#Interview with the Author: Bad Moon by Anita Dawes #HorrorFamily

 

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Spotlight on the writing of Bad Moon

or

(An informal interview with Anita Dawes)

 

Today I have dragged Anita away from her writing desk and forced her to sit and talk to me about my favourite book (and I suspect, hers too)

Good morning Anita, make yourself comfortable and tell us how you came to write Bad Moon?

Hello Jaye, this is all a bit strange for me, I haven’t done anything like this before, so I am trusting that you are right and it might just be interesting and productive.

I began to write when I couldn’t stand all the voices in my head. They would not let me rest until I told their story, and once I started, I couldn’t stop!

I just love the minds of the people from West Virginia in America, their philosophy and their way of thinking.

What decided the plot of Bad Moon, was it just your imagination or did something trigger it?

I was in a bad place at that time in my life and I think escaping into another world, even one that was not sweetness and light, helped me a lot. There was a song that caught my interest, from Credence Clearwater Revival, about a ‘Bad Moon Rising’. You could say that that was my inspiration right there.  I think song lyrics are very emotive, you can usually come up with a good story to go with them. My book turned out to be the usual story of good and evil; you cannot get away from it, not in nature or human beings. Maybe knowing that what I was writing was not real, helped me in real life. It is possible.

 Is Annie a biographical character? Did you see yourself in her at all?

  No, I don’t think so. She turned out to be stronger than I could ever be.

 She seems a lot like you, somehow.

Does she? It was not intentional. My mother was the inspiration for the creation of Annie’s mother, and Annie’s father reminds me of one of my stepfathers. A long-suffering doormat. All of Annie’s relatives remind me of crows at a funeral.

But in the book, Annie’s father seems like a nice chap?

Yes, but he is weak, unable to control his wife or her relatives.

 Why did the title lose the word ‘rising’? And where did the idea for Pa’s grotesque carvings come from? They do sound fascinating…

 I had to change the title because there were just too many books out there with the same title. The idea for the carvings came from my imagination, although I loved the film ‘The Guardian’ with Jenny Agutter. There was an interesting tree in the storyline that could have sparked something.

I always love the macabre side, like the ‘Tooth Fairy’ in The Silence of The Lambs. Making things out of human skin is fascinatingly disgusting, but people have been doing it for centuries.

Despite all her good intentions, Annie has an incestuous relationship with her brother Nathan, before she falls in love with Josh. Did the thought of writing about incest bother you?

No, there is more of that going on than most of us realise. I believe it can be a natural occurrence, as the love you feel for someone – brother or no – can become so strong and overwhelming. It is possible to love more than one person too, we do it all the time.

Your next book ‘Simple’ is very similar to ‘Bad Moon’. Is that what you intended?

Yes, because I feel it is a part of who I am, and I love writing them.

Will you ever write another story like these two?

Maybe, but it has yet to be proved to me that people are interested in reading them, although I cannot rule it out as I may not be able to stop myself!

If anyone has any questions or comments, we would be pleased to hear from you!


Brilliant Review on Amazon!

OlgaNM
Bad Moon is narrated in the first person by Annie, a young girl who lives happily with her family: mother (Ruby), father (Jed), and older brother (Nathan). She adores her father, although her mother’s behaviour is far from exemplary (she regularly invites other men to her home and that results in incidents with her husband, who takes it out on the men and seem remarkably tolerant of his wife’s behaviour). At first, Annie is worried that she might end up becoming a woman like her mother when she grows up and thinks it is all due to her mother’s family (her father says that her mother was born under a ‘bad moon’ and she comes from ‘the Hills’ where people seem to have their own morality and rules of behaviour). The inhabitants of the Hills seem to be a directly related to those of The Hills Have Eyes or the banjo players in Deliverance. What Annie doesn’t know is that things are worse than she ever could imagine. She has lived all her life in a world of lies and secrets. She is convinced she must learn the truth to avoid history repeating itself and is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve that. The costs are high indeed.
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.

