Blind Fury – a guest post by Katie Lowe, author of The Furies

Following the deaths of her dad and sister and her mum’s grief-fuelled descent into alcoholism, teenage Violet takes a place at Elm Hollow Academy. Here she becomes part of a group of friends – Robin, Alex and Grace – who have additional, secret lessons with art teacher Annabel. These lessons cover the history of the school – the site of some famous witch trials, mythology and magic. A sinister undertone runs throughout driven by the disappearance of Robin’s previous best friend, Emily, alongside the broader theme of violence against women. It’s a gripping, angry, terrifying ride; The Craft meets The Secret History in a run-down British seaside town.

I’m delighted Katie’s written more on the anger in the book and where it stemmed from. You can read her blistering piece below.

Photograph by Dearest Love Photography

“Do you think this?”

She – a friend, a good friend – pointed to the page. It was my book, The Furies, in manuscript.

I felt an uneasiness settle over me. When our friends read us, they can’t help but place us in the pages; they’re the ones who find the traces of life between the words. It’s inevitable. I wondered what she’d seen; the piece of me she’d found.

She slid the page across the table. I glanced at it: a lecture, given by a female teacher in the book. Knew, immediately, what she was asking.

Are you this angry? Do you feel like this, too?

I hadn’t realised, when I was writing The Furies, that it was an angry book.

I know how that sounds. But for most of the time I was working on it, it had no title at all; my agent, Juliet, gave it the name, the day it went on submission. Before that, it was just a book about girls.

The book went out to publishers on 27th September 2017; it sold on the 28th.

Seven days later, the first of the Weinstein allegations would surface.

Seven days after that, #MeToo was all over the world.

Still, I didn’t realise I was angry. Didn’t realise I had been, all this time.

And yet, it’s a book made up of the stories of other, angry women. Women whose stories I hadn’t known, as a younger woman – but which I understood, nonetheless.

I hadn’t read Medea when I was nineteen, and my boyfriend cheated, while calling me “crazy” for thinking he would. I didn’t know about the woman who slit her children’s throats at her husband’s door, while he stood with his new wife.

Still, I knew that white hot, vivid rage well enough. I deleted everything on his laptop. Erased every trace of him from my life.

I didn’t know about Artemisia Gentileschi when I was twenty-two. When I sat with a friend who told me she couldn’t tell the police what had happened to her, because she couldn’t face the doubt. I didn’t know about the painter, tortured with thumbscrews as she faced down her rapist in court.

Still, I understood. I knew why my friend wouldn’t want to face that. We whispered the truth, instead.

I didn’t know Medusa’s curse was a punishment for her rape, when I was twenty-five. When a US politician – male, of course – said: “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Still, I knew the urge to turn a man to stone with a look. Still do.

Tales of female rage course through the culture like an undercurrent. We know them – we feel them, viscerally, somehow – and so, what’s been most fascinating about the #metoo movement is the idea that our anger is something new.

There’s a sense of surprise – shock, even! – at the very notion that we might simply have been smiling through gritted teeth; that we might have been polite for our own safety.

It still echoes. Still tries to neutralise the stories; tries to make us doubt our own experience.

And sometimes, it works.

So when my friend asked: “do you think this?” I stumbled over my words. Shrugged it off. Felt ashamed at being seen, at being angry: at being that girl.

I admit this, because it takes some getting used to. It’s uncomfortable. Scary. It involves a kind of exposure.

It felt – still feels, sometimes – like presenting oneself up to be devoured. Like the very act of reading, and of engaging with, those things that make us angry, is a kind of self-sacrifice. A harm. And yet, now, doesn’t it feel necessary?

A caveat: I’m not advocating for murder, or curses, or any of the things that go on in The Furies. It’s not an instruction book. These girls aren’t role models.

It’s fiction. It’s meant to thrill. To scare. To entertain.

But I am owning the rage that inspired it.

Maybe it takes time to come to anger. Maybe it’s a gradual conversion.

And maybe it’s easier, now, among a movement: when the New York Times warns Trump to beware the Furies. When the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford is, at last, viewed as a kind of heroism. When Beyoncé makes albums filled with both rage and vulnerability, and the world bows down.

Whatever it is, I’ve made it. I’m here, at last. I am angry.

I own my rage, alongside the women – both real and imagined – who do the same.

In the Media: 10th May 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

It’s Mother’s Day in 80 countries around the world today. Not surprisingly, there has been a whole range of articles, from a whole range of view points, about mothers and motherhood this week. The Hairpin ran a series including  ‘Mommy Queerest‘ by Sarah Liss; ‘Thoroughly Modern Murdering Mothers; or, Women Who Kill for Their Children‘ by Meredith Haggerty; ‘A Joke, A Story‘ by Naomi Skwarna; ‘Going for the Burn: Revisiting Jane Fonda’s Workouts‘ by Alison Hamm’ ‘Mothers and Moms‘ by Haley Mlotek, and Randi Bergman, ‘The Weirdest Beauty Tips I Learned From My Mom‘.

