What’s The Morgan Chronicles all about?
When I was thirteen years old, I began writing a novel. It was inspired by a photograph I’d seen, and was going to be a great, fun romp. But it never happened. I was completely unable to write that story then, so I’m writing it now.
The year is 1984, the place Great Falls, Montana. The scene: a thirteen year old girl gets the latest record from her favourite rock band and takes it home to play it. Inside the cover is included a glossy 12″ photo essay booklet of the band. The last photo in the booklet is about to change her life forever.
That girl was me, of course. I got that record and looked at those photos. The album was Arena, by the band Duran Duran. The last photo was of the bass player, John Taylor. He was just sitting there, trying to look sexy and probably wondering when they would break for lunch. Just another day at the office for him. But there was something about the way he held himself, the look on his face, that caught my imagination, and not in the way the photographer or rock star had ever intended. I saw a story in that photograph that had nothing to do with Duran Duran, or John Taylor, or rock and roll. It had to do with a magician’s nephew. The story was entirely mine.
I have no doubt that if that photo had never existed then the story would have come out anyway. It was inside me all along. Something else would have eventually triggered it in some form or another, it was only a matter of time. But it was that photo, and because of that the story took the form it has. So set aside thoughts of other forms, styles, characters. Forget about alternative media. It’s a book. It has these characteristics. It is my story. Because it was that photo that started it all. The photo at the top of the page.
To anyone else in the world, that’s a picture of a rock star doing his job: selling himself. And it wasn’t intended to be seen the way I took it, I’m sure. If it were, everyone in the world would be writing this book instead of some other book, and I’d be a really boring person because I’d be writing the same book as everyone else. So. Not intended to be seen like I see it. Good. So what did I see that no one else saw?
I saw pain. I saw (and still see, whenever I look at this picture) a pain so deep it is unutterable. It is beyond pain anymore, into that state of incomprehension where nothingness is bliss. I looked at that picture, and the first thing that came to my mind was this: “My God, he looks like he’s been sitting in a dungeon for five years!” It just popped into my head, just like that. Not physically, of course, he’s a well-groomed and well-dressed young man. A little on the scrawny side, but healthy enough.
No, it was the look on his face, that look of resignation and despair. The look of “You can’t hurt me worse because it doesn’t get worse.” I saw myself in that man’s face. My own despair, my own pain. The dungeon was an emotional one, not physical.
A little overly melodramatic, don’t you think? Well, yes. But then, remember that I was thirteen. A teeny-bopper. And even at that age where one’s just on the cusp of not being a child anymore, I’d been through some fairly serious traumas already. Right there, in the blink of an eye between childish fantasies and teenagerish fantasies, my story was born. And that’s a melodramatic point in one’s life.
So I had this character, this guy who’d been sitting in a dungeon for five years. Now what? We can’t just leave him there. He’s me, and I don’t wanna be there. We have to get him out of there. This is the whole point of the story. He’s me, and he needs my help to become someone stronger than he is now. I gotta get him out of there. The other rock stars will help him out, they’ll be the other characters in the story. See, this one is doing this, and that one over there is gonna do this, and then this guy….
No problem, my thirteen year old mind said. I can do this easy! And she sat down to write. And fell flat on her fat ass.
I still have some of those earliest writings. I very seldom throw things away. I still have them, and I intend to keep them, too. But they’re horrifically awful, trust me. The clumsy and imitative attempts of a child. But they served a purpose: they helped fix the story firmly in my mind forever. The details have changed, some of the characters’ names have changed (though interestingly, some haven’t), even the geography has changed. But the story has not altered one iota from that first moment of conception. And any time it wavers in my mind, all I have to do is look at that photo again. It’s actually taped to the side of my CPU, and as I sit here typing it’s about a foot from my left hand.
