The Story Behind ‘The Green Memory of Fear’ by B.A. Chepaitis
I sat in the courtroom, listening to a witness for the defense in a case against a psychiatrist accused of sexually abusing one of his former patients. I was there as a support person for the former patient. I knew he was telling the truth, because he had a tape of the psychiatrist admitting what he’d done. But at that moment the witness for the psychiatrist was talking fast about how psychiatric patients make things up, how they lie because of their problems. I was upset about that.
In the middle of his testimony the judges who were hearing the case, part of a medical protective board that seemed more protective of the doctor than the patient, began whispering among themselves. They called the Bailiff to them and whispered at him.
The Bailiff turned toward the courtroom and said, “The judges ask that the woman in the blue suit make her face less expressive. It disturbs them.”
I looked around. I was the only woman in court wearing a blue suit. They meant me.
At that moment I knew two things. First, we had already lost the case. Second, I knew the truth, regardless of their decision.
This moment was, for me, the beginning of the novel The Green Memory of Fear, which is fifth in a series of novels featuring Jaguar Addams, who rehabs criminals by making them face their deepest fears.
In this novel Jaguar has to face down a psychiatrist accused of abusing a little boy, and consequently face some traumatic incidents in her own past.
It was a difficult novel to write because it forced me to revisit that real incident, a very painful one of loss and trauma. But it’s also one of my favorite novels because it forced me to go all the way through that grief, and move toward the possibility of light. How do you come back from something like that? How would Jaguar deal with one of the most heinous criminals she’d ever met, and survive? What and who would she find to help her in this journey?
Though the material is profoundly dark in some places, it always struggles to move toward light because Jaguar is a woman who knows both light and dark in equal measure, and is determined to move through shadow toward light. As Alex, her cohort and would-be lover says to her, she turns poison into medicine. That’s who she is. What she does.
If you’re reading this and you’re a survivor of any kind of abuse, you know what I mean. As survivors, we have a choice. We can live our trauma, or our healing. And if we choose the latter, then inevitably we turn that healing toward others, throwing light on the darkest places. And we do that in spite of what the world tells us about our experience, in spite of judicial systems or parents or abusers who say we’re wrong. We do it for ourselves, for our children, for all those we’ll meet who need to know that it’s possible to live in the light, in spite of the darkness we’ve had to meet.
The Green Memory of Fear is all about that, and in many ways it was a privilege to write it. An honor to parse out the ways and means by which we survive and thrive beyond the traumas in our lives.
Those who read it will also note that it’s a love story, a romance of the first order, as Alex and Jaguar work out their own relationship issues. And that makes sense, because the reward of healing is being able to work and to love. Jaguar, who loves her work and does it well, can now extend that love to her personal life, because she’s walked through her darkness, toward the light.
And that, ultimately, is what I wish my writing to do. To help my readers to be able to work and love fully, with great passion and joy. To turn their poison into medicine.
To do as Jaguar always says – See who you are. Be what you see.
BARBARA CHEPAITIS is author of 8 published novels, including the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams, as well as the sci-fi series featuring Jaguar Addams. The fourth novel in that series, A Lunatic Fear was a nominee for a Romantic Times Bookclub award.
Her scripts have placed semifinalist with Niccholl’s Fellowship and finalist with Sundance Screenwriter’s award.
She is founder and director of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, host of WAMC Writer’s Forum, a Teaching Artist with the Lincoln Center-based Aesthetic education program, and concentration direction in fiction at Western State College of Colorado’s graduate program in creative writing.
You can visit her website at Wild Reads and her blog at M&C Literary Lunch
You can also follower her on Twitter and Facebook