Tameka Cage-Conley wrote, ‘Motherhood, Art, And Police Brutality‘ on VSB; Amy Shouse wrote ‘My mom never wanted kids‘ on Salon; Anne Enright wrote, ‘When Mother Leaves the Room‘ in The New York Times; Cheryl Strayed wrote, ‘The ‘Painful Personal Toll Lung Cancer Has Taken on My Life’‘ on The Huffington Post; Monica Hessler, ‘The long drive to end a pregnancy‘ in The Washington Post; Mary HK Choi, ‘The Dicks Of Our Lives‘ on Buzzfeed; Mary Elizabeth Williams, ‘Sorry about Mother’s Day, my childfree girlfriends: Moms aren’t any more special (or unselfish) than you‘ on Salon; Edwidge Danticat, ‘A Prayer Before Dying‘ on Literary Hub; Brogan Driscoll, ‘I Refuse to Celebrate ‘Dad Bod’, Until We Appreciate the ‘Mum Bod’ Too‘ on the Huffington Post

Catherine Bennett wrote in The Guardian, ‘It’s dehumanising to be ‘an oven’ for someone else’s baby‘; Jessica Roake wrote, ‘An Ode to the “Mom’s Night Out”‘ on Slate; Rebecca Mead wrote, ‘A Woman’s Place Is on the Internet‘ in The New Yorker; Sophie Heawood wrote, ‘I’ve read all the advice, but I still don’t know – am I raising a serial killer?‘ in The Guardian; Laila K wrote, ‘Up with the kids‘ in The Pool; Dahlia Lithwick, ‘“Bye-Bye, Normal Mommy”‘ on Slate; Christie Watson, ‘The Joy and Pain of Trans-Racial Adoption‘ on Literary Hub; Meagan O’Connell, ‘It’s My First Mother’s Day As a Mom. Now What?‘ in The Cut; Kate Spencer, ‘How I Finally Let Go Of Grief For My Dead Mom‘ on Buzzfeed; Domenica Ruta, ‘Can Having a Child Help Me Get Over My Abusive Mom?‘ in The Cut.

Danah Boyd, ‘I Miss Not Being Scared‘ on Medium; Melissa Duclos, ‘To the Doctor Who Reported Me to Child Protective Services‘ on The Offing; Christopher Frizzelle, ‘The Day Virginia Woolf Brought Her Mom Back to Life‘ on Literary Hub; Lauren Laverne, ‘“Mum” as a diss‘ in The Pool.

And if you’d rather read a book instead, Literary Hub suggests, ‘Five Intense Books for Mother’s Day‘ and the Huffington Post recommends, ‘Mother’s Day Reads: Eight Great Mother Characters in Literature‘.

Photograph by Idil Sukan

In the UK, there was a general election. 3AM Magazine ran a whole series of reactions including, Lauren Elkin, ‘an open letter to mark-francis vandelli‘; Juliet Jacques, ‘london – 2015‘; Eley Williams, ‘rosette manufacture: a catalogue and spotters’ guide‘, and Rachel Genn, ‘you wouldn’t like me when i’m disappointed‘. Other reactions included: Laurie Penny, ‘Don’t give in: an angry population is hard to govern; a depressed population is easy‘ in the New Statesman; Joan Smith, ‘Almost a third of all MPs are now women – a milestone has been reached‘ in The Guardian; Janice Turner, ‘Why the north is in revolt against Labour‘ in The Times; Beluah Maud Devaney, ‘Unfriending Tories on Facebook Is Not the Answer‘ on the Huffington Post

And there were a few pieces written prior to the result that I still think are worth reading: Sam Baker, ‘When voting doesn’t make you feel good‘ in The Pool; Suzanne Moore, ‘By Friday we’ll be reduced to bystanders at a revoltingly macho political stare-off‘ in The Guardian; Concepta Cassar, ‘Food For Thought: Hazlitt, Malthus and the Tragedy of Food Banks‘ in Litro; Katy Guest, ‘Sandi Toksvig’s Women’s Equality Party is a movement for which time has come‘ in The Independent; Salena Godden, ‘Colour-blind: What colour are you?‘ on her blog, and Isabel Rogers’ poem ‘The truth about political correctness‘ on her blog.

I promised myself I wouldn’t mention it but there have been a few good pieces written about the birth of THAT baby: Sian Norris, ‘She’s not like other girls…‘ on Sian and Crooked Rib; Heather Havrilesky, ‘Royal Baby Girl Fated to Lead International Mob of Fake Princesses?‘ in The Cut, and Viv Groskop, ‘She’s a tiny baby, not a Kardashian‘ in The Pool.

Congratulations to Gill Lewis who won the Little Rebels children’s book award with Scarlet Ibis this week; to Emily St. John Mandel who won the Authur C Clarke award, and to Alice Notley who won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Foundation Prize. A gender balanced shortlist was announced for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2015 and a female dominated one for the Branford Boase Award 2015. The ALS Longlist and NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists were also announced.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

Personal essays/memoir:

Feminism:

Society and Politics:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction to read:

If you want some poetry to read:

If you want some non-fiction to read:

Photograph by Cybele Knowles

The lists: