction that someone else created? That’s just being clever.
After twenty-three years of captivity, she escapes. She crosses an ocean to put her father and the lab behind her, but it’s not enough. When she sees the first bleeding sore, she knows she didn’t leave the virus behind either.
The only way she’ll be free is by destroying every trace of the lab. She only has one advantage; she doesn’t care if she makes it out alive.
British Bookworm Blog (things that inspire or favorite things to do) – Have pen, will travel
On paper, travelling makes no sense. After all, if you have food, clothing and shelter in one spot, why go to another where you have to figure it all out again? And pay for the privilege?
It makes even less sense as a hobby for me, because my friends often accuse me of being cheap. (I prefer the term frugal.) In any case, I think travel is well worth the money. Especially if you want to write. Many of the moments in Sarina, Sweetheart were inspired by experiences I’ve had while traveling.
Traveling challenges and teaches me in a way few other activities can. My first trip to Taiwan was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken. It wasn’t the first time I’d traveled internationally, but it was the first time I had planned the trip by myself. It was also the first time I’d visited a country where I was functionally illiterate.
When Sarina, the main character, escapes and goes on the run she’s thrust into an environment that is foreign to her. She’s never been allowed outside before. She leaves the freighter in Spain and is immediately swallowed by a chaotic, vibrant city. That moment is inspired by my first moments in Taipei. Like Sarina, I was tired and a little scared. But the place was so new and so wonderful and so interesting, I forgot to be afraid. Like Sarina in Algeciras, I navigated Taipei using mostly my nose and my instincts. I chose restaurants based on how they smelled and ordered based on the pictures.
There’s a lot you can learn just by watching people around you. When Sarina goes through customs for the first time, she doesn’t know anything about what to say or what not to say. All she knows is what she learned from dealing with the guards at the lab, and what she could figure by watching the people in front of her. I’ve never had to sneak large amounts of cash through customs, like she does, but I’ve had plenty of moments where I don’t understand what’s going on. I’ve been in at least two different airports where there was a surprise cash fee to exit or enter. You just watch the flow of people and follow their lead.
Of course, my challenges were a bit different than my characters. Sarina speaks three languages and can read most of the signs, but her sheltered upbringing means she makes some embarrassing mistakes. Like when she tries to pay the Arabic restaurant owner in dollars, because she didn’t change her money into euros. Luckily, I’ve never made that mistake, but I did once have a very confusing argument with a French hotel owner who was afraid my group was trying to walk out on the bill. I think the words for yesterday and today. What I remember the most is how frustrating it was trying to convince a suspicious stranger I meant no harm, when I couldn’t completely speak her language.
I wish that were the only awkward moment I’ve had while traveling. When my husband I were in Taiwan on our rented scooter, there was a local who started following us, then tried to direct us somewhere. I think he must have run some sort of hotel or something. Despite shaking our heads and waving him away, he didn’t give up for several blocks. That’s the moment I was thinking of when Sarina thinks the man from the train is following her. She’s not sure the man is actually a threat to her, but he creeps her out and he wouldn’t leave her alone earlier, so she does whatever she can to get away from him.
Most of my experiences with strangers while traveling have been good ones, and that definitely shows up in the story. Sarina gets invited to eat with strangers, because they notice she’s alone and looks a little lost. I’m always surprised by how kind people can be if you need just a little help. When I was in Taroko National Park in Taiwan, I went to do this hike the guidebook said was a must-do, and I forgot my flashlight in my hotel room. For this particular hike you really need one. It goes through a bunch of tunnels that have been carved out of the rocks. There was another group of people there with flashlights that kindly let me tag along, and it was a real life-saver.
I think traveling makes me a better writer because the more places I go, the more I discover the universals of human nature. Mostly, the world is full of people doing what they need to do in the best way they know how to do it. I’ve learned there are a lot of right ways to live a life, and a few wrong ones. I try to take all those characters and perspectives and put them into my writing because I want to show that world to other people.
Megan Carney is an author, geek and amateur photographer living in the Twin Cities. She has ten years of experience in the field of computer security. Her previous short story publications include: ‘Flighty Youth’ in the Raritan, ‘Modern Mayhem’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Swing By Close’ in the Wayfarer, ‘Directions’ in the Bell Tower. ‘Swing By Close’ and ‘Directions’ both won first prize in the fiction sections of that issue. The Christian Science Monitor dubbed her self-published photography book, ‘Signs of My Cities’ as having “youthful zest.”
Her non-literary creations include: a robot to clean the bathroom tub, Zim and Gir costumes, No-Dig tomato stakes, StickFriend the bear bag hanger, and a burning coal costume so she could be Katniss for a night.