“Sere from the Green” Chapter Three Commentary

WARNING:  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

As always, this post will make much more sense if you’ve already read the novel.  Help out a little indie author:  buy her books.

Sere from the Green [front cover]

Do I need to include a warning about salty language?  I hope not.

So some writers enjoy listening to music when they work.  I do, but sometimes I need a certain mood.  I’ve got a bunch of fucking index cards with titles like “Sad Music Playlist” (because having too many playlists on my iTunes drives me up the wall for some reason).  That’s another odd little quirk.  At the moment, I’m listening to shitty music that has a fairly quick beat (something I can ignore, but will keep my fingers flying across the keyboard).

Sometimes I’m just going to start commentaries like this by the way:  weird random thoughts.  That’s just how I am 🙂

Onto the commentary.

Page 33

Isis frequently starts out alone in most scenes.  Even after she becomes part of a group, there’s always something remote about her.  I wrote this character as being very solitary, even when surrounded by people.  I find solitary quiet people to be infinitely more interesting.  I have always had a soft spot for the “lone wolf,” though I don’t care for how that’s been gendered as male (don’t even get me started on how so many “lone wolf” type men are just assholes.  Dude, you’re not brooding.  You’re a mopey asshole).  In my series, most solitary characters are women.  In my experience, when a woman is an introvert, she’s seen as strange.  There’s this weird societal expectation that women be more comfortable in groups, which I think can be connected to rape culture (women seem to need to travel in packs to be respected).  As an introvert who also happens to be a woman, I find this expectation to be incredibly annoying.

By the way, that’s a way to get ideas:  if something annoys the living hell out of you, write something to change it.

Isis’ cynicism can make her seem rather judgmental, which she can be.  She has a very low tolerance for stupidity . . . well, she kind of has a low tolerance for the populace in general.  Hey, women are almost always portrayed as nurturers and peacekeepers.  Let’s have some more cynical introverted ladies!

I briefly toyed with the idea of making Isis a private investigator.  I decided against this because there are way too many tropes and cliches attached to that profession.  Also, I just couldn’t see her in a job that required her to actually attract clients (at least as a photojournalist, she can work on her own).

Reading this over again, a few strange things made me laugh.  The first being that I picture Isis hating every last person in that apartment building (with the exception of Steve).  She most likely didn’t even bother learning any of their names (or if she did, it was only so she could hate them more).

Page 34

Isis doesn’t carry a gun, but she does keep a number of blunt weapons within reach (the baton, the baseball bat).  This woman is a fighter.  Her few friends know it and I always picture Steve as alternately relieved and vexed with her refusal to run from a conflict.

Isis will never leave a door unlocked, which, granted, is just common sense.  It’s interesting that in the fourth novel, I was just writing about a group of characters who have a similar compulsion to lock every door.  Their scenes read completely differently than this one because it’s about survival instead of common sense.  Understanding character motivation is a big part of what makes atmosphere in different scenes.

How Shae and Isis became close is one of those baffling mysteries that probably makes people who know them scratch their heads.  These two characters are polar opposites.  Shae is a very optimistic, happy, outgoing, and upbeat woman.  She thrives on socializing and enjoys getting out in the world.  Isis isn’t any of those things.  Shae has always thrived in social situations.  Most of Isis’ memories concerning Shae are of her cousin dragging her somewhere she didn’t want to go.  There have really only been two people who accepted Isis the way she is:  Steve and Shae.  This doesn’t mean they don’t call her out on her shit when the situation calls for it.

I’m sometimes asked about shape shifter aging.  Shape shifters tend to stop aging sometime in their thirties (sometimes in their late twenties).  However, things like stress and trauma can make them show signs of aging.  They can also look tired and/or worn out.

Page 35

Isis has the tendency to be too bold and doesn’t know when to shut up.  Her inability to let things go is likely what cost her the previous two jobs.

I wrote Shae as a person who loves experience.  She’s willing to try anything once and goes out of her way to have new experiences.  And she really enjoys dragging Isis along for the ride (aside from the company, Isis has a very funny annoyed face).  I should write some kind of a prequel series about the wacky hijinks Shae and Isis got up to (that Steve was also sometimes dragged into).

Page 36

I love writing storms.  It’s probably my favorite kind of weather to write.  Yes, I have a favorite weather.  My favorite weather-related scene that I’ve written is the storm at the beginning of From the Ashes.  In literature, I really loved the storm in Jane Eyre (not just because it’s the only storm I can think of at the moment because my brain is jammed full of too much stuff at the moment).

Maybe it’s just another of my weird quirks, but I always found something unsettling about Isis sitting alone, surrounded by empty pictures (or are they?)

Isis didn’t get along with anyone in any academic setting.  She mostly isolated herself and was invisible, unless she saw some kind of bullying going on.  And if someone fucked with Steve or Shae, watch out.

Isis is a research fiend.  She hits the books hard when she’s faced with something she doesn’t understand.  She also prefers physical books, whereas Shae is way more into digital things.  Shae is infinitely more comfortable with technology-related things than Isis is.  Isis is a very old soul, though she isn’t a Luddite.

Page 37 – 38

This book has a much more paranoid feel than I remember.  Almost everyone is being watched without knowing it.

