I had the opportunity to ask Lucy Cuthew, author of the upcoming Blood Moon – a book in verse about period-shaming – a few questions about her, her writing, Blood Moon and more! – Sasha ❤
Hi Lucy, thanks so much for talking to me. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me. Sure. I started my career working in publishing as an editor – I commissioned YA, fiction and picture books. I had also always written a lot of poetry, ever since I was a kid – and once day I had a vivid dream that I decided would make a good novel. It didn’t, I never got to the end, but I loved writing, and so I carried on, practicing and learning more about the craft. Eventually I did the MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa, and during my time on that course I wrote some narrative verse. That grew into Blood Moon.
If you were to describe Blood Moon in three words, what would they be?
Ooo, what an evil genius of a question. Can I say ‘fingered on period’? Is that too crass? I think as a society we think we’re so liberated, but periods and sex are still so taboo. I wanted to specifically bring those things together in the book to show how little I think attitudes towards women have changed in the last hundred or so years – we are still very squeamish about periods and even more so, arguably, about female sexuality and desire.
What was your initial inspiration for Blood Moon?
I think there were two key ingredients that directed Blood Moon to become what it has. I had read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson around the time and I was absolutely fascinated by it. If you haven’t read it, it’s basically a collection of case studies of people whose lives have been torn apart by being online shamed – many of them highly unsympathetic characters, but all of them indelibly changed by some sort of internet pile on. Around the time I also read an essay which was asking the (probably once valid) question of whether periods should be included in YA, and it made me so annoyed that I just had my character get her period as she was walking to school, and I wrote every single detail of it down. I guess as an act of writing what has been erased. Actually it was unnecessarily graphic, but it did make me realise how taboo periods still are and want to do something to try and unpack some of it.
Why did you choose to write Blood Moon in verse, and what was your biggest struggle with it?
I had read and loved many verse novels – The Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, One by Sarah Crossan, to name a few – but it never really occurred to me that I could to that. On my MA one of the tutors set an exercise with the prompt ’She sells sea shells on the sea shore’ and I started out writing with the rhythm of this, and it just seemed to flow. My biggest problem writing, having been an editor for so many years, is silencing that editorial voice. Once I started keeping that rhythm in mind when writing, I found it much easier to ignore the editor – it feels almost like train tracks being laid out ahead of me – the rhythm shows me where to go.
How did your experience of having endometriosis inspire and effect Blood Moon?
Endometriosis causes heavy painful periods and takes on average 8 years to diagnose, at present. There is a direct correlation between period taboo and this diagnostic delay. It is very difficult to talk about something we have been made to feel is secretive and shameful. Shame is a toxic emotion – it tells you there is something wrong with you, that you are bad, it is stifling.
What was your favourite part of writing Blood Moon?
I think writing Frankie and Harriet’s conversations were the most joyful bits of writing this book. I felt like I could really hear them talking, and so having them bounce off each other and come out with ridiculous things was really fun. I also loved writing them fighting and then making up. I loved writing the intense, honest, raw emotion of a really close female friendship.
For any aspiring authors reading this, what’s your top piece of writing advice?
I’m going to cheat a bit and give a few tips – I hope that’s okay.
Firstly, I would say read. Read books that are the type of book you want to write. If you want to write contemporary YA, read loads of it, and read what’s current so you’re up to date.
Secondly, find some writing friends – share your work with them and ask them to tell you what works. This isn’t a place to critical or tear one another’s work apart – you need to know what stands out, what seems real, vivid. That will help you grow as a writer and inspire you to keep going.
Lastly, write. Write lots of different things too. People often try to start with a novel, but try a short story. I wrote loads of short stories before I wrote a novel, and it helps so much to practice the beats of a story in short form before you go wading into a long manuscript.
Blood Moon is out so soon! What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I know, I am so excited for young people to get to read it! Hmm, what do I hope readers take away? I guess I mostly hope that anyone who feels embarrassed about their period comes away feeling less ashamed, more empowered to talk about menstruation. It’s only blood, after all. Ultimately I hope it opens up conversations. By talking about periods openly not only will people who menstruate feel less alone and less ashamed, but medical conditions might be identified sooner, or someone in period poverty might find it easier to ask for what they need.
Thanks so much Lucy, this is awesome! Don’t forget to grab Blood Moon on July 2nd!