This new WIP, which I’ve tentatively titled On a Twisted Tree, is a first for me in a lot of ways. It marks the first time I’ve written about a place I’m intimately familiar with (I grew up in the area) and references places I pass by every day–in fact, part of the story takes place in my apartment. It’s also the first time I’ve written a protagonist with a disability, and the first time I’ve really dealt with the kind of people I grew up with, who are, in a word, unapologetic rednecks. Maybe most significantly, though, this is the first time I’ve dared to address some of the demons of my past through writing.
Now, I can’t write a story without some family drama, because we all know family drama is just ripe for the picking. This particular family is just as wonderfully fucked up as the rest of the ones I’ve written, and, just like many of the rest of the ones I’ve written, it comes along with a dysfunctional dad. In this story, though, I’m facing some particular dad issues head-on. I decided, more or less on a whim, to do this because the story lends itself well to it.
This dad is a larger-than-life version of my own (my dysfunctional dad is not a militant conspiracy theorist, for instance), and I will freely admit that. His two sons react to him in a combination of my real feelings and actions during a particular period of my life and the actions and words I wish I had done and spoken. The combination provides a pretty amazing catharsis. Part of me worries that I’ll turn this story into my own personal therapist and wring out all of my issues into it, but I think I’m pragmatic enough to handle it in a way that will appeal to a wider audience.
Because, really, what’s not to love about rednecks and mythology?
I’m also doing my best not to make the story into a session of “local masturbation,” as I like to call it, chock full of references and in-jokes and self-conscious descriptions of settings for the sole purpose of having someone who lives there go, “I know where that is!!” I’ve found this annoys me in other stories (Laurell K. Hamilton is bad about that, and Jim Butcher can be). If you live here, you know exactly where the boys’ trailer park is, you can picture the parking garage is, etc., but try to describe the setting in such a way that someone who will never set foot in Springfield will get most it.
This story is my own weird tribute to the area and the people that fostered me in my formative years. I’ve developed an odd affection for the place, so it’s fitting that I write this as I’m leaving it. Even more, though, as I move on in my life (cue violin music), it’s my attempt to exorcise some of my personal demons rather than letting them haunt me.