Sunday, 27 August 2017

Louise Beech on Hiding from the Wolf

The Crime Fiction heading now covers so many novels. We have a million noirs, for example – Icelandic Noir, Nordic Noir, Newcastle Noir, Hull Noir, Domestic Noir… We have the Psychological Thriller, a super-popular genre that regularly fills the top ten bestseller lists. I’m campaigning strongly, with much support from in the writing community, for Erotic Noir, but my publisher will send me on a one-way trip to Mars for even mentioning this!

So, is Maria in the Moon, my third novel, a crime novel? This is the question, and I have no real answer. Does it come under one of the elusive noirs? It’s definitely Hull Noir, being set against the backdrop of the devastating East Yorkshire floods of 2007. Karen Sullivan and I have found it so very hard to categorise. Early readers said it wasn’t the Psychological Thriller we had loosely labelled it. So, Karen and I came up with Dark Drama. With Psychological Drama. With Women’s Contemporary Dark Drama. Literary Mystery. Have we invented another genre, or just lost our minds?

Wherever it fits, there is definitely a crime at the heart of Maria in the Moon. A crime so dark, so traumatic, that Catherine-Maria has buried it deeply for over twenty years. A crime that she has quite literally forgotten. Just as I think we writers hide behind our fiction in order to have the bravery to face things, Catherine hides behind helping others at a crisis centre. She’s suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Eczema ravages her fingers, insomnia steals her sleep, and nightmares build and build.

I think that as we get older our childhood gets nearer. Distance allows us to analyse it. Look more closely at difficult things.

Catherine is hiding from the wolf. By this I’m referring to an analogy I came up with to describe childhood PTSD. If a bloody-jawed, snarling, hungry wolf was chasing us through woods, the first thing we’d do is run. We wouldn’t look back – can’t look back. We’d just run and run and run. If we found a safe place – maybe a house – we’d get inside, lock the door, and hide. Even then we wouldn’t look out of the window to see if the wolf was still there. It might take forever to have the courage to look outside. And even if the wolf was gone, we wouldn’t dare open the door and step out and really see if he was still waiting for us. Perhaps after many years, when we felt bigger and stronger than the wolf, we might. But perhaps never. Perhaps the wolf is just too big.

Volunteering at Flood Crisis is a trigger for Catherine to finally open the door to the wolf...

So, Maria in the Moon is definitely dark. Definitely not a light read. But, as with all my novels, I aim for hope. I added moments of comedy to contrast, and bring reality. After all, everyone copes by laughing. And we all have wolves outside the house…

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech (Orenda Books)
Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.  With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges... and changes everything.  Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide...

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