When I read the synopsis of Dragonfly by Ronnell D. Porter, I was intrigued. While I have read many true-to-life tales of dark fiction that drew from the less than pleasant experiences that some endure, I haven’t taken on the task of writing one longer than a few thousand words. And never on a topic as stark and depraved as this one was. When I was given the opportunity of hosting a guest post from Ronnell, the only thing I wanted to know (and this was mainly for myself) was how one treats such painful experiences (guaranteed someone has had to live a life similar to what is in the book) and subject matter in their fiction. Ronnell answered my question, but before we get to that, let’s take a moment to get to know him…
Ronnell D. Porter was raised in Ogden, Utah, and now resides in Denver, Colorado. During his free time he plays the violin, dabbles in graphic design, and, of course, thoroughly enjoys writing stories. He believes that a novel written simply to entertain does its readers a disservice; instead, a book’s narrative should always change the way we perceive the world around us, and grant us a little more wisdom than we had when starting the story. You can find Ronnell on his Amazon Author Page, GoodReads, or his Website.
And without further ado…
How do you handle such painful subject matter within the realms of fiction?
I think I’m able to handle absorbing and putting out sensitive or graphic subjects in fiction due to my upbringing. When I was a child my mother (who is an avid horror film fan) would take me to every new horror film that would hit theaters, so from I very young age it was explained to me that films weren’t real, and neither were the monsters in them (though that didn’t keep me from being paranoid in bed at night a time or two). With fiction, there’s the sense of empathy that allows me to live the sensation of the physical or emotional inflicted upon the characters I’m reading about or watching, but it’s through a sort of lens because as horrific as the situations may be, it isn’t real, and it’s not really happening to this particular individual, since they don’t exist. Besides, reality is always far, far worse than what comes from any media we take in.
But sometimes we read about painful subjects that we’ve endured ourselves, sometimes we write about it. No matter how thick you’ve calloused your skin and reinforced your defenses, being caught unaware by a memory trigger can be devastating at times, so I don’t think anyone is immune to every piece of violence or depressing media out there. For me, writing Dragonfly wasn’t for the sake of writing dark material; I wrote it as a way of cathartic release – a way to work through unresolved feelings of some childhood memories wherein events were beyond my control. And I wanted to offer it up to anyone in the same or similar state of mood so that maybe they, too, could find some output, some relief from bottled emotions. Sometimes painful subject matter can therapeutically guide us around the rug we shove our secrets and memories under.
Thank you Ronnell – your insight on the subject is greatly appreciated. Now let’s take a look at Dragonfly…
On the nights when 22-year-old Jessica Parker dreams, she relives one hellish memory—the day she was viciously raped in the woods by a man with a dragonfly tattoo. She wakes up feeling like the helpless child she used to be, and sinks back into her day-to-day life with her jaded mother, her mother’s live-in boyfriend and drug-dealer, Arnie, and her young sister, Rachel. Life seems stable enough for a while, and she almost believes that she can achieve some semblance of normality. That is until she catches word from Detective Sam Hayden that the monster that shattered her life has been released from prison.
Jessica is asked to relive her nightmarish ordeal again in order to help Hayden unravel an underground network of child sex-slave trafficking known as Dragonfly. This network hides the face of a serial killer he’s been hunting for ten years, and Jessica may hold the key to finding his identity. Together they follow every lead and struggle to unveil the dragonflies hidden among them behind the guise of neighbors, friendly strangers—even officers of the law—before another victim vanishes in a web that leaves no trace behind.
Content Warning: Contains graphic violence, adult sexual material and themes
Recommended Age: 18+
And now for an excerpt from Dragonfly by Ronnell D. Porter!
The interior of the car was quite lavish; the lush, soft leather seats were heated and the temperature of the cab was programmed on a large LED screen on the dashboard. Rachel could see it clearly from her seat behind the driver, a man she’d never met nor seen before that morning. But Arnie said that he was a friend and that she could trust him. Besides, he said that Jess wasn’t feeling well, and without her presence in the morning walk to the bus stop the ritual lost its magic. Plus, driving up in a luxurious vehicle that looked as though it could belong to the POTUS himself would make her the envy of the day. Kids in school would look through their classroom windows and see the man open the door for her. She would hold her head high like she was the queen of the freaking playground and sashay all the way down the path to the entrance. Sissy Renner would lose her mind with jealousy, and that alone was worth the extravagant entrance.
“Have you known Arnie long?” Rachel asked. She couldn’t even see the back of his head from where she sat, but she could see his eyes in the rearview mirror. It was difficult to tell if they were blue or gray, and the lack of any sort of mood behind his lashes made those beautiful eyes somewhat depressing.
He reached over and opened the glove compartment. He lifted a small bottle of water over his shoulder, waggling his hand until she took it. He snapped the compartment shut and then set his eyes on the road. “You looked thirsty,” he said. His accent gave his words rhythm, and he pronounced his vowels in the back of his throat, unlike anything she’d heard before. “Oh, I’ve known Arnold about seven years now. My name is Olav.”
Rachel looked down at the bottle. She was a little thirsty, and she would have been more than happy to take a drink, were it not for the fact that the cap had already been opened. The tiny little plastic bridges all the way around the cap had been snapped. She shook the water as modestly as she could. There were little white flecks and particles floating around. Were it tap water, she might have excused them, but she’d never seen anything floating freely in bottled filtered water before. It settled like dust at the bottom, dissolving a little more each time she shook it.
When she looked up, she saw him staring right into her eyes. It startled her, made her chest ache and her hands run cold. But she ran a hand through her hair to pretend as though everything was okay, and untwisted the cap of the water bottle. She held it up to her lips, tipped it up, but kept the water from entering her mouth. When she wiped her lips and smiled, he nodded contently and returned to watching the road. She spun the cap back onto the bottle and stared out the window.
This wasn’t the road to her school. This street would eventually curve in the opposite direction. She ground her teeth and tried not to jump to conclusions, but she couldn’t ignore the facts. She’d been handed tampered water, which had been laced with God only knew what, and this man—this stranger—was taking her somewhere far away from where he was supposed to.
She’d been taken. She wasn’t an idiot, she knew the signs. She’d been stupid enough to trust the word of a man she’d only known a year—a drug addict and dealer—just like the girls in all of the Stranger Danger Awareness videos she’d sat through at school. She couldn’t believe she’d been so naive. But, as much as her teachers had done to educate them in how to avoid being kidnapped, she had no idea what she should do next. No one ever told you what to do when you became one of the unlucky ones. What was the drug that he’d tried to slip her, and what would he be expecting it to do to her within the next few minutes? What would he do if he found out that she hadn’t taken even a sip? Who was he, and why had Arnie sent her away with him? Where had her mother been all morning? Was Jess really sick? Would she make it home? Was this man going to kill her?
And there’s a giveaway!!