Co-author of the Acclaimed YA Novel:
The Clash Inside Me
ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Adaptation Review: THE CLASH INSIDE ME is a highly compelling story of a man’s struggle with dissociative personality disorder. The narrator is a likable, charismatic protagonist, and the reader feels fully invested in seeing him find a sense of peace as he manages the battling voices in his head. The protagonist’s two alternate personalities — Charlie and Klay — are clearly defined principal characters as well, with Charlie emerging as the truly sinister main antagonist of the story
Other supporting characters, like the protagonist’s close friend Zach, his worried parents, his employer Milt, and his love interest Tami, are each fully dimensional and well rendered.
The dialogue is nicely swift, expressive, and clearly conveys each character’s personality, point of view, personal desires and conflicts, and their relationships with the other characters. And the protagonist’s prose narration is enjoyably concise, visually vivid, and suspenseful, encouraging the reader to become increasingly hooked and eager to find out what happens next.
Thematically, the novel is a very powerful exploration of severe mental illness and how isolating and scary it can be for the person experiencing it firsthand. This genuinely gripping novel feels ideally suited for a screen adaptation, either as a feature film for theatrical or streaming release, or perhaps as a limited or online episodic series for a prestige cable network. In both its tone and themes, the novel feels enjoyably similar to acclaimed series like UNITED STATES OF TARA and ATYPICAL, and hit films like FRANKIE & ALICE and IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY. A screen adaptation of this novel is sure to be enthusiastically received by viewers seeking out nuanced, sensitively told dramas about likable characters living with an overwhelming mental health condition.
This thoroughly compelling, suspenseful, and quite emotionally powerful novel will be fully immersive and dramatically impactful in making a transition to the screen.
From Reviewer A. Avina: Memorable, engaging, and thoughtful in its approach, authors John Mondragon and Kelly Alblinger’s “The Clash Inside Me” is a must-read fiction thriller with a mental health focus. The intrigue and suspense of the main plot, when combined with the emotional journey of the protagonist and his struggle with his mental health, makes for an amazing read.
The authors found the perfect balance between entertaining narrative and emotionally driven character growth under the umbrella of understanding dissociative identity disorder more clearly. The narrative was definitely character-driven, focusing on the protagonist and his alters in vivid and gritty detail. The fast-paced narrative made the reading experience fun yet thought-provoking.
Excerpt from: The Clash Inside Me
In this chapter the protagonist attempts to warn his new girlfriend about an unexpected tragedy that has just occurred, and bravely reveals the existence of his alternate personalities to her.
I stood shivering on the sidewalk in front of Tami’s apartment for what felt like a long time. I’d like to say it was because of my damp sweater, but truthfully I was scared as hell. I didn’t know how to explain the evening’s events or how to tell her about my alters. But I had to prepare her. I prayed she would be understanding, but if she didn’t call the cops I’d consider myself lucky.
I took a deep breath and rang the bell, watching a moth circle the porch light as I waited. The phrase “Don’t go into the light!” from Poltergeist popped into my brain and I almost laughed out loud. The warning seemed oddly appropriate to my own situation.
I heard the deadbolt turn and the door swung open. Tami was shoeless, but still dressed in her work clothing. Evidently she’d just arrived home. Her face lit up when she saw me.
“Oh thank God – you’re just the person I was hoping to see! What a rough day!” She stood aside to let me pass then threw her arms around my neck, standing on tiptoe to kiss me. My lack of passion was immediately evident, and she stepped back. Teasingly she said, “Well, that was a lusty greeting!” Noticing that her blouse was damp from our hug, she inspected me more closely. “What happened to you? You’re soaking wet! And you’re shaking like a leaf! Get in here – let’s get you warmed up!”
She pulled a blanket off the back of the couch, wrapping it around me as she pushed me to sit. Dropping down beside me she said, “What’s going on?”
Pulling the blanket tightly to keep myself from crying I blurted, “Lenny’s dead!”
The sound of her breath filled the room as she drew a sharp, surprised inhale. “NO! Are you sure? What happened?” She placed a concerned hand on my arm, and I broke down.
Sobbing, I stammered through the painful explanation of being picked up by Zach, finding out that Lenny had been shot, and convincing him to return to Malarkey’s to get help for Lenny. I told her that Zach had been dealing, and that he was afraid of being arrested, so I went alone to rescue Lenny.
“Was he alive when you got there?”
“I don’t think so. I could see his eyes – they were just staring at the sky. And the blood dripping from the corner of his mouth…” I couldn’t continue.
“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry you had to see that.” She had both arms around me, holding me like a child.
