While I am a memoirist, I also write historical fiction. The two are very compatible bedfellows. My life stories make appearances in my fiction. My memoirs slip into creative narrative.
I am again experiencing that inevitable blur between real life and fiction.
My novel in progress, The Diarist, is set in the 1950s. It is a dark neo-noir thriller, my first foray into the genre. It is a loose adaptation of one of my prior novels, Intentional Fallacy. However, this new story is taking on a life of it’s own and less and less resembles the original work. While most of my fiction explores highly dysfunctional relationships –usually scarred by traumatic experience, The Diarist is a story of two lives, so pathological that the absence of morality is becoming chilling and unshakable to me as the author. As the story emerges from somewhere deep in my unconscious, I am beginning to recognize elements of a real life tragedy I’d once researched. It was the true story of a late 19th century mother who went crazy. Her name was Fannie Korn. Hers is a tragic story of murder and insanity spun together like a novel, but with so many holes I asked myself what really happened to this woman and her family? While my current work in progress follows a different plot trajectory, the ghost of a Fannie Korn, a “murderess” who died 100 years ago is finding a new life in my story.
This stuff scares me–The darkest parts of the psyche. So I’ve taken to writing my book only during the daylight hours, away from my home, at a café. I head over to Common Grounds and settle in to one of the couches, plug my computer into a power strip, I have a coffee and I write scenes like this one:
As animalistic as it was, my fingers were tangled in her wiry thin hair, the blonde now completely dark pink, stained by blood. I tried pulling up her head, the blood now seeping up into the fibers of my shirt. “Richard!” I screamed. It seemed her head was too heavy, weighed down by her lifeless body. I hated every moment of it. Seeing The buoyancy of her arms as I tried to pull her out of the water. I knew immediately she was dead but I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t get her out and so I let go and her head bobbed once or twice. I pulled the plug on the drain and then got on my knees at the end of the tub and did what I had to do. I held her head up by her blood saturated hair, red liquid running over my hands and I waited. I waited for enough water to drain so her face was no longer submerged. Somehow the sinking water level caused her arm to fall by her side and when it did there was enough weight to support her torso and her head rolled to the side and I saw that her eyes were open. Her face was already bloated, but those pale blue eyes retained not a look of horror but a vacant stare that seemed living. I screamed and continued to scream as I let her head fall.
That dead body in my book was the protagonist’s lover’s first wife. Soon he’ll become her husband and begin gas lighting and driving her crazy. Gaslighting.
Gaslighting is the plot element tethered to the real-life Fannie Korn story. A few years back I spent two years immersed in finding and reading historical papers, court transcripts, affidavits, conversations with professors and criminal investigators. It was the story of Fannie Kor. A number of headlines referred to her as an insane “Murderess.”
I first found Fannie through a 1893 trial transcript. Her story was a horrible one and very, very disturbing. She went crazy and killed one of her children and attempted to kill the other before attempting suicide. First she tried to poison them and when that didn’t work she shot the little girl, the boy escaped, and then she shot herself. She said things had gotten unbearable and she loved her children so much she didn’t want to leave them behind with no one to care for them.
Below is a portion if the digitized transcript in which her son Edwin describes to the court what happened:
The trial transcript read like a novel because the court was not determining innocence or guilt, they were simply following the legal protocol required to commit her to the Mattawaean Asylum for the Criminally Insane. So the testimonies by Fannie and all the witnesses were an uninterrupted re telling of the events leading up to and on the day of the crime. The last page of the trial transcript has a powerful punch with a hand written note that is utterly shocking.
That is all I will tell about the Fannie Korn story because I plan to write a series of blog entries focusing on the crime and the unbelievable sequence of events following Fannie’s commitment in the Asylum.
What is seeping into my new book’s plot are the events leading up to Fannie’s mental decompensation and her brutal crime. It was my opinion that something AND someone drove her crazy. From what I deduced from the transcripts, she was inadvertently poisoned by the medicines given to her (19th c. pharmacuticals often contained arsenic, lead, mercury, creosote) and her husband was gaslighting, sending her deeper into insanity until she completely lost touch with reality.
My New Novel, The Diarist, Coming January 2017
After completing Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School, Andrea Davies takes a position at a large New York Advertising Firm, admittedly there to find a husband and secure a life as a well-to-do, country club socialite. Andrea meets Richard Hayes, one of the firm’s partners and an inexplicable attraction takes hold. To everyone at the firm, Richard is the powerful yet kind and respectful executive with tragic home life. He is the devoted husband to Margaret, a dangerous “lunatic” who is in and out of psychiatric hospitals. The attraction between Richard and Andrea intensifies when she is promoted to his secretary. When Andrea turns her attention to another marriage prospect, Richard quickly reveals a sinister, unpredictable side that naive Andrea interprets as unbridled passion, fueling her romantic delusion of “love at any cost.” Andrea becomes increasingly drawn into Richard’s bizarre personal life. She begins to assume the role of his wife and mother of his children. However, a parallel reality continues back at his apartment where his psycho
tic wife moves in and out of insanity. A neo-noir thriller, The Diarist, explores the darker side of the human psyche and the terrifying consequences of indulging in base desires. The Diarist – Book Trailer
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