Blog Tour: The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken talks Bob Dylan

Welcome to our stop on The Darkest Minds blog tour for Alexandra Bracken. The Darkest Minds is the first book in The Darkest Minds series. Today Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Minds, stops by to talk about Bob Dylan and how one of his songs inspired her book’s original title.

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Alexandra Bracken was born and raised in Arizona, but moved east to study at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She recently relocated to New York City, where she works in publishing and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan

Way back when The Darkest Minds was originally called Black is the Color, a lot of people assumed the title came from the folk song Black is the Colo(u)r of my True Love’s Hair. That title was actually inspired by a line in this song by Bob Dylan, which has always been one of my favorites by him. The imagery in it is vaguely apocalyptic, tying into the nuclear fears in that time. Though he denies that the rain itself isn’t fallout rain, he described it as representing some kind of imminent end—a signal that something big was about to happen. The structure of the song is based on an old folk ballad, “Lord Randall,” in which a mother questions her son about where he’s been—starting each verse with Where have you been?—until he ultimately reveals that he’s been poisoned. And, spoiler, dies at the end.

In the liner notes of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, he explained: “’Hard Rain’ is a desperate kind of song. Every line in it is actually the start of a whole song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one.”

To understand why I was so intrigued by that idea of so many stories combining to form a narrative, you have to know that in the very early drafts of the book, Liam, Chubs, and Zu weren’t totally focused on finding East River the way they are in the finished book. While they’d heard rumors about it, and were intrigued by the idea, when Ruby met them they were actually in the process of delivering letters from all of the boys who didn’t make it out of their camp, Caledonia, during the escape. I think Liam saw it as performing a kind of penance for the part he played in it; he knew there was no way they could get to the families if they dropped them in the mail, so he put himself in danger over and over again. Liam believed, above all else, that it was imperative he told their parents exactly what the camps were, and what had happened to their children. He was telling their stories, not letting them disappear.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make for the most cohesive narrative, and the more I applied logic to it, it seemed less likely that all of these boys in their room would have entrusted their letters to one person—because, seriously, they would have been out of luck if something had happened to Liam. It made much more sense that they’d trade them with the people they were close to and trusted. Liam and Chubs exchanged letters, along with Jack Fields, another kid they were close to. In the final draft, Jack’s family is the only one they’re looking for.

Also, I’ve always felt like the final verse fits nicely with the last section of the book. What do you think?

And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son ?
And what'll you do now my darling young one ?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my songs well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

The Darkest Minds
The Darkest Minds #1
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Released: December 18th 2012
Available: Amazon • Barnes & NobleBook Depository

Summary: When Ruby awakened on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." Because Ruby might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby knows that she is one of the dangerous ones and, when the truth comes out, she barely escapes Thurmond with her life. On the run and desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her, Ruby joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what she did to her parents.

When they arrive at the safe haven, East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work too, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. And soon Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

The heart-pounding first book a near-future dystopian series, Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds will leave you begging for the next installment.

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