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.
Women and girls have unique social structures. The concept of “mean girls” is well documented in tweens and teens. In middle school there were the popular girls that rejected anyone that was not pretty and thin as if crooked teeth or acne were contagious. A similar group of girls became the cheerleaders and cool kids in high school and college. Unfortunately, many of those girls never outgrow those tendencies. Those women go on to infiltrate PTA’s, church committees, and work places. I’ve encountered the queen bee and her minions. This is the woman that everyone else defers to. She may not be nominally in charge of a committee or civic group but she is definitely in charge. She is a bully that doesn’t physically dominate people. She bullies people by making them feel excluded and denigrated. Her minions are kept in line out of fear of being thrown out of the group. Thankfully, this social structure is becoming less prevalent as parents are becoming better informed and girls are exposed to more avenues of healthy competition. Still, the rate of change is glacial in the arenas of friendships and bullying. Adult female cliques is one of the themes I addressed in Overlook.
When I was initially conceiving the world of Overlook, I envisioned the local queen bee as an antagonist. Bullies make good antagonists; they are easy to despise and many of us have been victims of bullying. They can also be cliche. The more I got to know the character of Stacia Curran, the more I came to love her. She is a terror that rules her little fiefdom with an iron fist, but she is also benevolent. She quietly helps the other members of The Lookers when she can and is motivated by guilt more than malice.
If you’d like to read more about queen bees, Rosalind Wiseman wrote the excellent Queen Bees and Wannabes, as well as the follow-up Queen Bees Moms and King Pin Dads.