My obsession is with the truth. I suppose that’s because I did not feel I could tell my own truth for so long. I grew up as a flannel-wearing farm girl who had a thing for other girls, which I was certain had damned me to hell. I gradually made peace with the idea that a god who forbade love was not a god for me, but it took decades before I was old and wise enough (and far enough away from Michigan) to show my real self to the world.
From the start, I wanted Morbid Curiosity magazine to contain honest first-person essays. I wanted to provide a forum where people could dissect their own lives and reveal what they found. Above all I treasured self-reflection. It wasn’t enough to boast, “This weird thing happened to me.” Authors also had to admit, “This is how it changed me.” Using description and dialog and creating real characters — especially the first-person “I” telling the story — were essential to bring the story alive for others.
Some people are good at telling the truth because they’ve never felt challenged. Most people, I think, learn to tell the truth in a series of test admissions in which they gauge what the response will be. I wanted to make the magazine a place where people could admit scary, freaky things and feel certain of being understood and probably even identified with.
This principle carried over into the Morbid Curiosity book, of course. As I assembled the anthology, I chose stories with uncomfortable truths: Claudius Reich’s realization that he could step into the pub-bomber’s shoes, Kim Poeppey-Del Rio’s admission that she would paw through a dead person’s possessions for antiques, Simon Wood’s panic when the bicyclist swerved in front of his car. I chose those stories because I thought if I could see myself reflected in them, it made their truths universal.
I chose a quote commonly attributed to George Orwell to sum up and introduce the book: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” I don’t know if Orwell actually ever wrote that (even with the power of the internet at my fingers, I haven’t been able to find its source). Still I believe the epigram has the ring of truth. Honesty is hard, but it makes you stronger. It improves the world. There’s no better reason to write than that…and no better reason to read.
I’m reminded of all this today because I’ve finally figured out how to sell books via Amazon. You can order a personalized copy here.