Jet has been keeping track of Isis throughout her life (through other protectors) but he has never been in contact.  Unlike Passion, he probably knew he would have to contact her at some point (though he hoped that wouldn’t be the case).  When Sere from the Green begins, Jet hasn’t seen Isis since bringing her to the adoption agency.  Passion hasn’t seen her since she was born.

Again, there’s tension between Jet and Passion for one of the first times in their friendships.  In Passion’s view, Jet is trying to bring Isis into a life where she’s all but guaranteed to meet a very violent end.  In Jet’s view, he’s trying to keep the promise he made Passion to protect her daughters while also trying to fulfill his duty to gather the Four.  Neither one is entirely right or wrong in this situation.  I tried to write the scene so there really wasn’t an easy answer.  Life isn’t black and white in reality.  Fiction should reflect this.

Page 39 – 40

I really wanted to convey a comfortableness between Isis and Steve.  [SPOILER WARNING:  Isis started out as an assignment, but over the years, Steve grew to genuinely like her.].  The bond between them has never been romantic, but I think friendships are just as important and deep.  Throughout this series, I’ve tried to write as many friendships as romantic pairings (in fact, I think there may be a few more friendships).  Society tends to not view friendships as important.  Romance is valued over platonic relationships and I find this quite sad.  As an aro-ace woman, I can attest to the importance of platonic bonds and I have always felt more at ease writing friendships.

Steve is very athletic, but has never once been injured.  This is another clue to the character, which I hope readers picked up on.

Page 40 – 42

My very first (and one of the only) times writing a flashback.  This was one of the first things I wrote of this series, on a scrap of paper.  For some reason, it has always made me laugh (Isis is so fucking mean!  But that’s what happens when you interrupt a reader).  Funny bit of trivia:  when I can’t think of a name for a character, I’ll just call him or her “Bob” or “Allison” and then go back and change the names when I think of one.  So this scene was originally Steve, Isis, and a couple “Bob”s, which cracks me up so much (and I have no idea why).

This flashback was very loosely inspired by an experience from my childhood.  When I was younger, I loved to read.  In elementary school, I would read through recess (and any other chance I got).  There were a couple teachers who didn’t like this and thought I should be interacting with the other students.  Said teachers would pester me to approach my classmates, which I just refused to do.  One got the brilliant idea to send a student over to ask me to play.  I didn’t even look up from my book when I said no.  I remember seeing him shrug at the teacher (out of the corner of my eye, because I was still reading).

Isis reading “The Cask of Amontillado” is completely intentional (think about hidden motives).

Reading this scene [spoilers, highlight if you’ve already read the novel]:  they are so young!  It’s highly, highly unusual for protectors to be given an assignment this early in their lives.  The entire Campbell family was tasked with looking out for Isis and the easiest way was to have their youngest, Steve, befriend her.  Plus, he could watch her back throughout their school years.

Page 43 – 44

Isis’ dream is probably one of my favorite scenes in this whole novel.  Dear reader, if you only knew how ridiculously excited I get when I have the chance to write a dream.  I fucking love writing dreams.  Oh my god, it is so much fun!  I always thought myths had this incredible dreamlike quality to them (even when they were downright nightmarish).

Obviously there’s a lot of animal imagery and some nods to Isis’ guardian heritage as well.

I always knew I was going to give readers just a peek at the Big Bad in the dream.  I’m a huge fan of the horror genre (so many strong genre women are horror filmmakers.  They’re so badass!  Seriously, look up Women in Horror Month and just bask in the awesomeness 😀 ).  One movie that had always unsettled me was “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  To invade someone’s minds is just such a violation.  There are a couple characters in my series who have the ability to enter dreams.  It’s a highly regulated ability that requires the full consent of both participants.  The Big Bad, who also has this ability, obviously doesn’t care about consent when using it.

It’s important to note that his ability is rather limited and, as the series progresses, readers learn why.

Page 45 – 46

Isis violently awakens.  Don’t you hate those damn nightmares that feel so real and vivid that it takes you a moment or two to recover after waking?  I sometimes go through periods of nightmares where I’ll experience them every night for a couple days or sometimes even a week.  Normally it’s related to stress, but sometimes they just sneak up on me.

Another important part of this scene:  even though Big Bad’s power is limited, he can still physically harm Isis.  Not severely, not in a life-threatening way (welts are about all he can do at this point), but not all his methods are physical.

In the back of her mind, Isis is starting to sense she’s in some kind of danger.

At the end of this chapter, Jet has made one of the most difficult decisions of his life.  He knows it’s a betrayal and he hates himself for it, but it’s the only option he has left.

Thus wraps up commentary on chapter three.  From now on, I’m going to make the really massive spoilers white so you can highlight them if you’ve already read the book (or if you’re just one of those people who enjoys spoilers).  I’m still trying to focus on process, character motivations, and bits of trivia.  To be honest, this is proving to be rather fucking difficult:  I still don’t know if any of what I’m writing is at all interesting and I’m trying not to reveal too much because I still want people to buy my book and read it and then decide for themselves what these characters are doing or thinking or whatever.  I’ve also realized why audio commentaries are usually groups of people and not just one person yakking:  conversations are fun.  Oh well, I’m still determined to see this odd little project/experiment through.

I have my last con of the season this weekend:  WindyCon in Lombard.  So you can drop by the dealers room and say hi.  I’m usually less all over the place in person.  No idea why I was so hyper while writing this commentary.  No idea if I’ll be quite so hyper during the next one. 

Until next time, beloved readers . . .

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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