In writing Overlook, I did hours of research on group dynamics and the issues that influence adult female friendships. I found many fascinating academic articles and several excellent books (most notably Queen Bee Moms & King Pin Dads by Rosalind Wiseman) that discussed the underpinnings of friendship. None of them were as candid and truthful as Alana Munro is in Women Behaving Badly – Exposing the Truth about Female Friendship. Her book is both gritty and accessible. I wish I had read it before writing Overlook. It would have been a big help in getting those scenes between Stacia and The Lookers right.
Here is the review I wrote on Goodreads: In Women Behaving Badly, Alana Munro exposes the ugly underbelly of female friendships. In this brave discussion of how women mistreat each other; Munro discusses how jealousy, gossip, and competitiveness erode relationships. She shares her own deeply personal experiences as well as the stories of pain and betrayal she has collected. I found it cathartic to read about how super intense female friendship is not “closeness” but a form of manipulation. The discussion of cliques and exclusive dyads was spot on.
Ms. Munro does not merely debunk the notion of a sisterhood of women. The last section of the book lays out some good tips on what to look for in a healthy friendship and offers support to every woman hurting from the betrayal and pain found in many female friendships.
Parenthood has a way of making you revisit your own childhood. I was never one of the popular girls. Fifth through eighth grades were a nightmare that I survived by retreating to my room with a book. When my two daughters got to that stage in their young lives, I was terrified for them. I wished I could guide them through the land mines of gossip and mean girls, but I hadn’t learned any tricks in the intervening twenty years.
I read all the books I could find and used my psychology background to try to help my eldest daughter. She didn’t fare much better than I did. She keep her head down and got through it with only minor scarring. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, figured it out. She realized she didn’t need the mean girls to like her or accept her as part of the clique, she needed them to not target her. She came home one day with a list of accouterments to make her blend into the herd. In her middle school, camouflage was a Vera Bradley bag, tan Sperrys, skinny jeans, Hollister t-shirts, and long hair. I was resistant to her plan. She’s a beautiful, bright girl. I wanted her to celebrate her individuality, not hide behind a facade of conformity. She was right. I was wrong. She sailed through middle school without any major traumas. She had a few close friends that were nice kids and the mean girls left her alone.
So why am I telling you this? What does this have anything to do with my writing life? My daughter’s experience made me reconsider the way I do things myself. Was I making myself a target for the adult version of the mean girls (more on that in Queen Bees) in the PTA? Should I outwardly conform and save myself a lot of grief? When I started writing Overlook, I decided that conformity would be a cornerstone of Kitty’s personality. She doesn’t know who she is anymore. She dresses the way her husband likes her to, she eats what he likes, she worships where he tells her to. Kitty blends into the crowd of other Overlook moms, The Lookers. She does whatever the people in her life tell her to do, at least until her husband pushes her just a little too far.