Our Beyond Chronic interview with Laurel Dewey, author of the new novel Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden, concludes with Laurel’s comments on writing Betty, keeping secrets, and getting over the stigma and propaganda hurdle.
Laurel Dewey: Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden is a book that people should recommend to people who don’t understand medical cannabis or who are scared of it, because it’s a very honest depiction of what is going on in the patient/caregiver relationship, or at least what was going on in Colorado in 2010, with the dispensaries and the law back then. And by the way, the reason I set the novel in May to October of 2010 is because the laws in Colorado change every five seconds, it’s ridiculous. But for that period, the laws stayed the same, with how many plants you could grow, and so on. It was more stable then.
But I think the book gives people a real honest depiction of the pros and the cons, and what people are doing right now to further cannabis research, and the lies that we’re being told. Because I do have a couple of characters in the book that make that clear.
You know what my hope is? And I’ve already had one person say it to me…my intent on this book was that people would be brave enough to not keep it secret from their friends, and tell them, “You know, I read this book, and it’s really making me reconsider my ideas on cannabis.” I would love that…just stop the hysteria, and let’s get a dialogue going.
If my book could become the launching pad for intelligent discussion, and intelligent conversations at dinner tables, that would be awesome! I mean, wow, that’s cool! And it would tell me I didn’t waste 18 months of my life.
And I’m sure there’s going to be people out there who say, “What has she done? I’m never going to read anything she writes again!” That’s fine. That’s their prerogative.
Old Hippie: I don’t think you can read this book without reexamining your feelings about cannabis.
Laurel Dewey: That’s good to hear. That’s really good to hear. I’m glad to hear you say that. Well, that’s if you’re willing to go outside your comfortable zone, your comfortable little box that so many people live in. We all have boxes that we feel comfortable in.
My Jane Perry books – especially the first one, but to an extent the second one – are pretty grisly, lots of foul language, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers who would write the reviews online, or would come right up to me, and say, “I wish you would stop with the violence, and I wish you would stop with the foul language. It’s so unnecessary.” And I would say, “That’s the character I wrote, and that’s just who she is, and if you lived her life, you’d live and talk exactly the way she does.”
There’s always going to be people who are going to shut off a story, even if it’s a compelling story, because they’re offended by something, whether it’s violence or whether it’s sex or whether it’s foul language. So my hope, my intent, my goal, is that people don’t go, “Hey, I’m not going to read a book about marijuana. Gimme a break.”
I’ve already had people who didn’t know what I was writing — I kept this book pretty quiet when I was writing it – a few people who were close to me. And they said, “What are you writing? Another Jane Perry book?” And I said, “No, actually, I’m writing a different novel.” “And what’s it about?” “Well…it’s about medical marijuana.” And I would have them look at me just dumbstruck. Literally, I had three people say this to me, who turned their lip up, and literally scowled, and said, “Why are you wasting your time writing a book about that?” And they said it in that exact way.
And, you know, that kind of stops the conversation. I’m not going to defend myself. I said, “Hey, it’s a good story. It’s not really a book about medical marijuana. It’s a love story about a woman, a man, and a plant.” And it really is.
David Fiedler: Yeah…why don’t you just stick to writing about nice, wholesome murder instead?
Laurel Dewey: Well, why write about murder at all? Let’s pretend it doesn’t happen. Let’s pretend rape doesn’t happen. Let’s pretend child abuse doesn’t happen. Let’s just live in our little comfortable world. That’s one of the reasons I wrote Revelations, the third Jane Perry novel, about family secrets. That was two years of research right there. That book was all about, “Let’s pretend it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t exist. Let’s pretend this horrible thing never happened, and drink our coffee, and watch our television, and keep pretending.” And that’s unfortunately the attitude people have.
Old Hippie: I’ve found something similar in my own family, where there have been secrets – nothing horrible or criminal – but things that just aren’t mentioned or talked about for years and decades, and so go on to develop as myths or whispers and secrets.
Laurel Dewey: Yes! The secrets develop a life of their own. The whole idea of secrets – and that was a compelling story for me to write – is that I learned, there’s a guy named Bert Hellinger in Germany, and he does sessions, psychological retreats, and books on this. Basically the book Revelations is based on his theory that if a secret is buried in the bloodline, it repeats on its own. The family members repeat a secret – whether it’s alcoholism, drug addition, homosexuality, incest, clandestine adoptions. All of these things are kept quiet, because of shame or because of propriety.
But people don’t realize, that when you start digging into your family line, you start to see that the secret – let’s just use homosexuality — up until recently, it was considered like, “Oh my god, you can’t have anybody homosexual in your family”, but you would have a continuing paradigm of this throughout your bloodline. Or you had clandestine adoptions. That one is really interesting, how it perpetuates itself.
The whole idea of Hellinger is that once you release the secret, once you’re brave enough, just one individual in that bloodline is brave enough to come out and say, “This happened to me, and that’s who did it, and I’m going to stop it right now. I’m going to stop it by exposing it.” Not necessarily by putting them in prison, because a lot of the time they’re dead. “I’m going to expose it by speaking about it. And by speaking about it, I can take the shadows off, and I can create a new reality. And the secret no longer has any kind of control over me, nor does it have any power over me.”
And then suddenly your life changes. Suddenly your offspring don’t have to go through what you went through, or what your grandmother went through. Or your great-grandmother, or whatever.
And the same thing, I think, goes for cannabis. If more people stop this attitude of, “Well, I use it, but I gotta keep quiet about it, because I wanna keep it a secret.” And then you have a kid, and you tell them, “Well, you can use it, but you gotta keep quiet about it.” This perpetuates this whole ridiculous secret. And it’s really not that that big a deal.
Think about alcoholism. Alcoholism, 60 or 70 years ago, you kept that quiet. If your mom or dad or grandparents were alcoholics, boy, you kept that quiet. If you saw them drunk…families even denied it: “Oh, he’s just happy.” “He’s just a little excited.” You even denied it when you saw it.
I’m really glad you brought that up about secrets, because it really does dovetail with cannabis.
Old Hippie: The only difference is, the government puts you in jail if they know about it. If we could just take care of that one, we could take care of the stigma.
Laurel Dewey: Exactly. I did an interview recently, and someone asked me what it would take for this to be more legal, to get this out in the open.
It will take time, getting over the propaganda, the stigma, but in addition to time, it will take more and more people saying, “Enough is enough.” Hopefully, that day is coming soon.