When I began brainstorming ideas for the Doc Harrison universe, I already knew that I wanted to explore issues of identity. The question: what do you want to be when you grow up? really troubled me when I was a teen. I felt like I wasn’t good at anything except watching TV, eating, and sleeping! I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. I didn’t have a perception of myself. In high school, I played rock guitar, but I wasn’t sure if music was my destiny. When I enrolled in college, I still didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.
Flash forward to present day with me, the writer, trying to figure out how I could convey those feelings through an alien concept. I started thinking about technology and how narcissitic our society has become, with selfies and Snapchat and other sources of social media dictating how we present ourselves to each other through words and images. It’s true that we all wear different “masks” or “personas” in our daily lives. You might speak and act more formally in one situation and behave entirely different in another. Nevertheless, those different voices and faces all come from you–but which ones truly represent who you are… and which ones are fake? Or are they all somewhat truthful? Are we hiding behind who we really are?
Asking those questions led to the notion that Florans can project a piece of themselves, a “persona” they use to communicate, travel, and experience life, either physically or virtually. I found it even more interesting to have Doc and Julie project images that represent their egos or insecurities because they haven’t learned to control their personas. I also realized that it’d be dramatic to have this power linked to a physical organ in their bodies, the “wreath.” I came up with a set of rules that dictate how personas can be used and the toll they take on the body. Those rules led to the concept of “mirage” as a drug and allowed me to explore related ideas of how the persona can assist people with disabilities and what it means to those whose wreaths no longer function. Even more complicated topics like religion began working their way into the series because of this alien ability.
My goals in introducing the wreath and persona extend well beyond servicing the story’s plot. I wanted Doc to become more aware of and confront his self-image as part of becoming a mature adult. Analyzing all the roles you play in your life can have a profound affect on how you view the world and yourself, and perhaps even allow you to make positive changes in your life. Sometimes we go through our days and don’t even realize what we’ve become–both inside and out. The wreath and persona provide interesting and sometimes shocking mirrors for our characters to confront. I hope to continue exploring how these personas as they relate to other planets, people, plants, and creatures in future books!
Of course, I can’t do that without your help. If you’re enjoying the series, please share it with your friends. I’d love to keep writing these novels for many years to come!