 

Comparing works of Literature…

 

The other evening, for the want of anything more dramatically interesting, we were about to watch a comedy film on tv, Raising Arizona with Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter, about a couple who steal a baby, when Anita asked me what it was about.

I said it sounded as if it would be very similar to Simple. one of her books.

She looked puzzled, so I rattled off the plot of the book. When I had finished, her jaw was hanging open. ‘How on earth do you remember all of that? I wrote it so many years ago and don’t remember it that well.’

As Anita’s editor, it was no surprise to me that it was still in my head. I had read, edited and formatted that book extensively, as I have with all of her books and can practically recite them all verbatim.

Raising Arizona was meant to be a comedy, but was disapointing. I thought I could watch anything that starred Nicholas Cage, but I was wrong and it got me thinking. By comparison, Anita’s book Simple couldn’t be more different if it tried. Dramatic, sad and full of the nastiness that human beings inflict on one another, especially a mentally challenged man/child like Simple. Not quite as violent and brutal as its forerunner, Bad Moon, but if it was a film, I would wear out the tape in no time!

 

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Excerpt from Simple

I had been walking for so long my legs were slowing down, beginning to stiffen.  It would be light in a few hours and still no sign of Simple.  I saw the ridge up ahead in silhouette against the night sky and made myself walk a bit further.

Looking down from the top of the ridge, I could see a few lights twinkling on the outskirts of town and the faint gleam of the river that ran down the mountain.  I sat and rested my legs, enjoying the cool night air on my damp skin. Then I heard a sound, something was moving about in the darkness behind me.  I hid behind a rock, hoping whatever it was wasn’t bigger than me, wishing I had brought Jack’s rifle along.

My heart didn’t slow down, even when I saw it was Simple coming out from wherever he had been hiding.  He was carrying something wrapped in a blanket, holding it close to his chest, tight, like he was afraid he would drop it.  I stepped out from behind the rock and startled him.  At the sight of me, he froze, only his eyes moving frantically from side to side.

‘Leanne shouldn’t be here, Gran be m-mad.’

‘Not as mad as she’s gonna be with you. Where you been?’

He didn’t answer me and sat down on a fallen tree.  It was my turn to be startled when the blanket he held moved all by itself.  Knowing him as I did, I expected a wounded animal, but I was wrong. He unwrapped the blanket and held up a baby, not a year old.  Its white skin gleamed luminous in the pale moonlight and I could see it was a little boy. I didn’t know what to think.  Simple had been gone for weeks and I had missed him so much.  What on earth did he think he was doing?

I sat staring at the baby, its tiny head swallowed up in his huge hand, so filthy against the clean skin.  He couldn’t have had him for long.

Finally, I found my tongue.  ‘Where did you get the baby, Simple?’

He looked at me, his big dark eyes swimming with tears, and said, ‘For Lizzie, s-stop her crying’.’

‘Where did you get it?  Tell me, we have to take it back!’

‘No, for Lizzie.  A b-boy like Simple.  Stronger than Lizzie’s.’

This was going to take the rest of the night.  I had to make him see, to understand we had to take it back before half the town came looking for it.

‘Everyone’s been looking for you, Simple. I missed you.’

‘M-me too, m-missed Leanne.  Then I come back, bring baby for Lizzie.’

I tried to tell him Lizzie couldn’t have this baby, that he had taken it from its Ma and was a bad thing he had done.  ‘We must take him back before the sheriff comes looking. Before Jimmy finds us.’

He kept trying to say they had plenty of babies in town.  ‘Lizzie’s die. Lizzie can’t make a g-good baby.’  He wrapped the blanket around the baby, holding him so tight I feared he might crush the life out of him.  I suddenly realised that the baby hadn’t made a sound, so I looked closer to see if he was still alive.  Seeming to sense my presence, his eyes flicked open, a gleaming deep blue in the pale moonlight.

