Chloe Garner was born when I was sixteen. I’ve been writing stories since I was very young, but I had something of a realization when I was in my teens that I wanted to separate my stories and my writing self from my ‘normal’ self. Partially, that’s because I’ve known since my teens that I was destined to be a certain type of person, professionally. I live a Dilbert existence, and Alice is my hero. Folks who know me and who happen to hear that I write fiction invariably ask some version of the question about how a technical, left-brained, mathlete such as myself can/would/might think of telling stories. Never mind that science fiction and fantasy have long been populated by men and women who have owned pocket protectors (I don’t have one, but my dad does). Never mind that technology is just as preoccupied with understanding the world as any writer is. Never mind that narrative is a structure just like a bridge and if any bit of it is malformed or misplaced, the whole thing tends to fall down in a stiff wind.
I’ll talk about why technical people make great storytellers another time.
Suffice to say that these two things are seen as polar, rather than ends of a circle that tend to meet back around on the other side. And It’s a long, passionate conversation that most people didn’t actually intend to invite, the way they don’t actually want to hear about your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when they ask you how it’s going.
They respond with a reflexive, first-thought question, and then they ask either if they have read something I’ve written or if they can.
And my writing, much like the fact that I do write, requires a bit of explanation and shepherding for people who know me.
I torture demons, y’all.
I totally get that authors and their work are separate creatures. I live that. But I also totally, totally get that authors are their work.
I’ve long believed that writing fiction is the exact same thing as painting naked portrait after naked portrait of your mental self. You can write any character you like, from any background, and from any worldview, but at the end of the day, you can only possibly write fiction from what you know in your own head and the imagination that can root in that fertile soil.
That doesn’t mean that everything an author writes fits well in their home culture.
Anne Rice has a hard time with the public dichotomy of being a Christian and writing some of the original popular vampire fiction. (Brahm Stoker is a rabbit hole. Don’t argue with me. Vampires were still seriously edgy when Anne was first doing her thing. Especially to a culture that thinks that Harry Potter is occult.) It’s messy, trying to explain where you get off writing dark, messy stuff to your world of casual friends, family, and acquaintances. Close friends get it. They need no introduction to the His Dark Mistress that lives in the back of my head.
Chloe Garner is a recognition that I was never going to tell most people who know me in the physical domain that I write. I knew that when I was sixteen.
As I’ve spent more time inside her head, though, I’ve gotten more familiar with how she and I are different, and where I was frustrated and intimidated through highschool and college that Chloe Garner was somehow the better version of me, I’ve more recently come to recognize that better is a poor, needy understanding of that difference.
Chloe Garner is fearless.
I play games online and post-justify the timesink by saying that it’s research into real human diversity. Because in online games, where social norms and the pressure to conform to outside rules is gone, people get real. They do things they would never do in real life. If you want to see what people are really, really like, go online. There’s honesty people would never, ever expose to people they have to see every day, and there’s dastardliness that would shock you. Well, it would, the first time. After that, you kinda get used to it.
Chloe Garner has a lot of those features. I can write characters who are true to what they are, without censoring them for what I think people are going to think of them. (Disclosure: they are censored based on what I think of them. I don’t write heroic characters who use a lot of strong language, nor – to date – ones who are remorselessly violent against innocent people. I don’t like people to be like that, and I don’t like writing main characters who behave like that, so… I don’t. Cause I’m the writer and I’m in charge. Huzzah.) Explaining Samantha – a woman of strong moral fiber who voluntarily and simultaneously tortures some demons and is friendly with others – that’s complicated. Some people are going to get her and some people aren’t. His Dark Mistress or Sarah Todd might be more controversial. I honestly don’t know and – here it is – I don’t care.
You can think what you want about my work and that’s fine. Because my work and me are different things. Chloe Garner is a codification of that. When people confuse my work for me (Which I totally get, because I do that, too, as a reader. I’m pretty sure, based on nothing but their work, that I would have loathed D. H. Lawrence and that Dostoevsky was both completely self-involved and a complete sad sack. And that’s not fair, but that level of correlation between an author and his work is something that authors have got to learn to live with.), I have that layer of self that says, sure, you can say that about Chloe, but you aren’t saying it about the other me, so that makes it okay.
Or at least more okay. It’s leather armor, not steel.
Mindy Saturn and Jamie O’Connor are just notations to help sort different types of writing out, so you can find the stuff you’re most likely to be interested in. They’re both Chloe Garner.
I had a name. I even had a signature. And a handful of years ago, I started setting up that person with an online identity.
The problem is, there are other Chloe Garners out there, and they’ve been her, online, for a lot longer than I have. I couldn’t be ChloeGarner on twitter, I couldn’t get ChloeGarner.com. The literature for authors says that you should snag ChloeGarnerAuthor, instead, anyway, but… Meh. It’s just so serious. I could have ripped off Neil Gaiman’s twitter handle – neilhimself, which is so cool, but it’s been done, now. Wil Wheaton went .net, shorthand WWdN, which is clever. (I think. Because I see WWdN and say Wil Wheaton. Google doesn’t tell me if he did that on purpose.)
I probably should have done something like that. May yet, who knows. But in the period of time when I was scouting around for what I wanted to call myself, I was kind of preoccupied with this image of the pieces of fiction that I was working on being a kind of inverted blender process. I would hop from plot thread to plot thread, running them until they frustrated me or until I got distracted, then going and picking up another one and doing that. Sometimes I’d hijack a thread because an idea went by in another one that didn’t fit, but boy did it seem like fun, so I’d go stuff it in somewhere else.
A lot of my work ‘twins’. There’s a held-captive-by-a-madman thing that went by in three or four stories simultaneously. There’s a buried-alive thing that evolved its way into a few of them (that never made it to text, at this point, but that are lying around underground to get dug up unexpectedly in something else). I went through a western drawl phase with two rather large pieces of plot.
This is just how I work. A blender full of fiction, running in reverse, swirling them all up and producing whole plots, whole stories, whole novels.
I write blender fiction.
And that’s the story.
What I’m reading: A Slip of the Keyboard, by Terry Pratchett
What I’m watching: Mainlining JAG