Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of seven books, including Best Friends Forever, Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and Certain Girls. Her new Kindle Single is a terrifying, otherworldly tale of the restless dead.
One of the questions that motivates writers--one that haunts us, you could say--is the one I call "the great what-if." Consider technology. We live in a world where we can store ten thousand songs in a device the size of a pack of playing cards, pause live TV shows, download movies to our tablets, beam books into our Kindles, and buy anything from jeans to jewelry from the comfort of our couches. We can tweet and text and Facebook; we can Google potential romances (and Google-stalk the discards), and when we want to go somewhere new, we just plug the address right into the GPS, and we're off.
Few of us would want to ever go back to a world without those conveniences, but still… what if?
Even the sleekest and smartest new toys occasionally let us down. Screens crack, networks crash, banks accidentally email our Social Security number to thirty thousand strangers. Things fall apart, the center will not hold, the Fail Whale lurks in the shallows… and, if we allow for the possibility of human error, maybe it's not too radical to think about inhuman error, too.
Last Tuesday, I was driving back from a suburb I'd never visited. "Take me home," I told the GPS… and, maybe because it was so dark, and the road so empty, and Halloween just around the corner, I started thinking: What if, I wondered, the GPS took me to a cemetery instead?
Just like that, I had a story. An abused wife. A dead husband who was determined not to stay dead. A gift-wrapped box in the attic. And, inside, a GPS that would tell her to make some desperately wrong moves.
Here's where technology became my friend again. On Wednesday morning, I told my agent that the Story Fairy had left me something scary. If I wrote it, say, right now, was there any chance we could e-publish it on Halloween?
My agent called my publisher, and everyone on that end swung into action. While I was writing, they were designing a cover, securing an ISBN, putting together pre-sale links and, eventually, getting the piece edited and formatted. Today, on Halloween, you can buy the story I called "Recalculating," a bittersweet treat about what happens when the devices designed to help us decide that they have other things in mind.
I hope you like it. I hope it freaks you out a little bit, too. And, if you've got any long trips planned and you're relying on your GPS to see you there safe, I hope you'll pack a map.