A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey was published by Chicken House earlier this month. The first book in the brand new The Unicorne Files series, A Dark Inheritance is thrilling story with X-Files/paranormal themes and a definite whiff of conspiracy. Today I am really happy to be hosting a guest piece from Chris as he embarks on his UK blog tour:
Remembering Rafferty Nolan
When I was at university, studying biology, there was a particular lecturer I really enjoyed hearing. His name escapes me now (it’s been a long time since I was a student) but his field of interest was genetics. Over a period of weeks he taught us, among other things, about the discovery of the genetic code and the structure of DNA. He told it like a real story, chapter by chapter – the four bases, the alpha helix etc. – and I remember being so gripped that I would get to the lecture theatre early to be sure of getting a good place. That was the closest I came to being a science nerd. Not too long after university my life began to move down a literary path and science became something I relied on simply to pay the bills. But I’m certain that lecturer had a huge influence on my writing. I still love a good scientific mystery now, and occasionally it shows in my books.
This is partly what fuelled the central theme of A Dark Inheritance, the first in my new series The UNICORNE Files. I love anything that might be said to lie on the extreme edges of science, particularly those subjects that have no robust scientific credibility yet can’t quite be dismissed as hokum. The one that pops up in A Dark Inheritance is the fascinating phenomenon of cellular memory. To explain: people who’ve had organ transplants sometimes make the extraordinary claim that they have some memory of their donor or that they’ve inherited some of their donor’s personality traits. Imagine a forty-year-old man who has never been interested in gardening receives a new kidney and suddenly begins to know the Latin names for plants or has a strong urge to visit garden centres. He then finds out that his donor was a keen gardener. That would be cellular memory.
There have been many theories put up to explain it and I don’t have room to go into them here. Some people believe that every cell in the human body has full ‘consciousness’. And to hark back to my genetics teacher, in one lecture he dealt with the captivating subject of totipotent cells, which have the ability to differentiate into a complete organism from a single cell state. Wow. So where does this lead us?
Well, in an early review of A Dark Inheritance, the reviewer said they didn’t ‘get’ cellular memory. Fine. Hand on heart, I don’t ‘get’ telekinesis or past-life regression or out-of-body experiences – or my beloved dragons, for that matter – but I don’t have to believe in a thing to want to explore it in a work of fiction. Subjects like these are toys in a writer’s attic, there to be picked up, played with and re-imagined. With cellular memory, I did what all writers do, I lodged the idea into my subconscious and let it bubble away for a while. It eventually came back with an interesting question, “What if the donor had died in an accident, but the person receiving the organ remembered something that would suggest the death wasn’t an accident?” And away I went.
A Dark Inheritance is a kind of ghost story with a twist. The notion of cellular memory is used to unravel the truth behind the untimely death of a girl called Rafferty Nolan. To say any more than that would be to say too much. Writing the story hasn’t made me believe in the subject any more now than it did before I started. But my mind is open and the truth is out there. A fantasy writer wouldn’t have it any other way.
A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey, out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)