I asked Simple if he remembered where he took the baby from.

‘Town,’ he said.  ‘Like b-baby long time.’ He looked funny as if he was trying to remember something.  I couldn’t understand what he meant.

‘Like you, long t-time . . . Ma wanted b-baby . . . Simple g-got . . .’

I still didn’t understand, but I couldn’t think about Simple’s words, I needed to get this baby back where it belonged, and quick.  I would ask Gran later what Simple was on about.  I told him I knew the baby came from town.

‘Do you remember which house, please say you can?  Show me where the baby belongs, Simple?  Jimmy’s out looking’ for you, you know what will happen if he finds us with this baby.’

Simple looked shocked, as only he could.  Eyes wide, mouth open, head shaking, words failing him. The thought of Jimmy touching the baby did the trick though, rather than see the baby hurt, he said, ‘We take it b-back.’

I followed him to the edge of the woods, close to town.  Dawn was starting to break in the east, a gradual reminder that daylight would soon give us away.  Creeping behind a row of whitewashed houses, Simple stopped beside an open window.  I held my breath as I watched him climb in and put the baby back from where he had taken it.

 

BLURB

Simple is the follow-up book to Bad Moon, Anita’s first book and is another story about the backwoods people of West Virginia. At the time of writing, some 25 years ago, it seemed as though Anita was channelling actual people, the stories so disturbingly real. Neither Simple or Bad Moon are pleasant stories by any means, being full of raw, powerful emotions and unbelievable cruelty.

They were written long before the world of Indie publishing, so we approached traditional publishers with the help of a well-known literary agent. They all said the same thing, that they were impressed with the strong powerful writing, and that they were well written, but they wouldn’t fit with all the other books on their list. I can appreciate this now, as finding the right category has been hard. If only those publishers had the courage of their convictions and made room for us!

Simple is a nickname his cruel family have given him, due to him being mentally challenged and cursed with a terrible stutter. His real name is Ethan, and although a giant of a man, he has the heart and mind of a child. He spends his time in the woods, tending to wounded wild birds and animals.

His grandmother and brothers beat him for everything he forgets to do, and many things he shouldn’t have done. When his half-sister Leanne cannot bear to watch any more cruelty, they make a plan to escape. But when they try to run, they bring the wrath of their vicious family down on their heads, and the results are terrifying…

 

#ThrowbackThursday The Power of Books 1…

Reposted by Jaye Marie…

Bad Moon meme

I was a lonely child, and London was a lonely place to be when I was growing up there after the war. All around me, people were busily trying to put their lives and homes back into some kind of order.
I remember walking around the streets, confused by all the chaos that still had to be dealt with, all the piles of dusty bricks and rubble that was all that remained of so many people’s lives.
This is probably what made me such a melancholic child, and the reason I retreated into the world of books.

My favourite book was a copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I would love to have that particular copy back in my possession. I remember it as being illustrated, full of hauntingly beautiful but tortured imagery that managed to scare the living daylights out of me. (I was only eight years old)

I often wonder if my memory is at fault. Was this book really illustrated, or did the words simply conjure up what I thought I saw?
I do love a good book and I must have read thousands of them in my lifetime. This brings me rather neatly to my favourite author of all time, Stephen King. He wrote about everything from a crazy car to a tormented child and just about every scary subject in between. I have spent so much time in his company.

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Which brings me to another of my favourite authors. Anita Dawes. You meet her here quite regularly, as she is the other half of this writing partnership. Not quite getting the recognition I think she deserves, but I can see a similarity with King in everything she writes. Horrible things happen to her characters too, but you cannot help but love them anyway.
What follows is an excerpt from Bad Moon, my all-time favourite…

 

