Thursday, July 7, 2016

Reading Between the Lines: the Realities of Fiction

by RJ Jojola

On the Verge— Overcoming the Past

My dark fantasy novel, On the Verge, is very much a coming of age tale where adults in their 20s are forced to deal with and overcome their childhood traumas. As their trust in everything and everyone wanes, the character’s paths become intertwined. As they begin facing their pain and suffering head on, they discover that they are the last and final hope for their world. It is solely up to them to dispel the evil and chaos that had been unleashed by the adults who were supposed to have protected them. In essence, it shows the cyclical nature of not only the downfalls and mistakes that affect the history of a civilization, but individuals and their families as well. 

The Realities of Fiction— Turning Real Life into a Fantastical World

For me, On the Verge is a metaphor for my own childhood PTSD. But it is not only that. It is something many of us can relate to as human beings. As we grow into adults, many of us begin to realize that we are not prepared because whoever raised us, may have passed their demons (past negative experiences) on to us. For some people it may be something blatant like abuse, but for others it may be something not so cut and dry. I think this applies to so many childhood experiences that people have other than abuse and neglect. Maybe you were sheltered. Maybe you were given too much. Maybe you were not given enough. Maybe you were forced to grow up too fast. Or maybe you simply felt unprepared for the real world and how harsh it can be.

All of these things sculpt us into who we inevitably become. And many of times, they hold us back. We create self-fulfilling prophecies that dictate our lives. But we can overcome these things and create a better, or different life for ourselves. It is never easy, but it is worth it. On the Verge is a metaphor for my experiences and acted as a vehicle along a path to healing and overcoming my childhood trauma. This road to healing was incredibly difficult, and at times felt hopeless, but now I can say that I made it out of the darkness and learned not only from my own mistakes, but the mistakes of my elders.

How it Came to Me— The Power of the Subconscious Mind:

On the Verge was something that came to me during a very difficult time in my life.  Growing up, I lived with childhood PTSD from something that happened to me very early on in life. I never really knew exactly why I was the way I was, because I didn’t know what PTSD was and psychology has come a long way since then. But I had always struggled with anxiety, depression, focus issues, and was misdiagnosed with ADD. There were a lot of things my parents missed as well as the other adults in my life— other family members, teachers, doctors, therapists, etc.

The memories of my trauma did not resurface until around the age of twenty-six. I began having flashbacks and horrible episodes. This dark time led me down a path where I was using unhealthy means to escape it and put myself in situations I shouldn’t have been in. That was when I hit rock bottom. My therapist suggested that I go back to my roots and channel my pain into writing as I did when I was a child. That’s when Raelle’s valley came to me— my valley, my safe place. The place I had stored all my happy memories— my ignorant bliss. It was a protective cloud of denial; what I thought my life had been.

That place, Raelle’s Valley, it hid dark times of my childhood. The things that my subconscious mind did not feel I was ready to deal with. My mind was protecting itself. That valley had helped me to be somewhat “normal” until I was old enough and safe enough to face my past head on. And one day, during my student teaching, I was forced to leave that valley, venture out into my past, no matter how difficult. Being back inside a classroom and being around children triggered my memories and trauma in ways I never thought possible. I knew then that I had no choice but to either face my past, or allow it to consume me. And it almost did.

On the Verge is the story of having to leave the safety of your sheltered home, and venture out into a world that is full of pain, horror, bad people/spirits, and loss/death. Much like the real world, it’s difficult to know who to trust a lot of the time. Lerim shows our main characters the realities of growing up in a world where nothing is what it seems, much like our real world. But the dangers of Lerim are fantastical and epic. A true metaphor for anyone who has felt grief, loss, or simply unprepared for the sometimes brutal realities of human life and the human condition.

From the Mind to the Page— Recovery and Release

                A lot of times, after people read On the Verge, they say to me, “I can’t believe you wrote this. You seem so happy and upbeat. The pain of the characters feels so real…” And I tell them that it is because I wrote my demons into the book. I pulled them from the darkest corners of my mind and let them tell their story. In acknowledging them, I have released myself from their grasp. Writing the pain into the pages of my story and subconsciously speaking and expressing emotion through the vehicle of real and raw characters has allowed me to overcome my past. And although I know I will always struggle with the grief of things that have occurred in my life, I now have a means of coping that is not only constructive, but can be shared with others like me. Nothing worth having in this world is easy to attain, and happiness is definitely worth it.

You can read more information about author RJ Jojola, as well as reading sample chapters of On the Verge, by clicking on this link.



  1. It's a cruel world out there. Many authors find their inspiration for their books from past trauma. Sometimes the best way to heal the wound is to dig deep and let the demons out. That way they can't hurt you.