Letting Duality Breathe

– Toni Morrison

Did you know the idea of My debut, Welcoming Mad Era came to me when I was pregnant with my youngest? It was 2015, I was in 1st trimester nausea, in bed, listening to MSNBC news. A psychiatrist was talking about the mental impact of police brutality on my people. It was after the Sandra Bland incident. Such a vibrant, complex woman. My tummy churned. Womanhood. Motherhood. A daughter brewing. What if it had been me?

The story came about piece by piece throughout months after that. Then it sat, a wimpy skeleton of a rough draft until quarantine 2020. 

Hands down, one of my favorite quotes of a review about my book is: “Madera takes the reader on a transformative personal journey that seamlessly juggles the ugliness and beauty of human nature.” 

We can only do so much agony. We can only do so much pain. Joy is essential. Many of us know this. In the quest of creating a story about a young woman seeking “justice,” I made sure I left room for the rest of life to breathe. The beauty to be, naturally. After all, dark tales pull at our heart when there are speckles of light. 

Always been an advocate of duality. Shoot, not only am I Gemini moon but I have three planets in both Aries and Libra – two Cardinal opposites of the zodiac. 

In 8th Grade I used to rewrite the infamous Walt Whitman quote over and over in my journals: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” In high school, I used to chew over the Christian dichotomy of Mary and Eve. I thought – why can’t it all exist together? Aren’t all humans both yin & yang? We are all capable of the beauty and the ugly, interchangeably, experiencing both in our minds on the same day, perhaps even pointed out within the same picture frame?

I live in this space. Knowing that the beauty always feels better but the ugly is so fucking necessary, even if it’s just to release. This is humanness. I think we screw ourselves over when we don’t accept this. We perch ourselves in unrealistic boxes hoping to get it “right”, instead of just being, and accepting the many layers of our entirety. Oughta be like breathing.

A Conscious Choice

Bump. Sever. Burn. Stump. Boil. Speed. Blunt.

When writing Welcoming Mad Era, I made a conscious choice to have the text feel “Martian”.

“What does that mean?”

Well, Mars energy is a fast one, it cuts and reacts, angers and intensifies, it simmers and is quite frankly, blunt. It chops. It punches. It races. It aggravates. It hurts.

Like the rhythm of the text, the short chapters aren’t on accident. I wanted to channel Mars in the writing as much as I channeled Mars through Madera. It can be an inquired taste, yes, just like the character, Madera. There are times I feel like I didn’t do it enough. Other times, I’m compelled to explain myself.

The Importance of a Character’s Name

One of the many beauties of being a writer is being able to choose a name for your character that encompasses the characterization of that character. It’s pretty freaking cool to be able to set up a character’s vibe for your readers with the use of a name.

Some writers make conscious decisions to do this. I definitely have. The Revolt Occult is about a peculiar coven of magicians who use their magic to rectify everyday modern injustices. Each coven member’s name resonates or represents the qualities of a specific planet. The title character, Madera in my first book of The Revolt Occult Series – Welcoming Mad Era (Madera) is an example.

Madera represents the planet, Mars. Within the character, Madera, one will find wrath, passion, aggression, action etc. Even the pace of the novel, like one reviewer said, “moves at the rate of thriller,” reflects the speed of the warrior planet, Mars.

But — I will say, it is as interesting as it is intuitive, when a writer subconsciously selects a name for a character that symbolizes the character without even trying to. The mother of Madera, Constance is an example of this. Since I was a little girl, I loved the name, Constance. I just thought it was cool. When I gave Madera’s mother that name, I didn’t noticed how much it made sense.

The character, Constance is only known to readers through flashbacks paired with Madera’s internal thoughts. Constance was wrongfully murdered by a corrupt cop in the streets of Chicago. Midway through writing the novel, it dawned on me that the name, Constance fits the character and all that she symbolizes — the unfortunate constant growing number of police brutality victims that there are. How social justice warriors are constantly demanding for change. How pitiful it is that the word, constant is prominent in such matters. All this fact did was reassure me that the spirit in our writing is powerful and when we tap into it, it will lead.