Damn, Damsel

by hellorousseau

WARNING: I talk a little bit about dead things. Nothing graphic.

I was eight, and I was watching television with my dad. After the cartoons were done, he changed the channel to a pepper-haired man that, from time-to-time, wore a suit, but who I recognized as a true leather jacket aficionado.

John Walsh was a particularly significant figure in my childhood. In fact, America’s Most Wanted was on regularly, as it was sort of a father-daughter bonding activity for dear ol’ dad and I.

With it, I learned about men who kidnapped their girlfriend’s children, and women who shot their lovers in the chest in hide-a-bed motel rooms. I listened tentatively while doodling as Walsh recalled a certain case’s similarities to Susan Smith’s, and the horror that came with the discovery of JonBenét Ramsey.

Walsh told me about criminal’s tattoos, vehicles, and who was potentially headed to Canada, all while occasionally turning to the camera to proudly decree: “We got him.”

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Some pieces of my (ever-growing) true crime collection.

The first true crime documentary I watched was about Jeffrey Dahmer, a man who was responsible for the series of gruesome murders (and cannibalistic acts) of 17 young men starting in 1988, until he was caught in 1991 in Milwaukee.

Dahmer stuck out to me in the midst of true crime stories I was starting to read (Anne Rule was a regular in my household). On camera, he appeared calm, and mild mannered, but on paper (and an ill-advised, safety-off web search), he was violent, disturbed, and murderous.

“When I was a little kid I was just like anybody else,” said Dahmer during an interview, and it was true. All of my true crime books said so (although if you read into Dahmer’s past, you can make your own judgment of the definition ‘normal’).

I read extensively about Dahmer. Not because I sympathized with the man (who poured acid in people’s skulls while they were still alive), and not because I felt he was some ‘damaged, misunderstood, sweet-baby-angel’ like many’a serial killer groupie, but because I was intrigued that someone could do such horrible things to innocent people, yet seem so… Regular.

Like you or me.

It surprised me even more when I realized that these people- these monsters– did not only take the shape of men, but women too.

I mean, I went to an all-girl’s school my whole life, but not once during my readings about Nellie McClung, Dr. Maude Abbott, or any other powerful women, did I come across the likes of Karla Homolka or Genene Jones. I was confused as to why more people knew the horrific details of Ted Bundy‘s crimes, than about the existence of unrelated Carol Bundy, and the atrocities she committed.

In fact, as I began to move from true crime in to horror literature, I noticed that there were typically two types of women being written:

SUBJECT A: The badass, hardcore, take-no-shit female who knows how to destroy with a gun/blade/chainsaw-arm/blow-darts, and has no absolutely fear,

and SUBJECT B: The damsel, doll-eyed, pouty-lipped beauty who gets kidnapped/emotionally destroyed/abandoned, and has no means of saving herself.

We can’t all be Megara.

With the program I’m in, a large chunk of our second year is dedicated to an IPP (independent professional project).

Some of my talented classmates are organizing fundraisers, recording albums, making movies, and even professionally promoting our projects altogether.

The amount of talent the people I go to school with posses is actually terrifying, but I try to keep my head above the water. (Plus, CreComm is weird- you always want to do your best, but for the most part, you’re PUMPED when your classmates are doing awesome/more awesome than you.)

For my IPP, I decided to write a book, and after months of preparation,
sleepless weeks,
anxiety about my future/existence,
wearing the same sweater for 6 days in a row,
and a horrifying panel interview (it wasn’t actually that horrifying- and thanks for the book suggestions, Duncan!),
Damsel was approved.

damsel

Working cover. Ta-Friggin’-Daaa.

“Damsel is a hardcover book that will consist of 6 short, curiously morbid fictional stories centred around female protagonists, separated by twisted, yet simple, 3-panel comics. It will include certain details from actual serial killer/true crime cases (both female and male), and will aim to portray women in the horror genre as not just one-dimensional characters. We often forget that women are as scary as men.

– First draft of my panel pitch

It’s been easier said than done. Writing a book is super. Fucking. Hard. I won’t bore you with ‘my process’, I’m not that pretentious (yet), but just know it involves a lot of binge eating, late night walks, and staring at the ceiling.

After watching a whopping 46 serial killer interviews, documentaries, and confessions for research, my mind has turned to mush. After reading countless books, trying to get in contact with homicide detectives, and researching how many pounds of pressure it takes to crush a human’s nose (9, by the way), my brain has begun to check out of the whimsical world of true crime that fascinated me so many years ago.

But I signed up for this, and I am determined.
Determined to write horror literature that is as cringe-worthy as something like American Psycho or The Silence of The Lambs.
Determined to stitch tidbits of factual, real-life monsters into my work.
Determined to illustrate Winnipeg as a beautifully dark city,
and determined to write women as something more than a damsel in distress.

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From the wonderful MadLori.

The official Damsel page will be up within the next few weeks. Follow if you’re interested in true crime, bizarre facts, and spooky stories.
Damsel is set to be released in 2015~

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