Bad Moon was the first book I ever wrote and came about I think because I am slightly obsessed with the way the people in West Virginia talk.
Some people call them Hillbilly’s and years ago, there was a very funny television programme called The Beverly Hillbillies. Maybe that was where it started, I don’t know.
I love the place too; it seems so wild and untamed. So much, I sometimes wonder if my father came from there and I have inherited something. I have it on good authority (from my mother) that he was an American.
So when this very distinctive voice began to speak in my head, all about her life and family, in no time at all I was completely hooked. Annie’s story is nothing like “The Walton’s”, no happy family in the usual sense of the word. They do seem to care for each other, but most of the time what they get up to is pretty hard to live with, a conclusion that the girl in my head had already arrived at.
The more she tries to change things, to make them better, the worse they seem to get. Horrible secrets are revealed and bad things keep happening, but this only seems to make her more determined than ever to leave all the pain and sorrow behind.
The trouble with writing such an unusual book is that most publishers won’t touch it with a barge pole. When I first wrote it, I tried very hard to get it published by the mainstream publishing industry. Most of them loved it, saying it was ‘powerfully written’.
It very nearly made it, but, and it was a big but, they discovered to their horror that they didn’t know how to market it, and one by one they gave up on it.
I think it is a great story. It has everything, plenty of drama, horrifying storylines, love and passion, all wrapped up in a young girls rapidly growing sense of right and wrong.
Still trying to find people who will read it, and dare I say it, review it. It needs to succeed, if only because the next book Simple is based in West Virginia too and about a similar family group.
In some ways, Simple is worse, as it concerns family bullying and the abuse of a mentally challenged family member.
I’m sure that if more people were aware of these books, they would receive more acclaim, but I fear my marketing attempts are inadequate at best.
I’m still in there, swinging… so who knows?
Annie does not have much formal schooling (she decides to leave school when she realises things aren’t as they should) but she is extremely articulate, and some of the descriptions of the landscape surrounding her home, of her experiences and dreams, her mystical feelings on visiting the caves previously inhabited by a Native-American tribe, and her reflections are beautiful and lyrical. We might disagree with some of her decisions but it is difficult not to admire her determination. She never tries to be liked or makes excuses for her own behaviour (she might blame others at times, but despite not being a believer or having much in the way of role models, she does question her actions and tries to make things better), and she is neither all good nor all bad. It’s a testimony to the skill of the author that although Annie’s head is not a pleasant place to be in, we can’t help but wish she’ll succeed and live to see another day.
With themes including incest, rape, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, paedophilia and plenty of violence, this is not a gentle novel or an easy read. There is sex and violence, although these are not graphically rendered, but anybody with a modicum of imagination will be left with many powerful images difficult to forget. The strong intuition of the main character, the roles of fate, blood and family history and the communities portrayed turn this book into a tragedy where instead of kings and gods we have as protagonists a family in the outskirts of society and outside of history. (The historical period of the story and the outside society are not described in detail and this adds to the sense of claustrophobia an entrapment.)
If Annie is a heroine, a tragic hero or an anti-hero is open to interpretation and I haven’t decided yet. I’m not sure I’d like to meet her in real life, but I know I’d like to read more about her.