I have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder. It’s what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder. I spent a lot of time in therapy. working with a childhood trauma specialist, and I am a very high functioning dissociative.
My character Catskinner is based on my own experiences. He is what is called a protector alter, however I have fictionalized his perceptions and certain other aspects of the James & Catskinner system.
I am currently listening to the audiobook version of Catskinner’s Book, read by the talented Brandon McKernan. Hearing Brandon bring my words to life has reminded me of Catskinner as a person–not human, but possessed of his own desires and emotions, alien as they are.
I need that reminder. It would be all to easy to make Catskinner a plot device, just a BFG that James can pull out when he’s in a jam. I don’t think I quite crossed that line in Cannibal Hearts and The Worms Of Heaven, but I can feel that temptation.
Catskinner is a hard character to write. I have put a lot of work into the metaphysics and pseudoscience behind my novels. It’s important work, I think, because suspension of disbelief can be such a fragile thing. With each novel I have more data to keep organized and consistent. If I say that something works a particular way in one book I have to make sure that it works the same way in every book. (For example, I find myself wishing that I hadn’t given the Ambimorphs such inhuman eyes, but it’s something that I committed to working with.)
Consistency of facts is only half of the story, though. I also have to make the people who inhabit my strange world consistent. People do change, of course. Nancy, for example, is in the process of rewiring her own brain with the help of her symbiote and that shows in her personality. I have to be careful not to lose what my characters appealing as people, though.
People like Catskinner, and what they like about him isn’t the technical nuts and bolts of how Orthovores function, it’s his black ironic humor and his passionate care for James. I need to remember that.