“But that’s not all,” I said. “There’s more.”
“Tell me,” she said, gently.
“When I realized that Lenny was…gone…I lost it. The junkie – I beat the hell out of him. He didn’t even know we were there until it was too late to defend himself. Then the gun went off. He’s dead. We killed him. It was an accident, but he’s still dead.”
Tami looked confused. “Who is ‘we’? I thought you said Zach stayed in the car?”
And there it was. The moment of truth had arrived. With the exception of Dr. Clare, I was about to reveal something I’d never told another living soul.
“He did – he stayed in the car. I was alone, but I wasn’t by myself. Tami, there’s something you should know about me. I’m not normal. Oh my God, how do I say this? Have you ever heard of dissociative identity disorder?”
Tami looked blank.
“How about split personalities? Sybil? The Three Faces of Eve?”
She nodded her head slowly, understanding beginning to register. “What are you saying?”
I looked down at my hands and took a deep breath. “I have that disorder. I have two alter personalities. One of them killed the junkie.”
Tami sat back on the couch, a tsunami of emotions washing over her. Confusion gave way to understanding, which gave way to a combination of curiosity and fear.
“A different personality killed him?”
“They have names?”
“Yes. Charlie and Klay.”
She repeated their names to herself. Then she asked, “They’re different from you?”
“Entirely. They are each completely different from me, and completely different from one another. Charlie is older than me. He’s tough; aggressive. He doesn’t take any BS. But Klay is the opposite – he’s only five, and he’s very vulnerable.”
“Huh. And they live inside you? You’re all in there together?” I could see she was trying to puzzle it all out. “How do you decide who’s in charge? How do I know who I’m talking to?”
I looked her in the eye. “You are talking to me. I’m in charge. I’m always in charge, except on very rare occasions when Charlie asserts himself and takes over. It doesn’t happen very often, but it did today. It was a situation of extreme stress, when Charlie realized that Lenny was dead. It happened so fast there was no time to stop him.”
She was struggling to make the pieces fit, and I didn’t blame her. It sounded like a pretty flimsy excuse to me, and I was living it.
“That day at the beach – when you got into it with Zach?”
“Charlie. He was jealous because you flirted with Zach.”
“So he tried to drown Zach. For real, tried to kill him?”
I shrugged. “We’ve done a lot of therapy since then. We have an understanding now.”
“Do the guys know?”
“No. No one knows. I’ve never told anyone.”
Tami got up and began pacing the living room. She hugged herself tightly, chewing her lower lip as she processed the information. “Is Charlie here now?”
“Can I talk to him?”
I shrugged again. “Why?”
“I want to get his perspective. I want to hear what he has to say.” It was a direct challenge.
“I’ve never called him out in front of anyone before. I’m not sure what to expect. I’m not sure he’d be willing.” That was a lie. I was positive that Charlie would be ecstatic to come out and show off for Tami. I just wasn’t sure I wanted him to do it.
It was Tami’s turn to shrug. She wanted evidence. I felt stuck. I had no idea what would happen. She didn’t realize that this wasn’t a dog and pony show; I couldn’t just trot out my alters for entertainment purposes. It didn’t work like that. But now that I’d confessed my secret to her, it was only fair to demonstrate that I wasn’t lying.
“Fine. I’ll try. He can only hear me if I talk out loud. I can’t just summon him inside my head. So this is going to sound a little weird, okay?”
“Do what you gotta do.” She took a seat, gripping the arms of the chair. I couldn’t tell if she was excited or terrified.
Truthfully, I felt a bit foolish. It was like calling a genie from a bottle, except that there wouldn’t be any magic smoke or fireworks. I cleared my throat. “Charlie! Charlie, can you please come out? Tami would like to talk to you.” We waited expectantly, but nothing happened. I tried again.
“Hey, Charlie! Tami wants to hear your version of tonight’s events. This is your chance, buddy. The pretty lady wants your attention. Don’t blow it!” I felt a little rumble inside, and my vision went from pink to red. He didn’t say anything, but he was present.
Turning to Tami, I said, “He’s here. I’m going to concede. That means that I will be in the background and Charlie will be in control. I’ll be watching, but I won’t be in command. Are you certain you want to do this?”
“Okay.” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I tried to relax as I exhaled, and I felt a surge of energy as Charlie took the reins.
“Hey, baby.” Really, that was Charlie’s opening gambit? I would have thought that under the circumstances he could have come up with something a little more elegant.
“Hey yourself,” responded Tami. She was eyeing him critically, judging whether or not I was faking. “What’s new?”
“It’s been a hell of a day. You hear about Lenny?”
“Yes. It doesn’t seem real.”
