The first two pictures are of me when I was sixteen and seventeen, several months apart. Glamour shots were all the rage and that second picture was my birthday present. I had colour and black and white, and truth be told, I prefer my black and white pictures.
That era of my life I represent in my fiction writing with my Sparrow: Dream Detective stories.
The Sparrow is a little older than that — she is about nineteen when she gave away her birthdays, and she stays at the age when people do fall in love and feel strongly about true love and soulmates. Much of the logic for those surrealist stories comes from what was popping in my head way back then.
And I was an active fiction writer even back then. I just discovered Salvador Dali and was an avid reader of Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. When I started to write The World’s Most Dangerous Woman, there was no Sparrow, Doyenne Assassin, or Women of Orchid.
There was a Phil Lipton and Marigold Wesley kicking around because I had written an unpublished book that I was never happy with. It was clever, outrageous, and witty, but it was too harsh. I abandoned it, but re-read it because I could never figure out how to fix it. Sometimes the story actually works, but you know it’s not your best because while it is polished, the core isn’t what you want it to be.
Magnus is a character I have had kicking around a lot longer. In a way, since my teenage years. She originally was a concept for a superhero, except her name was Francesca Magnus Lyme. You didn’t mess with her, but I eventually dropped the idea. I had sketches of the character — with a black turtleneck top, but while I liked the look of her, she was too harsh.
Eventually, Magnus was reborn as Magnus Demeter Lyme, and I had a book called Chaser — she had her friends, but she was a smart-ass. I wrote one manuscript, it didn’t thrill me. I wrote another in the present tense — the mystery was great, but she wasn’t.
I scrapped that, too.
Then she appeared in a short story that did get published in 2008 in my short story anthology from bluechrome. She came off as a cunning jerk, but as she wasn’t the main character and the story was told from the perspective of a rival, it is up for interpretation.
Then I wrote a new manuscript with her — but while I was trying to soften her, she still wasn’t working out for me.
But I remembered Phil and Marigold, and it was time I revisited the characters with the same base, but with Phil and Magnus being former colleagues. Phil transmuted, became kinder and more secure, and I had fun with the character, not worrying about snark and crafting an immaculate plot.
Suddenly, Phil worked out, but Magnus didn’t; however, I started developing the characters of Queen’s Heights, including Holly Lake — her mysteries were a story-within-a-story, and the purpose was to give Magnus perspective — and each chapter was a self-contained story of her cases.
And then I scrapped it.
But not entirely.
Parts worked, but the mysteries were perfect for Phil and Marigold, so I tweaked them.
Magnus would go through a final transformation.
And then I found my Magnus.
The prim and proper punk.
The World’s Most Dangerous Woman.
I wrote two short stories that were published in an online literary journal. The Queen’s Heights angle was expanded and kept. So were Phil and Marigold. The short story angle was also kept.
But Magnus was still ahead of her time. No publisher wanted to touch her because she wasn’t slutty, nor was she insecure. That was the feedback I got. One publisher didn’t like the fact that she didn’t fall for one of the cabals and got burned.
That was in 2011 or so.
But it was just as well.
I suddenly wanted to tell stories of other characters, and I couldn’t do it with a traditional publisher.
So came A Dangerous Woman Story Studio.
So why didn’t Magnus work for about twenty years?
Simple: she wasn’t personal. She was my idea of what I thought a tough female character would be, but she wasn’t me.
She wasn’t personal.
As soon as I started to open up and base her on my essence, it was easier to explore the character. There was no mask or fortress between my character and me — or one between me and the audience.
Then suddenly, it wasn’t just Magnus, but a world of characters with a Matriarchal structure. The third picture was taken right after I finished my magnum opus Dr. Verity Lake’s Journey of a Thousand Revelations. It clocks in at almost 1600 pages. I have had people who read it tell me they didn’t think they could endure a book that big, but had no problem doing so because it feels like four books, not one.
That I could write 1600 pages in a few short months during a very trying time in my life happened strictly because what I was writing was personal.
Because Matriarchal builds on the personal. It is intimate in its design. You cannot nurture from a distance. It is up close to the heart or it is nothing.
I could write about characters from different times and places. Once you connect with one character, the spread of activation happens, and you become connected to them all.
What part do I wish to explore today? That’s the joy of the Matriarchal. You are putting your cards on the table. Not everyone will appreciate it, and there will be people who will do everything to try to silence you, but that’s not your problem.
I solved that problem, and now I am thinking how to take A Dangerous Woman on a different platform. I don’t know what, however.
But whatever it is, it will be personal…