In the early days of summer, I asked for help deciding what kind of novel I was going to write next. My three novels are all romantic comedies. Did my readers choose for me to write another romantic comedy? No. No they did not. They wanted to challenge me and voted for a Gothic Suspense Historical novel. Holy expletive.
I thought about it for a while and decided to go back to my roots: an insane asylum.
Let me explain. So I grew up in Traverse City, Michigan with my house two blocks from the bay. I could hear the waves on the water and when storms rolled in, my house shook. My mom was as single mom and worked as an arts and crafts advisor for a place called "The Friendship Center", a mental health care nonprofit that helped people with emotional or physical disabilities. Most of them lived in foster homes as the psychiatric hospitals had all shut down. Some were very functional, and some had sever psychoses. From the age of seven, I spent a lot of time at my mom's work and I even 'volunteered'. On a week long summer camp, I was there with all the campers. I poured their orange juice for when they had to take pills...three times a day. I met people with epilepsy, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD, and people whose minds were blank from too much drug use. It sounds scary, but as a kid it wasn't. They were just kids in adult bodies...and I felt cool because I was smarter than most of them. A horrible thing to say, but that's what it was like.
10 years later, my mom worked part-time at the Traverse City State Mental Hospital. It was being refurbished and was no longer a hospital. She took me on a tour of the tunnels and the grounds and told me a story that there was a child born in the tunnels and raised by 'inmates'. It was just a rumor, she said. The story, the tour, and my experience with the mentally ill has stayed with me.
This is the genesis for "Tunnel Vision". It is 1933 and Doctor Kinney arrives to the Northern Michigan Insane Asylum (as it was called then) to start a new job. He is mourning the loss of his wife and he has dark secrets. We meet interesting characters and a vast tunnel system. After exploring the tunnels, Kinney thinks he sees his dead wife. It is not his wife at all but a woman named "Ama". Ama exists and doesn't exist. She was born to an inmate in the tunnels and cared for by a collection of people. She knows no past or future, only present. She knows nothing of the outside world. She is passionate and kind and fierce, and Kinney decides to own her. She is such a blank slate that Kinney believes maybe, just maybe, he can reshape her. Give her some memories of his wife's, make her act and talk like his wife. In this way, he can raise the dead. He takes Ama away from the asylum and is joined by a nurse, Mallie Lyn Peters. He is going to experiment with mind control.
There's a parallel story of a young woman in the 50's looking into her past.
That's where we're at now. I'll tell you, there are a lot of issues with it. There isn't enough dialogue and I didn't flesh out the supporting characters. I'm making weird choices that are confusing at times. So...read with caution. You are reading a rough draft. A first draft actually. I write it, look for typos and post it. I'll be re-writing extensively in the future. If you want to see how a novel develops, keep reading. And thanks for taking the time.