“You got that right. He was a good guy. I hope I find Zach before the cops do.” Charlie made a wringing motion with his hands. Tami winced. “He deserves far worse than what he’ll get from me. Greedy little SOB – too stupid to realize that he put his friends in danger. If you ask me, prison is too good for him.”
Looking alarmed, Tami asked, “Aren’t you worried about yourself? I mean, the junkie…?”
Charlie puffed up his chest. “Nah, I ain’t worried about that. Punk had it coming to him. Not a jury in the civilized world that would rule against me.” Seeing her stricken face he added, “Hey babe, I’m a hero! I avenged the death of an innocent man against a piece of human garbage! Do you know how many people will celebrate that? Finally someone deals out justice the way it should be done! I’ll probably become a celebrity!” He winked.
Tami didn’t know how to respond to his bravado, and Charlie took that as an invitation to continue boasting.
“Yeah, I’ll probably end up doing the talk show circuit – all the late-nights will want me. Probably make some nice coin from those gigs too. And Dr. Phil. Oh yeah, my story is perfect for Dr. Phil. ‘The psychology of an extraordinary American hero!’ Dude will be so into that!” He grinned, fist pumping his perceived future success. “You can come with me, you know? They always expect a plus-one. That could be you, little lady.” He playfully cocked his head and pointed both forefingers at her, grinning.
Tami was horrified. Her knees trembled as she stood up, but her voice was firm. She pointed to the door. “Get out.”
“What?” Charlie’s swagger faltered as he processed her words.
“Get out of my home. You and your…alters…are not welcome here! Get out!”
“Babe, you’ve got this all wrong. I’m a hero! I avenged Lenny’s death – street justice and all that!” Charlie tried hard to be persuasive, but Tami wasn’t buying it.
“I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I won’t be part of it! I thought you were a nice guy, a trustworthy guy – a guy that I could make a future with. But you’re looney tunes! You’re sick! And now you’ve killed someone, but you have no remorse at all! In fact, you’re proud of it!” She moved across the room and opened the front door. “Get out of my house. Get out of my life!”
The sting of her rejection was more than Charlie could handle. He pulled off the blanket and threw it down on the couch.
“You’re making a big mistake, babe. I’m offering you the opportunity to ride along with me, live the good life for a while. We could be great together, I think you know that.” He looked at her pointedly.
Although Tami was on the verge of tears she kept it together. “You’re a monster. Leave now or I’ll call the police.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll go, because I don’t need any more trouble. But when you come to your senses, you’ve got my number.” He tapped the phone in his pocket. “I might even answer when I see that it’s you.” He paused in front of her, tilting her chin upward with his index finger so she was looking directly into his eyes. “Think about it.”
Remaining silent, Tami stood her ground as he sauntered out slowly. She immediately slammed the door, and I could hear the deadbolt snap into place.
“Not a very bright chick,” commented Charlie. “She coulda had it pretty good.”
I had watched the whole episode play out with a feeling of dread, knowing that I had allowed it to happen. Now it was clear that Charlie was a psychopath. He had no regard for anyone but himself, not even for the person whose body he lived in. He didn’t care about the life he had taken. He didn’t see Tami as a person with feelings; he saw her as an object to be played with, to provide him a good time. She was only valuable as long as she was impressed with his status as a vigilante hero.
Charlie began walking. “Where are we going?” I asked, but realized that Charlie hadn’t conceded, so he couldn’t hear me. I tried to exert my will and regain control, but Charlie had it locked down tight. We walked back toward the park, heading downtown, as I frantically tried to figure out a way of tricking him into ceding the body back to me. I was trapped in the prison of my own flesh.
Then Charlie began mumbling under his breath, and his words froze me to the core.
“Call the police? Oh yeah, she’s calling the police for sure. No doubt. She’ll be surprised, because I’m not going down. I’m a hero, damn it! Junkie scum took out an innocent man, but I made him pay. Yeah – that’s the way we do it around here! But they might not understand at first. I might have to educate them. Can’t do that from jail. No one listens in jail. Cops can suppress the truth all they want. They can spread their own lies so no one can hear the REAL truth! Can’t risk going to jail. Gotta find a place to lay low until things cool down. Until I can speak my own truth so people can hear it. Gotta go where there are no people. Think, think!”
I realized that if Charlie were to hide out, my chances of regaining control were unlikely. I needed someone to see him acting crazy and call the police. If we were taken into custody my parents would be notified, and there would be some kind of psychiatric intervention. Maybe my mom would call Dr. Clare, which would be the best possible outcome. But in hiding I didn’t stand a ghost of a chance.