American ex pat Regan moved to Stockholm to be with her Swedish boyfriend Anders after a whirlwind romance, and has been blogging about her adventures settling into Sweden. Last week, her regular readers were startled when the blog took an unexpected turn: one of Anders’ close friends was found murdered, and the police quickly zeroed in on him as the chief suspect.
Regan doesn’t exist. She never did.
I have been fascinated with the story of the radio drama of War of the Worlds produced by Orson Welles forever. The story of alien invasion was presented in a series of radio news bulletins, leading many listeners to believe that martians had actually landed on earth. I loved the idea of a fictional experience so vivid and authentic that people were able to step right into it, and have had an ambition to create my version of that ever since. When Regan and Anders started to burrow their way into my brain, I realized I’d found the perfect story.
Regan’s early accounts of being an ex pat in Stockholm are extremely autobiographical: one of my friends only clicked that it was fiction when she realized how much of what happened to Regan had happened to me. Getting trapped in the sliding doors at ICA and having my credibility as a person questioned: happened to me. Rescued by a kindly stranger who explained the number queue system in Sweden: happened to me. Accused by a guy renting kayaks of being lonely: happened to me. Felt screamingly lonely, frustrated and at times almost paranoid facing how difficult to read and reserved Swedes can be… happened to me.
I knew that many would click it was likely fiction when the murders started happening, and I’m fine with that: the idea isn’t about fooling people, but inviting them fully into a fictional world. I won’t ever break the fourth wall on the blog itself, but will discuss it openly here and elsewhere. I would love any feedback or questions about the concept or story, feel free to contact me here!
It has been thrilling and terrifying and awesome. It is so rare for a fiction writer to have such an instant reaction – normally there are months or years between creation and presentation, so at times it’s been startling to be thinking up the next chapter while reading comments about the last. I have been beyond thrilled at the amazing group of commenters – Anna, Zethro, Andy, Alexa, Joanna, Zest, Loulou, thegeekyg4mer, speccy, cindybruchman, to name a few – who have been following Regan’s journey and advising her for months. I hold my breath every morning when I click publish waiting to hear from them.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, I have no idea what will happen. Will people lose interest if/when/now that they know it’s fiction? Will the story be enough to intrigue them? Will someone solve the mystery before I do? (They already clicked something I’d planned as a big twist a while back!) I don’t really have a specific end game in mind, other than getting to tell Regan’s story and hopefully people enjoying it.
Other than a 50 Shades-esque viral rampage throughout the internet, but that goes without saying. 😉