Friday, 20 November 2015
GUEST POST: James Balbirnie on Human Trafficking
As horrific as it sounds, in the modern world profiteering from the misery of others is neither rare nor the preserve of the faecal sediment on the bottom of the varied pool which is humanity. Rather it is a spectrum which stretches from the banality of the media splattering misery onto the front pages of their papers and websites, and beaming suffering and carnage nonstop into our living rooms or directly to where we sit via our mobile phones. The spectrum passes through a thousand shades of greys through exploitative business models targeting the weak, ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes designed to relocate the money of the trusting into the pockets of the cynical; the ‘legitimate’ drug traders, tobacco companies riddling your lungs with cancer until you drown in your own fluids, pharmaceutical companies who ramp-up the cost of life-saving medication to fully exploit those in the greatest need, and the illicit dealing of anything from a spliff to slow death by heroin on street corners. It is at the very limit of the gamut, amongst the darkest greys, that exists human trafficking – the trading of life for greed and the dehumanising of our fellow human beings for gratification.
The subject matter of Traffic is of course dark and unsettling at times, but it was well worth every last drop of sweat or tears from the effort to write this novel because the stories of these women so often go untold, and in a way that makes the injustice that small but significant degree worse. As Rita outlined in “The Truth About Blogging Slumps”, like any writer I’ve hit walls, sometimes for weeks or months on end, had days when I was desperate to get back on the horse but couldn’t get a single sentence down, burned with frustration when rewriting a chapter or scene for the seventh or eighth time, and felt powerless when life was simply getting in the way (As well as writing I also work full-time as a healthcare scientist) but despite all these frustrations, the experience has still been immensely rewarding overall.
In keeping with my style I try to shoe-horn humorous moments into that darkness so that they might shine. I develop the characters before I really know what’s going to happen in the plot, fleshing them out to let them lead the story organically rather than fitting their actions to a pre-determined plot. I’ll let you know some of the characters’ traits as a certainty while keeping other motivations ‘behind the scenes’, letting them keep some cards close to their chests. When ‘building’ a person from the ground up, it’s impossible not to become committed to their affable qualities, which even the most depraved of characters may still have.
I wanted to write a novel from the viewpoint of an intelligence officer but concentrating on authenticity rather than the injection of romance and drama so often seen in the genre. I did a huge amount of research both before putting pen to paper and during writing and rewriting the book a number of times, much of this research was in the form of intelligence reports detailing human trafficking operations and investigations, and reading and watching documentaries not only about trafficking but also other themes which arose throughout the book.
Thank you, James, for the guest post! I thought that in light of some of the recent topics on my blog, this would be a relevant piece about the need for awareness of the atrocities that go on in our world today. I hope you enjoyed it - Rita