“Watching the truck coming towards us seemed to take forever, like Pa was going deliberately slow. We waited for Pa to get out of the truck and I could see from his dirt-streaked face that it weren’t good. Nathan’s face looked worse.
Ma tried to stop me from running to the truck, but couldn’t hold me. I climbed on the back and didn’t see Nathan getting out. Suddenly he was there beside me. I remember kneeling and touching the blue check shirt that covered Josh’s face. I remember the touch of Nathan’s hand on mine and the gentle way he said, ‘Don’t look, Annie please. Just let Pa bury him.’
But I had to see for myself, had to know if it was the tree falling on him that had killed him. My eyes were wet, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I pulled the shirt back and a scream tore at my throat, trying to find a way out.
No sound came as I looked at what was left of his face, dark gaping holes looked back at me. Gone were his blue grey eyes, the very thing I had liked most about him had been gouged away.
His face was torn and bloody. Dried blood matted his hair and dead leaves were sticking to him.
Nathan tried to take me away, saying I had seen enough. I felt myself being lifted slowly from my knees and as Nathan carried me away, that’s when my mind registered what it had seen.
The torn flesh on his face hadn’t been caused by the fall. The skin standing away from the bone and all the dried blood made it hard to read, that was why my mind didn’t see it right off.
They had cut Pa’s name down one side of his face, as if taking his eyes weren’t enough.
The scream that wouldn’t come before, finally broke through and shut down my brain like an axe blow…”

See what I mean?

If you want to read more of this incredible book, simply subscribe to our blog, leave a comment and win a free copy.

Or you can find it here on Amazon… myBook.to/badmoon

See you next week…

Paper Paradise…

I was a lonely child, and London was a lonely place to be when I was growing up there after the war. All around me, people were busily trying to put their lives and homes back into some kind of order.
I remember walking around the streets, confused by all the chaos that still had to be dealt with. All the piles of dusty bricks and rubble, all that remained of so many people’s lives might be what made me such a melancholic child, and the reason I retreated into the world of books.
My favourite book was a copy of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte and I would love to have that particular copy back in my possession. I remember it as being illustrated, full of hauntingly beautiful but tortured imagery that managed to scare the living daylights out of me (I was only eight years old)

I often wonder if my memory is at fault. Was this book really illustrated, or did the words simply conjure up what I thought I saw?
I do love a good book and I must have read thousands of them in my lifetime. One of my favourite authors of all time is Stephen King.  He wrote about everything, from a crazy car to a tormented child and just about every scary subject in between. I have spent so much time in his company.
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Which brings me to one of my favourite authors, Anita Dawes. You meet her here most weeks as she shares this site with me,  and she is not yet getting the recognition I think she deserves. I can see a similarity with Stephen King in everything she writes, for horrible things happen to her characters too, but you can’t help but love them anyway.
What follows is an excerpt from Bad Moon, my all time favourite…

“Watching the truck coming towards us seemed to take forever, like Pa was going deliberately slow. We waited for Pa to get out of the truck and I could see from his dirt streaked face that it weren’t good. Nathan’s face looked worse.
Ma tried to stop me from running to the truck, but couldn’t hold me. I climbed on the back and didn’t see Nathan getting out. Suddenly he was there beside me. I remember kneeling and touching the blue check shirt that covered Josh’s face. I remember the touch of Nathan’s hand on mine and the gentle way he said, ‘Don’t look, Annie please. Just let Pa bury him.’
 But I had to see for myself, had to know if it was the tree falling on him that had killed him. My eyes were wet, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I pulled the shirt back and a scream tore at my throat, trying to find a way out.