What had happened was far more complex than I ever could have planned deliberately. I just wasn’t that clever. I’m still not. My thirteen year old mind had no clue what it was doing to itself, that it was telling a story about itself. And the girl I was would have denied it if you had accused her of it, too. And she would have been completely wrong. Because that’s exactly what this book is: it’s a story all about me, and the process of taking my pain and transforming it into something useful. Taking that character who suffers pain and healing him. And it’s not the least bit subtle. But I didn’t see it for years, because I was too close to it to see anything.
When my brain said “He’s been in a dungeon for five years!” I didn’t attach any particular significance to it numerically. It just popped into my head, as I’ve said before and probably will again before this article is done. But looking back on it in hindsight and with my vastly superior mathematical skills, five years before I was thirteen, I was eight. And that’s when my major trauma occurred. My subconscious was all but bludgeoning me over the head with symbolism, and I missed every last bit of it for years on end. It’s also far more conscious than I am most of the time. Honestly, I don’t know how it’s managed to put up with me all this time. I don’t think it knows either.
But I was deeply in denial, as one sometimes has to be if one wants to maintain the illusion of sanity, which I desperately did. So I ignored the symbolic bludgeoning, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge anything beyond “I’m a Duran Duran fan and these guys inspired a story in my head! Aren’t they cute?”
I needed to be a dofus at that point in time.
Well the story stalled and fell flat, as I’ve said. I was wracked with anguish. I had to write! I couldn’t write. This story was going to make me explode, but it wouldn’t come out. I was the biggest failure on the planet and would never amount to anything. Stupid childish dreams and stories. Come on, story, get out of my head! Go the fuck away!
It never did. I’d box the thing up and ignore it – once or twice I did that for years on end! But it never went away. It never would.
I thought to myself, maybe if I try some other medium to express the story through… So I tried writing music and poetry, drawing pictures (huge numbers of very bad pictures), even sculpture – anything to get this story out of my skull! But nothing worked. I was stuck with it. Just when I thought I’d put the whole thing to rest forever, I would see that photograph hovering behind my eyelids, and those eyes imploring me “Don’t leave me here, please.”
Don’t leave me here, please.
That was Morgan’s refrain, echoing in my head year after year. And those eyes, so full of pain, imploring me to help him, even when I couldn’t. So the story never died. But I certainly despaired of ever writing it down. All I knew how to do was sit by Morgan’s side in the dark cell and reassure him that he was not alone, that I was there with him. And we’d wait, together. In the darkness.
I’d take it out every year or so and make an attempt, but it never got anywhere. I agonized over blank sheets of paper and blank computer screens, begging my brain to work, but it never did.
And then, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2004, I was hospitalized for suicidal depression. Sadly, it was not the first time. But it was a significant time. I stayed there for a week, far longer than I ever had before, and something happened. I had brought my book out of storage when I went in, because I’d noted over the years that the best work came out of me when I was most depressed. Great, I thought, get something useful out of this sheer hell. Why waste all this perfectly good suffering?
And that week the ideas started to flow. Something had changed, and to this day I don’t know what, but a floodgate opened, and the ideas came rushing out of my mind and onto the paper like they never had before. The Rian culture was born that week, entire and complete. The ships the Eleli Rei and the Ipar Izar, Emmy and Bartok. Also the Erlayan culture began to really shape up, though much of it was still waiting to emerge. I finally figured out where Paige fit into the story that week. Morgan was standing up and walking towards me in our shared subconscious. It was exhilarating.
What I hadn’t really understood was that I had to stop being exclusively Morgan in order for other parts of me to be able to help him. But I hadn’t realized that I was Morgan in the first place. Like I said, I’m just not that smart. It’s hard to see those kinds of things from inside a dungeon cell. And I’d built that cell with thick walls and a very stout door, very difficult to break myself out of. Believe me, I did a good job of imprisoning myself. Because I’m also Laric. I had to have enough of me become Jasper before I could break Morgan out of Laric’s dungeon. And that’s why I couldn’t write before – I wasn’t Jasper enough to do it. I couldn’t write Morgan out of that cell because I had no idea what was on the other side of the door out there, what to do with him. And at thirteen, I didn’t know how to be anything but Morgan, even though all the other parts were there too. Laric was definitely there. But I didn’t realize that I was him, I just knew he was there. I didn’t realize that I was anything at all.
