Dismantled was inspired by one of those epic dreams that seem to go on forever. It centered around an old college friend. In the dream, we were in the rustic cabin I had been living in when I wrote my first novel – deep in the woods, cut off from the world. She confided in me that she was an outlaw now, deeply involved in an underground art collective who believed true art was about taking things apart, undoing objects and institutions, breaking reality down to its component parts. They called themselves the Compassionate Dismantlers.
I woke up knowing that the Dismantlers belonged in a book. The obvious backdrop was a fictionalized version of the college that my dream-friend and I had attended. It was a small, funky, alternative school in rural Vermont. Earnest poets in black had passionate discussions about global monkey-wrenching, paganism, and the meaning of art with hippies covered in body paint. The only taboo was conformity. It was a tight community of some the most intensely creative (and okay, maybe slightly nutty) people I’ve ever known.
I started wondering what had become of all those free spirits who were going to change the world. What were their lives like, ten, fifteen years later, with kids to feed, a mortgage, umpteen thousand dollars worth of student loans? What happens to all the creative writers, artists, actors, dancers who aren’t able to translate their talent into a living, who have to choose between following their passion and having a job with health insurance? It struck me that perhaps the biggest ghosts we have to face are those of our old selves, tormenting, reminding us of what we might have been.
This is how the book that came to be Dismantled was born. Henry, Tess, Suz, and Winnie became my young idealists, and they have a manifesto that declares: Dismantlement = Freedom; To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart. And so I took my poor characters apart, page by page, chapter by chapter. Henry and Tess must face the ghosts of what might-have-been, which are almost more terrifying than the real ghost they come to believe is haunting them. As the lives of the Dismantlers unravel, as secrets are unearthed, and the careful little worlds they’ve built comes crashing down — only then do they, and we as readers, begin to understand what makes them whole.