When I began A Dangerous Woman, I had more than just a vision, but also a plan: to reflect the structure of reality in my stories. Much of my life is in those works, but not always in obvious places: Verity Lake’s area of study was my undergraduate thesis, and her stage “act” in the beginning of the novel Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations is something that happened to me in real life that served as more than just a personal revelation about the nature of reality, but became the backbone for Matriarchal Storytelling.
When I was fifteen, I had my ears tucked. They stuck out just enough for my mother to make comments for me not to wear a ponytail, and then I took the dramatic route and went for cosmetic surgery. I had to wear a huge bandage on my head for a few weeks, but when they came off, something strange happened.
Sound didn’t sound normal. Voices sounded staccato, broken, bouncing off the walls, tinny, and filled with echoes.
For about a minute.
And then suddenly all these disjointed chords pulled together and it sounded normal again.
This shocked me. I never thought about it before.
What if “normal” sound wasn’t reality? What if that abnormal sound was the reality — and the real thing, and our brains “trick” us into pulling them together?
It stayed with me. My undergraduate thesis was in psychoacoustics, and eventually, Dr. Lake’s signature act to prove that how we perceive reality isn’t the actual reality.
After I became a journalist, I realized that revelation extended to my chosen profession. You read a novel and it is smooth, like the sound you perceive, but that smooth flow is something you read in a newspaper article, too.
But that is not unfiltered and raw reality. That is constructed reality.
When I write a news story, for instance, that’s not what I am given.
I have to interview people. I have to corroborate what they say. I have to find evidence, research, context, and a bunch of other things that I have to dig for, such as court transcripts, high school yearbooks, eyewitnesses, memos, transcripts, and social media feeds.
And then after piecing things together, you get that nice, easy, and smooth story.
But if I were to replace the writing with the information I got in order to write it, it wouldn’t be so smooth and obvious. There would tangents and other things mixed in. There would be irrelevant information, and even contradictory information.
When I did Chaser Investigative News over a decade ago, I included the raw information — and told readers what I was doing and going with it.
In other words, I presented the raw reality of the story as I showed the process of harmonizing things.
Like sound. Your brain filters out the extraneous and irrelevant parts and harmonizes it so you don’t get too distracted.
But people take that process for granted, and then become stupid little motherfuckers who think the reality is the smooth, not the fragmented.
And when you do that, you are lying to yourself. Unless you are aware of the harmonization, you get lost because all of your calculations will be off, and you always miss the mark and not solve the problems because you take off the table the one thing that has to be on the table: that there are things that you are overlooking or taking for granted.
You have to account for the differences between reality and the perception of reality.
Before I launched the original Chaser, I wrote an anthology of short stories called Consumer-isms in 12 Easy Steps.
And many of those stories were told in an epistolary style — no narrative, but through voice mails, emails, memos, and raw data where the reader had to piece together the story.
They way I had to do it as a journalist.
That book and my web site would eventually inspire A Dangerous Woman Story Studio where I would have both the smooth perceptions of individual stories, but with the raw reality of having intersecting stories. Supporting characters in one series were main characters in another. Passing references in one novel where the focus on a short story elsewhere.
Just like real life.
It mimicked the reality of sound as well as our perceptions of it.
The chords can be fragmented or sing in harmony, depending on what you listen to and how you pull those chords together.
Magnus Lyme is the root note, while Holly Lake is the melody note, and third character is the third note. It all depends on what you hear, and what notes you happen to catch.
And we see Magnus through different eras of her life that come in waves. These stories do not have to be read in order, and there are advantages to not reading them in any particular order. You are putting together a literary jigsaw puzzle, and the pieces come from all over the place.
It doesn’t matter which piece you pick up first: sooner or later the big picture emerges.
That is the advantage of the Matriarchal: you don’t have to be a slave to linearity or order. Chaos will get you there just the same, with greater advantages that teach you how to break the shackles that serve as blinders by learning to develop other senses.
That is the triumph of the Matriarchal, and that is the reason I write my stories in any order my heart feels a need and want to express…