An article by Louise Worthington
The horror genre is a perfect vehicle to look at the challenges and complexities of motherhood by taking fear and danger to the extreme, subverting the norm and breaking taboos.
As a mother myself, I’ve experienced the anxieties of raising a child and become aware of taboos around motherhood. I’m also a keen reader. The mother who rescues her daughter in Angela’s Carter brilliant retelling of Bluebeard, The Bloody Chamber, and the narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper had a lasting impression on me because of the fear the protagonists experienced by being trapped, and of being rejected by challenging their prescribed role.
One of the antagonists in my latest novel is a child, Rosie Shadow who is so weird and so vile, even her mother rejects her – a taboo right there. Single mother Elly is a sympathetic character because Rosie is one creepy, scary kid and being a parent to her is terrifying. It’s usually the child who lies awake in the dark, who imagines monsters creeping into their bedroom, hurting them, killing them – but not this time; it’s the mother, Elly, and the bogeyman is a child. Her own.
At six, Rosie is still insistent on breast-feeding and takes great pleasure on clamping her teeth down onto her mother’s nipple and biting down. Elly hates her saggy breasts and dark, misshapen nipples, a kind of body-horror resulting from a one-night stand. Her deformed breasts are a permanent reminder of the demon-child she gave birth to and the taboo she breaks and has to live with by leaving Rosie permanently in the hands of a foster carer. When Elly packs her bags, she wishes she could unscrew her breasts, like a lightbulb, and leave them behind because she will not be the victim any longer. It’s often the mother who worries their parenting will scar the child for life. The horror genre is perfect for inverting these common anxieties.
When Elly’s friend Gail tells her she’s pregnant with her first child, the usual congratulations, words of wisdom, shared memories of joy, are absent in the dialogue, so Gail thinks Elly is jealous – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The juxtaposition of Gail’s joy and hopes and Elly’s experience is striking. With every passing year, fear has increased, and joy dissolved, but something stops Elly sharing her feelings because ‘motherhood is great’.
Rosie’s cruel nature isolated Elly because other mothers had no desire to mix with them. Elly is forced to be a ‘bad mother’ in the eyes of society, first by having a ‘troublesome’ child, then by hiding away, and eventually running for the hills. She chooses her survival over her daughter. The sacrifice of motherhood ends. Does that make her a bad person, selfish, criminal? In Book Two, we find out what becomes of Elly…
The protagonist, Clare, runs back into her mother’s arms when her boyfriend dies in a car accident. The tragedy sends her into depression and extreme grief to the point she can’t trust her judgement. Clare’s mother is the archetypal mother – the good mother and protector who supports her daughter and lavishes love and cake, ultimately helping her return to her job and study. Clare fears if she continues to live at home, she will lose her identity, but on returning to her old life, she rebounds into the arms of Archie, an undead cannibal thing. It’s not a great idea to sleep with your boss at the best of time, especially not one who feeds by having sex, but when she does she sense, Clare plays the temptress. And plays it well.
So, Elly and Clare’s lives intersect with Archie – the father of Rosie and Clare’s boss and boyfriend. Two women who make tough life choices, leaving them with permanent scars. Read Rosie Shadow to find out what happens!
‘Whatcha crying for, sissy? Why don’t you grow a pair?’ Rosie says to her mother…‘Send me to school and I’ll rip off your arm! Beat you with the stump.’
Abandoned by her terrorized mother at the age of six, Rosie Shadow will do anything to win the affection of her father Archie, an undead cannibal in charge of Her Majesty’s Prison Shortbury, now operating as a visitor attraction.
Clare is sent reeling into Archie’s arms with the grief of losing her boyfriend in a mysterious car accident when he collides with an ancient yew tree.
The secrets in the Medieval dungeon beneath the prison are under threat when Clare becomes suspicious of Archie’s true identity and his progeny.
Rosie Shadow is the first book in The Black Tongue Series, a gripping horror thriller by the author of Rachel’s Garden, Stained Glass Lives and Distorted Days.