Okay, so what else?
My characters. “Played by” Duran Duran, but all my own. I just see their faces when I picture these characters. Well, except for Paige, of course. She’s someone else altogether.
Do you think there is a single writer out there whose characters are not parts of their own subconscious? I mean, whether they’re aware of it or not. People always say ‘write what you know’ – and what do you know better than yourself?
Which is, of course, why I couldn’t write a book about my own healing when I wasn’t healed. I didn’t know anything about being healthy in my spirit.
So, my characters.
First and foremost, always, is Morgan. He IS the story. Morgan is my ‘wounded child,’ and everybody has one. It’s not just for people who’ve been through major traumas and woes, it’s everyone. You have a wounded child too. I know you do. Because everyone has had something they didn’t want to happen. And you may react rationally on the outside, but inside there’s a pouting child who doesn’t like it and wants it their own way. And doesn’t get it their own way. Wounded Child.
My Wounded Child was (and is) very full of pain. She’s had a lot of wounds over the years. And for the most part, she turned the pain in on herself. I’ve been eating myself alive for most of my life. Because to me, inflicting that pain on anyone else, even sharing it, would be unconscionably rude. It’s my problem, after all, not yours. So I kept things in, and it always got worse. Limited amount of space, ever-increasing filler. It’s like shaking a closed soda, and the fizz fills up all the air in the bottle. Or a pressure cooker, where the heat expands everything and makes the pressure.
So occasionally I’d explode. It happens. I’m not proud of it. In fact, I’m mortally embarrassed every time it happens. It turns into more pain for me, I blame myself for causing pain to others, it’s something else to use to eat myself alive. Like I needed more guilt. I’m a guiltmaster. I put myself in a prison made out of pain and guilt. And the more pain I suffered, the thicker the walls got, until there was no room for me to move or breathe. And that would cause an implosion. Or explosion. However you choose to look at it, I suppose. Depends on your perspective, really. At any rate, the system would become unsustainable and would cease to function.
And that’s Morgan, and the dungeon cell he’s in. Sitting in stasis, hurting and unable to heal, unable to move on with life. For a story, you make it literal.
Then there’s Laric. Here we have the ultimate badguy. The antagonist. The nemesis. Call him whatever you want, actually. It doesn’t matter. I know what he is: he’s the same pain, the same guilt and grief as Morgan, except he’s turned it all outwards instead of inwards. Rage. Laric is rage. Laric has suffered intense trauma too, has unhealed wounds. Laric is not a simple badguy with the big black moustache and a snivelling little sidekick. He’s a real person who’s suffered real life and reacted badly.
I’ve found that I love Laric very much. He needs as much love as Morgan does. And from me, he gets it. I care about him very much. He’s a loveable guy. My self-hatred, taking it out on everyone else that he can. So in the story, a tyrant and a monster, hell-bent on hurting people and controlling them. Control. If you’ve had control taken away from you, if you’ve ever been helpless (and who hasn’t at some point?), then you know the feeling of wanting vengeance for that helplessness – you want to be in control. And that’s what Laric is: anger and rage and a fierce determination to be in control. You can prove you’re in control by being able to hurt others with impunity, and that’s just what he does. He’s really very insecure.
Who comes after that? Brand. Similar to Laric, but quite distinct. Lack of self-respect, as opposed to rampant wrath. Brand is utterly convinced that he’s useless and worthless, good for nothing. In fact, I cover that fairly overtly in the prologue of the book. Brand has accomplished nothing and is not expected to accomplish anything, and therefore feels that he is a useless person altogether. Other people in the story do great things, or are very powerful or charismatic, or whatever. Brand is just Brand.