No sound came as I looked at what was left of his face, dark gaping holes looked back at me. Gone were his blue grey eyes, the very thing I had like most about him had been gouged away.
His face was torn and bloody. Dried blood matted his hair and dead leaves were sticking to him.
Nathan tried to take me away, saying I had seen enough. I felt myself being lifted slowly from my knees and as Nathan carried me away, that’s when my mind registered what it had seen.
The torn flesh on his face hadn’t been caused by the fall. The skin standing away from the bone and all the dried blood made it hard to read, that was why my mind didn’t see it right off.
They had cut Pa’s name down one side of his face, as if taking his eyes weren’t enough.
The scream that wouldn’t come before finally broke through and shut down my brain like an axe blow…”

See what I mean? See you next week…

Universal Amazon Link:  http://myBook.to/badmoon

Paper Paradise…

bhh

 

I was a lonely child, and London was a lonely place to be when I was growing up there after the war. All around me, people were busily trying to put their lives and homes back into some kind of order.
I remember walking around the streets, confused by all the chaos that still had to be dealt with. All the piles of dusty bricks and rubble, all that remained of so many people’s lives.
This could be what made me such a melancholic child, and the reason I retreated into the world of books.
My favourite book was a copy of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte and I would love to have that particular copy back in my possession. I remember it as being illustrated, full of hauntingly beautiful but tortured imagery that managed to scare the living daylights out of me (I was only eight years old)

I often wonder if my memory is at fault. Was this book really illustrated, or did the words simply conjure up what I thought I saw?
I do love a good book and I must have read thousands of them in my lifetime. Which brings me rather neatly to my favourite author of all time, Stephen King. (see above) He wrote about everything, from a crazy car to a tormented child and just about every scary subject in between. I have spent so much time in his company.

Which brings me to one of my favourite authors, Anita Dawes. You meet her here most weeks as she shares this site with me,  and she is not yet getting the recognition I think she deserves. I can see a similarity with Stephen King in everything she writes, for horrible things happen to her characters too, but you can’t help but love them anyway.
What follows is an excerpt from Bad Moon, my all time favourite…
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“Watching the truck coming towards us seemed to take forever like Pa was going deliberately slow. We waited for Pa to get out of the truck and I could see from his dirt streaked face that it weren’t good. Nathan’s face looked worse.
Ma tried to stop me from running to the truck, but couldn’t hold me. I climbed on the back and didn’t see Nathan getting out. Suddenly he was there beside me. I remember kneeling and touching the blue check shirt that covered Josh’s face. I remember the touch of Nathan’s hand on mine and the gentle way he said, ‘Don’t look, Annie, please. Just let Pa bury him.’
 But I had to see for myself, had to know if it was the tree falling on him that had killed him. My eyes were wet, but the tears wouldn’t fall. I pulled the shirt back and a scream tore at my throat, trying to find a way out.

No sound came as I looked at what was left of his face, dark gaping holes looked back at me. Gone were his blue-grey eyes, the very thing I had like most about him had been gouged away.
His face was torn and bloody. Dried blood matted his hair and dead leaves were sticking to his face.
Nathan tried to take me away, saying I had seen enough. I felt myself being lifted slowly from my knees and as Nathan carried me away, that’s when my mind registered what it had seen.
The torn flesh on his face hadn’t been caused by the fall. The skin standing away from the bone and all the dried blood made it hard to read, that was why my mind didn’t see it right off.
They had cut Pa’s name down one side of his face as if taking his eyes weren’t enough.
The scream that wouldn’t come before finally broke through and shut down my brain like an axe blow…”

See what I mean? See you next week…

Ps… Have you entered the Goodreads Giveaway for a signed paperback copy of ‘Secrets’ yet? Just click on the box on the right side of blog!

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Would You Read This Book?

A look back, from Anita…

 

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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 HillBilly’s. 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.
I’m still trying to find people who will read it, and dare I say it, review it. It needs to succeed, if only because the book that came after, Simple, is based in West Virginia too and about a similar family group.
In some ways, Simple is worse, as it concerns bullying and the abuse of a mentally impaired 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?

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Promotion & Interview . . .

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Yes,BAD MOON, another one of our books is FREE this week, as part of a kindle book promotion on Amazon. From now until Friday, the kindle copy costs absolutely nothing!

Of course, we have an ulterior motive. We would love a few more reviews for this book, as it would make promoting it just a little bit easier. Nothing too difficult, just a few words on Amazon. Really easy to do and would mean so much to us both.

