As a recovering addict himself, Coma Dreams serves as an apology to those N. Lawrence Mann hurt in the past. If you, like myself, are wondering how a paranormal suspense novel could possibly encapsulate the journey of an addict with any amount of realism, you’ll want to explore Mann’s unique invitation to readers to join a conversation about the delicate subject of addiction and recovery. This September, during National Recovery Month, I had time to check in with Mann about his new book and how he can steer a conversation for readers toward better health.
- Can you tell us a little bit about your personal recovery story? What was the turning point that inspired you to write the Blue Warp series?
Sure. After having been evicted from my apartment I was couch surfing at a friends. As with most couch surfings, it ended badly, with me being thrown out of his house due to overstaying my welcome and not being able to contribute financially to his rent. During those days on the couch, I sobered up–Cold turkey with all substances. I had lost some good friends, estranged myself from my family and had missed out on my daughter’s childhood, whom I had never met. As a way of apology to everyone I had hurt during my time in the dark, I wanted to write these books. It was a way to make that time worth something, anything. Even if one person read the story and was enlightened, at least that time period in my life was used for something positive.
- Full Breach and Coma Dreams are pretty logical titles in regards to story lines, so where does the name of the Blue Warp series come from?
Well, our best theories as humans to how the universe works are The Theory of Relativity (things infinitely large) and Quantum Mechanics (things infinitely small). The problem is that they don’t get along when trying to mesh them together. To me, this says that either somebody is wrong or there are things we just don’t know about yet. Add to this the fact that we only use ten percent of our brain power, and you have yourself a wide range of possibilities. The Blue Warp is a “why not” and a “what if” that explores the possibility of an infinite consciousness shared by all of us and how a discovery like that might do down.
- “Addiction fiction” is still a relatively unexplored genre, what advice can you give to recovering addicts who want to try writing about their recovery?
Open up a blank Word document, and start using your experiences to power a story.
- When you start writing a book, where does your process begin? Do you envision characters or do you build off of your own experiences?
Good question. The answer is both. Building off of your experiences is a great start, but if you are writing just the straight story, consider writing a memoir. Instead, I like to take an experience and write it out a different way. This way, you can alter history in a way. For instance, if you regret never having gone back to school to acquire a masters degree, then create a character that is doing just that. Research the field, take a free online class about it. Though you didn’t actually complete the degree, you can live vicariously through your characters who have. Hey, it’s better than nothing!
- What can you say about the undertones of apology that are interwoven in Coma Dreams? Who are you apologizing to?
Both Full Breach and Coma Dreams are an ongoing apology. It would take volumes of books to try to summarize what years of addiction can do to your relationships, social development and your self esteem. Full Breach was about, among other things, Brennen’s sobriety journey. In Coma Dreams, Brennen has beaten his demons for now and is remaining sober, but in a very real way, becoming sober is only the beginning. It’s like a record contract. Many budding musicians might consider a contract the mother load–a piece of paper that states, “You made it!” While seasoned bands will tell you that the contract, in fact, was only the beginning. Same with becoming sober. Your done with drugs and alcohol, now what?
- Is any part of your story with addiction portrayed by the characters in Coma Dreams?
So the apology to all friends and family continues in each story. It documents what year one sobriety is like. It just makes me feel better to have friends and family read it, if for no other reason that to better understand what I was going through at the time, as it becomes unbearingly painful to talk about it with them straight up.
- Action, science fiction, and addiction-based events are an unusual blend in a book series? How did you create a story line that included all three?
I wanted to write a story that made the readers want the protagonist to do the drugs, even though they know if will harm him. It paints a really rich picture of what it’s like to be an addict not wanting to use anymore, but doing it anyway. That alone, however, can be a boring story, so adding the action makes it more entertaining and less depressing. And the science fiction element is just a love for Carl Sagan and the original Cosmos program. Though there are fringe science elements in my stories, I always try to root it in known science. In fact the blue warp, a wormhole-like form of travel, is blue because objects appear blue as you move towards them going the speed of light (I can’t go too far down that road because I’ll be answering this question for months).
- Addicts sometimes say that they feel like they are living in someone else’s body or facing demons in their addiction. Is there any connection between these experiences and Talvi’s taking over of Brennen Reynold’s body?
That information is classified. You can read into that as much as you want. I will say this is a keen observation. There are parts of the stories that are certainly open to interpretation. How’s that for an answer?
- How did having characters living in a dream state change the telling of Coma Dreams?
Dreams have always been a fascinating, under-researched part of our lives (and our pets lives as well, as we’ve all seen our dogs or cats twitching their legs in REM sleep). Exploring them is something I’ve always wanted to write about as long as I can remember. It’s very tricky to keep the audience on board, but when it pays out, it pays big.
- Brennen discovers his healing abilities—the Process—after starting his road to recovery, does this reflect any hidden healing talents of yours that you discovered during your early recovery-process?
Haha! Don’t I wish! If that were true I’d still have my childhood pet around. Schnitzel the Schnauzer would still be with us, and pushing about 35.
Thank you, N. Lawrence for your commitment to spreading awareness about addiction and your openness when talking about your own recovery story. Coma Dreams is available to buy now, if we peaked your interest in this new addiction-fiction thriller!