My novel Three Faced Doll was inspired by a doll my sister and I shared when were young. The plot developed from broodling about lost sisters, dead twins and madness in my family. The main characters in the novel are triplets – Ilona, Maya and Khalu. After a fatal car accident, two of the sisters survive but they are orphaned. The story follows the sisters’ experiences in foster homes and the trials and tribulations of their early adulthood. It slowly dawns on the reader that the narrator may be unreliable.
Fear of going mad is a recurring anxiety for myself and my siblings. As well an uncle with schizophrenia, close family members have suffered with depression. It’s not surprising that one of us had imaginary friends
My brother Peter told me he couldn’t physically describe them, but they were always there and responsible for all the mischief. Later they morphed into voices inside his head and he came to accept they were a part of him. When I last spoke with him, he told me he still heard them. Sometimes they whispered suicidal thoughts and twice they told him to take too many pills. Luckily, there was always one voice telling him to ask for help.
Peter can’t remember them not being there. They came in pairs, He He and Ha Ha, Mooney and La La. They were very naughty.
‘Who painted the shed with bright red gloss paint?’ asked Dad.
‘That was Mooney, not me,’ said Peter.
‘Who stuck your sister’s party dress together with chewing gum?’ said Mum.
‘It wasn’t me,’ said Peter. ‘It was He He and Ha Ha.’
I play with the concept of imaginary friends in Three Faced Doll. I’m not the first author to settle on this idea. In the novel, The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler, the character Natasha assumes a similar role. ‘What Natasha did, Flannery did. […] Natasha’s actions can be seen as an imaginary manifestation of Flan’s dark side. […] Natasha performed the actions Flannery was afraid to admit she wanted to perform.’ Handler creates a twist at the end when Natasha is revealed as Flannery’s imaginary friend. In Three Faced Doll I attempt the reverse, hinting to the reader at the start of the novel that Ilona is an unreliable narrator, then, as the story unfolds, the reader begins to question whether Maya is imaginary or in fact real.
Our family history of schizophrenia also instigated an interest in dissociative disorder. This somewhat controversial phenomena has been successfully used in recent films Black Swan and Split. I use dissociative disorder in both Three Faced Doll and Prescient Spirit.
Daphne du Maurier viewed herself as more than one character. She often referred to ‘the boy in the box’ and used this persona as the narrator in several of her novels. In The Parasites, she takes this further as the three main characters – Maria, Niall and Celia, were created to represent different facets of herself. The novel is autobiographical, told in a complicated and confusing way with past and present tense and using first and third person narration.
In the first sentence, ‘It was Charles who called us the parasites.’ Who is the ‘us’, du Maurier refers to? There are three Delaneys but it’s never clarified who is narrating. ‘Us’ never turns into ‘me’. The reader is left wondering who du Maurier most sympathises with. But then, if all three are facets of her own personality, it is more than likely all and none.
Re-reading The Parasites caused me to re-examine my three characters in Three Faced Doll. Perhaps I have subconsciously done the same thing as du Maurier? Developed the three characters from personal traits of my own?