So click on this universal Amazon link   myBook.to/badmoon and help yourself (and us)!

~~~~~

Seeing as this week is all about BAD MOON, I thought it would be a great time to post this interview with Anita herself. She hates anything to do with computers, so this is a milestone AND proof of my persuasive powers, so enjoy!

“Now Anita, do stop glaring at me, relax, and let’s get on with it. Bad Moon was your first book, what made you write it?

“Okay, I give in. At the time, I was a fan of Credence Clearwater Revival and loved their rendition of “Bad Moon Rising”   It wouldn’t leave my head, and before I knew what was happening, characters had climbed on board and I was off and running.”

“When I first read it, I thought it was an incredible mix of the film Deliverance and The Walton’s. How would you describe it?”

“Beneath this savage family saga, the desire for normality and kinship shines through, despite some appalling odds. I loved the idea that you can find love and caring in the strangest of situations.”

BAD MOON has an amazing bunch of characters, who is your particular favourite?”

“I’m never sure if we should have favourites. It’s a bit like being a mother, you’re supposed to love them all equally. However, having said that, Annie, the teenager rebelling against tradition, will always have a special place in my heart. So young and determined to change her families way of life. The lengths she goes to still amazes me, and I wrote it!”

“It is a bit brutal in places, not a gentle family story by anyone’s standards. Is this something you think could exist in an ordinary family?” Anita is glaring at me again; maybe I shouldn’t have asked that question?

“Not so much the brutality, although it does happen. But a close family can go to extraordinary lengths to protect and defend each other. Are we done yet?”

“Just one more question. Was SIMPLE, your next book, ever intended to be a sequel, as it is very similar?”

“I’ll let you into a secret. I have this strange affinity with West Virginia in America. I love the way the people talk and there is something strangely familiar about the country. It is possible, I think, that I may have lived there in a previous life or something.”

“Yes, it certainly reads as if you feel at home there. I loved both books, and always imagined them good enough to be made as films. Thank you for talking to us about your books, Anita. I’ll let you go back to your writing . . .”

( phew… got away with that, I think!)

Hope the Youtube video link works, as this was the music that started it all!

 

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#fridaytakeaway

FT

Every friday, we are going to be showcasing one of our books, with the opportunity for five lucky readers to receive a free kindle copy of the featured book.

All you have to do, is say ‘yes please’ in the comments…

FREE review

Over the years, Annie has come to terms with her mother’s endless stream of lovers, her father’s infinite love and patience, and her weird brother. But when rumours start about men missing from town and her father’s behaviour changes for the worse, she has a sudden desperate need to know the truth about the strange carvings that Pa does secretly in the barn. If she finds out that the rumours are true and does nothing, she knows she will be destined to carry on what seems to be a family tradition.

Bad Moon Rising is a powerful story about a young girls fight to create a better life; one of fear and brutality; the paradox of blood-stained innocence and the struggle for freedom.

Amazon review…

Blood Ties and an Unforgiving Fate.

By OlgaNM on September 8, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

Bad Moon is narrated in the first person by Annie, a young girl who lives happily with her family: mother (Ruby), father (Jed), and older brother (Nathan). She adores her father, although her mother’s behaviour is far from exemplary (she regularly invites other men to her home and that results in incidents with her husband, who takes it out on the men and seem remarkably tolerant of his wife’s behaviour). At first, Annie is worried that she might end up becoming a woman like her mother when she grows up and thinks it is all due to her mother’s family (her father says that her mother was born under a ‘bad moon’ and she comes from ‘the Hills’ where people seem to have their own morality and rules of behaviour). The inhabitants of the Hills seem to be a directly related to those of The Hills Have Eyes or the banjo players in Deliverance. What Annie doesn’t know is that things are worse than she ever could imagine. She has lived all her life in a world of lies and secrets. She is convinced she must learn the truth to avoid history repeating itself and is prepared to go to any lengths to achieve that. The costs are high indeed.
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.