Brand covers his uncertainty with bluster. Brand is a dandy, a fop. He leads whatever he can, fashion, haughtiness, he demands respect from whoever he can. He can be a real nasty piece of work, but it’s all because he’s trying to prove himself to be superior because he feels deep down that he’s not. He tries too hard, trying to cover up his perceived inadequacy. He wants to earn the respect of his friends and family instead of just having it. And he does have their love, he just doesn’t believe in it. He doesn’t believe in himself.
But then there’s the flip side of all this hatred and pain.
Jasper. And Paige. Let’s start with Jasper, since he’s been in the story since the very beginning. Paige came later.
Jasper is unbridled confidence. He can do anything. He is heroic, larger than life. He is Morgan’s rescuer, the mythical person I wanted to swoop down from the outside and love me and heal all my pain. Of course he’s an unrealistic person. Nobody is like that, not in reality. He’s a superman. He can do anything, fix anything, vanquish all enemies.
He’s deus ex machina for Morgan, the catalyst for healing. The proverbial kick in the ass, as it were. So he is useful, but he’s going to find over the course of this story that he’s not all-powerful, and he can’t solve all problems just by being strong. But I get ahead of myself.
Paige is next. Paige showed up much later in the story. I mean that literally. The story consisted of five main characters, and then she showed up one day and said “Hi there, I’m Morgan’s little sister and I’m gonna be a part of your book.”
To which I replied, “Get lost, you little punk. I’m busy. You have no place here.”
But she refused. She won’t go away, she’s very stubborn and very persistent. I could never find a way to work her into the plot, though. I finally came to accept her, that she was in the story, but I couldn’t figure out where or how. In fact, it wasn’t until this last year that I even figured out which part of my subconscious she was. I didn’t figure it out on my own, either. Dana told me who Paige was.
Paige is my self-love.
Paige loves Morgan, more than anything in the world. And Morgan is my Wounded Child, my id, my me. She’s protective and loving, unconditional love, really. Morgan can do no wrong, Morgan is all, Morgan this and Morgan that. When he needs help she helps him. When he needs comfort she comforts him. Whatever he needs, whatever it takes. She’s the counter-agent to Brand and Laric.
Which makes my pushing her away for so many years particularly interesting. I was completely unable to accept the concept that I might be able to love myself. I was too much Brand and not enough Paige. Even after she showed up I wouldn’t let her in.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “well she said five characters plus Paige, and she’s only talked about four characters plus Paige. Where’s the fifth (or sixth, depending on your perspective)?”
I left Galen for last because he’s quite different from all the others. A very different part of my subconscious altogether.
When Galen suffered trauma, he ran away from it and refused to let himself feel. He disengaged completely. He observes but does not participate in the emotional drama of everyone else. Ram Dass talks about being aware of your ‘observer’ – that’s Galen in my story. He watches, and even helps in a passive kind of way, but does not take part himself. And he’s gonna have to.
Galen is a healer, and when people get hurt he patches them up. He has much more potential, but refuses to live up to it because that would mean becoming involved. In fact, he sees fixing other people’s wounds as proof that it’s too dangerous to feel. People get hurt when they feel. He’s not willing to do that.
Circumstances, however, are going to force him to take an active role and participate and feel. He has to join the rest of the characters and be a part of the story. He is reluctant and resentful, but he will learn to let his guard down and be vulnerable.
So while the rest of the characters have a definite opinion, side, alliance, etc… Galen does not. He is as neutral as he can manage to be. He wants to be neutral, uninvolved. He gets swept up by Jasper and Paige and dragged into the story will-he nil-he.
How I do love all my characters, all these different parts of me, working together to make me a unified, complete whole person!
At this point in time, I have finished writing two novels and am working on the third while also shopping around for a publisher for the first. The story grows by leaps and bounds every time I work on it!