You may or may not have heard that my next book is releasing next Monday, a week from today, 11/12/12. This one has been quite the difficult child to birth. As a way of celebrating and working out the demons left from its creation, I thought I’d set aside a week to share information about the book with you. Next week, I’m going to have a massive blowout with prizes and ways for you to interact with each other and the story. For now, think of these as “bonus features”.
The Room 3 that you’ll be reading soon is a complex tale revolving around two (well, really three) women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The protagonist, Kelli, is an aspiring R&B singer/songwriter who works a steady job as a bartender. One night as she’s walking home from the bar, a man asks to use her cellphone and, as she hands it over, knocks her out. She wakes up in a remote cabin, where she’s forced into strange experiments involving unknown hallucinogenic drugs and an increasingly unstable roommate. The central dilemma of the novel revolves around Kelli’s definition of and desire for freedom, as well as the insecurity of her worldview and knowledge about herself. I can’t delve too deeply into it without giving away too much, but look for a spoiler-riffic post soon called “Piercing the Veil” that will give you more details if you don’t care about spoilers.
We learn about Kelli’s experience in the cabin through her journal entries. These entries detail Kelli’s life after the experiment as she tries to find her way in the world, all the while eluding capture by the same Organization that locked her away and shot her full of drugs. This portion of Kelli’s life contains further revelations that shine a new light on her time in the cabin.
This version of Room 3 looks very different from my original concept, however. Room 3 initially begin with a rather simple concept: what would Videodrome look like if you created it today?
For those who aren’t familiar with the film Videodrome, the president of a UHF television station discovers a signal broadcasting from (allegedly) Malaysia that shows the brutal torture and murder of innocent victims. Fascinated and thinking that he might have stumbled upon the next big thing, the man becomes addicted to the show and finds himself drawn into an increasingly complex web of organizations responsible for the broadcast. He also discovers that the signal contains a carrier frequency that can cause deadly brain tumors in viewers, creating strange bodily hallucinations that may or may not be based in reality. Seriously, if you’re into strange horror, it’s worth a go.
But the idea itself fascinated me – today you can see any manner of gore and murder videos online if you know where to look, so the concept of Videodrome itself is dated and somewhat tame. So, I thought, what if people stumbled across an ultra-secret site maintained by a victim herself? Somehow she has managed to get enough of a signal to maintain this site (perhaps even by threat of force from those holding her), and in the process coding information about her location that reaches into the brain of the receiver without her even knowing it.
So I crafted the beginning of a novel on this concept…and then found that while the concept seemed to work “on paper”, ON PAPER it became something quite different. No matter what configurations I pursued, suspension of disbelief became difficult even for myself. Here’s a sample of that first draft:
Exhaling and shaking his head, Kenny swiveled in his office chair, meeting the eyes of his friend (friends first, friends always, he told Noah) and coworker. “It’s something, ain’t it?’
God, what the hell do I say to that, Noah thought. Why me?
Noah was a study in contrast to his stocky, tow-headed buddy. Tall and lean, with a sculpted, angular face, he tried hard not to accentuate the differences between the two of them, but Kenny always managed to make it damned hard on him. Today, for instance. He couldn’t help but stare at Kenny’s fresh blue Han Shot First t-shirt.
Must have picked it up at the Con last weekend. Ugh.
“Yeah, something,” he said, and averted his gaze a few seconds too late, scanning the cube in a futile attempt to keep from meeting those eager, searching brown eyes.
Kenny smirked and grinned. “I know, sweet shirt, right?”
“That’s telling him, all right,” Noah said.
Kenny pumped his fist. “I know, right? But come on man,” he said, and swept the fist toward his monitors. “What do you think?”
Noah cleared his throat and said, “ah, well, I think it’s quite a story.”
Yeah. That’s the ticket. Quite a story.
He ran the back of his thumb over his lips as his wandering eyes at last settled on Kenny’s pair of obnoxious monitors and the dark blog that sat open on the right-hand screen. Anything to avoid Kenny’s eyes. He knew they’d be pleading for his approval and he just didn’t have the strength today.
“That’s all you’ve got? Come on, you’ve gotta have something more than that. I read this site until like five in the morning. I pounded Bawls for you, dude!”
“Sounds like a personal lifestyle choice, my man.”
“Oh, hah hah. Very funny.”
I still think this path has some potential for a future novel, but it became clear fairly early on that this was not the correct path for this story. No matter how I tried to do it, the story just did not make sense. Why would she be able to get this online? If she was being forced to put it online, what were her captors’ intentions, and if they were looking to draw in others, wouldn’t it be much simpler to just kidnap those people? I could go on and on. I then tried the found journal approach…and nothing.
It didn’t take a turn until I shifted the focus away from the original protagonist, Carla, and onto her then-neighbor at what’s known as the Khesnaa, a remote cabin where what they call The Organization shoots them full of hallucinogenic drugs. Kelli began life as Jenny, a southern belle who had been at the cabin for far longer than Carla and showed her the ropes through a series of conversations that were only possible due to quirks in the cabin’s primitive ventilation system. In other words, Carla’s side of things would once have been, essentially, one character in a room with limited interaction with other characters. I don’t have to tell you how challenging such a concept can become.
At last Jenny stepped forward, transformed into Kelli, and became Carla’s roommate. The core concept became about two women and their trials through a strange series of experiments, with Carla discovering strange new sides of herself that had long been hidden.
So, that leaves us with the current concept, and while the story is a complex one, the base is very simple: a woman seeks knowledge of both herself and what she wants from the world. I think, on a base level, we can all relate in some way. Who hasn’t gone through that period of seeking?
Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about those characters.