Chloë HeuchJune 26, 2020
Too Dark to See is Chloë Heuch’s debut novel, published by Firefly Press on 2 July 2020. We caught up with Chloë, to find out what inspired her to produce this wonderful touching story for young adults …
What inspired you to write this book?
I lost my mum to cancer as a teenager. Losing my mum felt like the worst thing that could happen to me. Through the fictional character, Kay, I wanted to explore what happens next after the worst thing; how we can be strengthened and grow through tragedy and loss. A lot of teenagers and young people I meet have similar fears, of death, losing loved ones, and they are still things as a society we don’t talk about enough. I have a passion for the natural world too. A beautiful wild landscape, and the wildlife that inhabits it, are integral to the book.
Tell us a little about the story you’ve created.
Kay’s mum dies at the start of the story. She ricochets from bad experience to bad experience, trying to escape feelings, that threaten to overwhelm her. When she meets Siôn, and the semi-wild ponies on Blackmoss mountain, she finds a sense of freedom and peace. They begin an intense relationship, until the ugliness of his reality threatens their happiness.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Despite starting with grief, I wanted the book to be about love and about hope. I would be happy if readers enjoy the love story and the drama of the book. It would be very special if it helped some young people relate to the messy stuff of Kay’s life. In a world of social media that demands perfection, Kay is not perfect. But she is brave. It is still hard to talk about death and dying. Our culture still finds that difficult despite it being a universal experience. Some young people don’t have a safe adult they can talk to about sex and relationships, maybe reading about Kay’s experiences could help in some way.
What specialist knowledge or research was required to write this book?
I don’t know much about horses! I had to read up about their anatomy and behaviour. A good friend, who is very knowledgeable, checked my facts too.
What led you to start writing?
I grew up in a family of creatives. My mum, dad and uncle were all artists. My mum and dad wrote too. Seeing their enjoyment must have rubbed off. Words and art were interchangeable to me. I wrote my first poem when I was four. I wrote lyrics when I was a teenager, though I am a terrible singer! At art college, I used words more and more in my visual work. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between images and words. I think we need more illustrations in all books, in children’s, YA and even adult books.
What books inspired you as a young reader?
I adored being read to and loved the tactile, visual objects that books are. My favourite book was a book of fairy tales, with a green hardback cover. The illustrations were captivating. I loved the archetypal witches and wolves, the implicit menace and redemption. I remember the delicious booky smell of our local library, and choosing from the colourful covers. Some favourites were the Meg and Mog books, Tasseltip stories, and Narnia books. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz sticks in my mind too. I got it for Christmas, and I had a bad cold so was allowed to be anti-social, stay in bed and read it.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
I started a journal after my mum died. I don’t think anyone suggested it, but it just seemed a natural way to continue a conversation. Though I stopped writing to her many years ago, I still write a journal. It is a great place to play around with ideas and mull over life!
Learning to meditate at Manchester Buddhist Centre was really helpful too. The process of slowing and observing is so useful to help me settle to write, to be present to the sensations of being in an experience. All experiences are useful for a writer, even boring and unpleasant ones. Being able to sit with those experiences, I think has made me a better writer.
I was diagnosed autistic last year, and looking back, I can see that my autism has played a massive part in my writing life. I am not good at communicating in a spontaneous way, so writing gives me an outlet to express myself and shape what I want to say beforehand.
If you could choose a book character to be for a day, who would it be and why?
Just one? I guess it would be Ratty from Wind in the Willows. He is just so unassumingly awesome: helping everyone out; chilling on the river. He is resourceful, knows when to say no to silly old Toad, and he is kind to timid Mole. What a guy!
What character in your books are you least likely to get along with?
In Too Dark To See, it would be Croaker. Though I do have some empathy for him. He is a broken man and like a lot of broken people, he drinks to numb the pain. Though he is an adult and makes those choices. His cruelty is hard to forgive
What message do you have to inspire young writers?
Being a writer can seem like something impossible to achieve. But if you write, and you enjoy writing, then you are a writer! It’s simple. Welcome to the club. I love writing, just for the pleasure of it.
Getting published as an author can be trickier, but if you never send work out, then it will never happen. Get used to other people reading your work. Start off with kind people, people you trust. Enter competitions. Dust yourself off if -and when- you don’t win. Collecting rejections is a hobby of mine. Keep at it and it will happen. Enjoy!