Caroline Hardaker is joining us today to talk about her novel, Mothtown Here’s the publisher’s description:
Caroline Hardaker is a poet, librettist, and novelist from the northeast of England. She has published two collections of poetry, and two literary novels; Composite Creatures and Mothtown. Her work has appeared worldwide in print, on BBC radio, and on-stage in London. She lives and writes in Newcastle.
What’s Caroline’s favorite bit?
“A few seconds later, his arms were around me and squeezing me so hard that it hurt. I let out a little cry and gasped for a breath but he still didn’t stop. I turned my head as much as I could to see if Emily could help. By now, she was sitting on a footstool by Grandad’s feet, tilting a gold compass this way and that. She wasn’t looking.
Grandad stifled a sob, and whispered into my ear, “You never know when it’s time to say goodbye, Bumblebee. No one tells you. But you know that I love you, don’t you, my special one?” I nodded and he relaxed his arms enough for me to breathe normally again. I burrowed my face into his jumper and took in that strange, rusty scent that was entirely his.
But now, a year later, now that he too was gone, I’d never do that again.”
Mothtown is rife with winged things, from crows dancing across the cemetery stones to the heady swarm of wide-winged moths that lay themselves flat across the windows of our protagonist’s cabin. And here, David is called Bumblebee by his beloved Grandad. A term of affection, but just a further reminder that David is different.
And so his interest in flying things begins.
Literary fiction tinged with fantasy, science fiction, and even horror – Mothtown is a psychological drama in which personal transformation takes centre stage for our protagonist, David.
David has always felt ‘alien’. Unable to communicate with his family or understand behaviour on the streets, as a child we see this tender yet unsettling moment between David and his Grandad, the only person in the world he feels knows him for who he truly is. It demonstrates their closeness, their vulnerability with each other. There’s a genuine warmth and peace in the memories where they’re together that David never experiences elsewhere.
At Grandad’s feet sits Emily, the sister David reveres and yet fears. This short mention of Emily says so much about her; comfortably engrossed in her own world, and yet she still holds the compass – a symbol of direction. Just as David feels entirely lost, Emily always seems sure of where to place herself and where to go.
We see the interaction of the three key characters through David’s childlike gaze, but so much in this scene means more than how it first appears. By the end of the novel, the reader finally understands what Grandad is struggling to say to David, and what darker thoughts Grandad is struggling with and can never say to his young grandson. We see that Grandad has secrets. Secrets that David is on the cusp of understanding. This quiet conversation they share while David is sat on his Grandad’s lap haunts David through to adulthood, adding substantial fuel to a fire that is set to burn down the world as he knows it.
This scene has been illustrated for the book by award-winning artist and storyteller, Chris Riddell. Several drawings throughout the book bring the words to life, but this one is truly my favourite. Chris perfectly captures the sadness, the desperation, but most importantly, the love that drives David into the darkness and leads him into the light.
Caroline Hardaker lives in the north east of England and writes quite a lot of things, mainly dark and brooding tales exploring everything speculative, from folklore to future worlds.