Spotlight on the writing of Bad Moon
(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!
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.