Writing On A Difficult Theme

My second book Catch, Pull, Push, covers a difficult topic – a girl on the cusp of womanhood and a much older man. He holds a position of authority over her. She’s in awe of him and the status he holds within the group. A familiar and uncomfortable situation in these sexually overt times.

In short, Mia, believing herself to be in love, elopes with James, her swim coach. They hide in a Bruges hotel while the police, the media and her family mount a global search for them. James disappears but Mia can’t let him go, determined to find him and be reunited. The name, Catch, Pull, Push, reflects not only the elements of a stroke in swimming, but also the ensnaring of Mia by James.

The book’s main question is – was Mia in love or was she abused?

I think the answer would vary depending on who I asked. If I’d asked the fifteen-year-old me I would have said of course I can make mature decisions about who I want to be with. Asking the forty-seven year old me elicits a very different answer. Those thirty-two years of ‘life experience’ have changed a lot and the innocence has definitely gone. It’s an abuse of position, would be my response now. Does that by definition make it abuse?

Why did I choose to write this story? Why write something deliberately difficult where I would have to work hard to get the tone right, where I could alienate the reader or offend them, however unintentionally?

There are many reasons:-

  • I like to write stories where the moral question may be cloudy for some, black and white for others. My first novel, From This Day Forward, looks at infertility and infidelity and examines female protagonist Molly’s reactions to both
  • I wanted to write something current, not necessarily about child abuse, but something that focused on the blurred lines between what is acceptable in today’s society and what is not. Where is the cut-off point?
  • I remember a friend at school having a deep crush on a teacher and the feelings she had were as real as if she had been in a relationship with him
  • I wanted to rouse powerful emotions in the reader but not to control what those emotions were. I like that the reader’s experience will be coloured by their own life experience, that everyone will have a different take on the rights and wrongs of the story
  • I also wanted to write something darker than I had before but still within the realms of everyday possibility. Even thought the actions of the protagonists become extreme, they only become incrementally so, drawn into their own journey little by little, conflict by conflict, until they find themselves in unimaginable situations of their own making
  • And finally, I wanted to stretch myself, to see if I could write a story that questions society’s dichotomy of pushing kids to grow up fast but also overprotecting them too and still have readers feel they’d read a really good book.

Someone asked if I was worried the subject matter would make people uncomfortable but the answer has to be no. Some of the most powerful books I have read have been those that have made me tense with disquiet. We Need To Talk About Kevin, Room, Only Child, Girl On The Train to name but a few. I respect how they were able to elicit strong feelings in me as their reader. If I can do but a small percentage of that, then all my hard work will have been worth it.

Catch, Pull, Push is launched on 15th May 2018. To buy click here

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About Kerry Mayo

I have written three novels, I have been published in the Whitstable Women Writers anthology, Place, and the Writers of Whitstable anthology, A Different Kind of Kent, and had one non-fiction book, Whitstable Through Time published by Amberley. I have also had two short films produced and short stories and serials published in national magazines.
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