By Leslie Lindsay
Highly disturbing, emotionally challenging read about one woman’s descent into madness, motherhood, and more–gorgeously written and it’s a debut!
May is maternal mental health month
LITTLE DARLINGS (Crooked Lane Books, April 30 2019) is one of those delightfully sinister psychological thrillers with a good dose of magical realism, fantasy, myth tossed in. It’s about pain, hope, loss, psychosis, motherhood, and uncertainty. And the writing is quite gorgeous.
Come away, o human child
to the waters and the wild.
Lauren Tranter is a new mother to twin boys. All is right–except she is exhausted, and rightly so. LITTLE DARLINGS starts off in the hospital, just after giving birth. Lauren can’t get comfortable. She isn’t sure she’s nursing the babies properly, her husband, Patrick must leave to go home…and is she ever able to get any rest?! There’s a distinct feeling of unease, right off the bat. Lauren can’t seem to shake the notion that someone came into the hospital and switched out her babies. Someone–something–sinister. With an odor of fish and mud. But everyone says it’s impossible. It’s a very secure unit. Plus, the CCTV doesn’t show anything. Or does it? The babies are right there. Lauren was just exhausted.
She is released home with the boys and quickly becomes a shut-in. Lauren and her husband are very isolated–there only seem to be a couple of female friends from Lauren’s prenatal class who stop by, no family, and no other friends. But Lauren is *sure* she seems the same woman from the alleged hospital swap lurking in the bushes outside her window.
Stranger things happen. And Lauren is placed in a psychiatric hospital. My sympathies were split–not sure whom or what to believe. Everyone becomes a sort of suspect. LITTLE DARLINGS is such a dark, sinister read with touches of the supernatural, fairy tales and myths, but at the heart, is a tender, delicate exploration of postpartum psychosis.
LITTLE DARLINGS has a little something for everyone. It’s a psychological thriller, a domestic suspense, a police procedural with heavy touches of a grim (pun intended) fairy tale.
Please join me in welcoming debut author, Melanie Golding to the author interview series.
Melanie, welcome! I always feel there is something tugging at us to write, something haunting. What was it for you in LITTLE DARLINGS? A question you needed to answer, a theme you wanted to explore?
I was exploring the myths surrounding having a baby, specifically how it’s supposed to be a joyful time, despite how often the experience is very traumatic. I felt that no one could hear me when I said that the birth of my children and the early days were not glorious; they tended to laugh as if I were joking. I found that very interesting, as a cultural phenomenon. What if I took that fear and isolation and made it as bad as it could possibly be? I wanted to start a conversation surrounding maternal mental health, but frame it in an accessible way. Scary stories are there to make us feel safe, to put fear in a context that it can be experienced, but at a distance. Maybe if I made horror out of the reality of having a baby, it would be not only understandable, but relatable and also ultimately therapeutic.
LITTLE DARLINGS is so gloriously steeped in myth and fairy tale. Can you talk about that a bit?
I like the more obscure fairy tales, and the original versions of the common ones, which often feature extremely dark stuff. ‘Fairy tale’ is one of those words that gets misused quite a bit, or at least it means something different than it used to. Fairies, back when they were widely believed to be real, were frightening, powerful creatures who weren’t to be messed with.
I’m also very curious about the origins of old stories that still have the power to captivate us. I think narratives emerged for very specific reasons, to explain aspects of everyday life that were otherwise inexplicable. It has been suggested that most changeling tales emerged to explain certain types of disability, and justify the abuse of differently-abled children, by classifying them as ‘not human’. In contrast, newborn changeling tales always resolve in the end. I think they aren’t about the children, but that they emerged to explain maternal mental ill health in a time before modern medical understanding.
“Little Darlings is full of stomach-turning moments that touch on our deepest, most instinctive fears and fairy tales…”
–Foreword Reviews (starred)
I am a former psychiatric R.N., and also mother. Your rendering of the postpartum period is so astute. There were absolutely times I thought I was losing my mind. And the sheer exhaustion! Can you talk about the research you must have done to get things ‘just right?’
I had two children! Both traumatic births. I experienced the shock of it, and the fallout. I felt very angry about how ignorant I was as a childless person, because I am the sort of person who likes to do my research, and I honestly thought I had done it. The reality of just how traumatic and life-altering having a baby can be, physically and mentally, was a complete surprise; I felt like an idiot not to have expected it. Later, having spent several years talking to women about birth, it occurred to me that my experiences were very extreme but not actually uncommon: so many other women said they experienced the same feelings of isolation, of fear, and shame at not being ‘good enough’ or not feeling that rush of love (which is actually a bit of an urban myth – not that it doesn’t exist but when it is felt physically it’s more likely to be a kind of euphoria brought on by hours of trauma than actual love. Attachment is a gradual process, and I feel it’s unhelpful to pretend it isn’t). I still think I was ‘protected’ from the truth, and I feel offended that people in general felt the need to do this. It’s an extreme form of sexism: women are individuals until they are pregnant, but pregnant women are treated with a set of misinformed preconceptions about how people cope with trauma. That’s how it felt for me, anyway.
Speaking of doing things…what do you feel you did well on your path to publication? What might you have wished you had more information on?
Tricky question! I still feel like there’s so much I don’t know. I followed the traditional route of getting an agent, then editing with her, after which she sold it to a publisher in a pre-empt, which I was truly amazed by, something I hadn’t dared to hope would happen. I’m really enjoying the process, and learning so much all the time.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Once the children are at school I write at my desk in my bedroom for as long as I can, until they need picking up again. Not very glamorous!
I don’t think I am giving away too much here…but I am so intrigued with the obscure. Things you can’t see. And the lost village of Selverton…is that a real thing? Pure fiction? What can you tell us?
Selverton is based on a real village in the Peak District called Ashopton, which was ‘drowned’ when the Ladybower reservoir (in the book it’s called the New Riverby reservoir) was filled in the early part of the 20th Century. There were some historical and geographical details about the real places that I wanted to fictionalize, including the names of the rivers, but basically it’s the same location. Ladybower is a fascinating place to visit, full of history and very atmospheric. There’s something very intriguing and spooky about a drowned village. It always fired my imagination. I like to imagine that some of what happened in the village is preserved somehow, by the water, and that sometimes scenes play out like old films, unseen by the tourists walking the banks.
LITTLE DARLINGS was so compulsive, so obsessive. I have to ask, what’s obsessing you nowadays? It doesn’t have to be literary…
I usually have several plates spinning all at once! I’m writing an opera based on The Little Fir Tree, a Hans Christian Andersen story, with composer Emily Hall. Also I’m editing Book 2, so I’m pretty obsessed with that at the moment. It’s a different story but has a couple of continuing characters, and hopefully will appeal to those who liked LITTLE DARLINGS.
Melanie, this has been a joy. Is there anything I should have asked about, but may have forgotten?
Ah I think we’ve covered everything! Great questions, thanks so much.
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of LITTLE DARLINGS, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Golding is a graduate of the MA in creative writing program at Bath Spa University, with distinction. She has been employed in many occupations including farm hand, factory worker, childminder and music teacher. Throughout all this, because and in spit of it, there was always the writing. In recent years she has won and been shortlisted in several local and national short story competitions. Little Darlings is her first novel, optioned for screen by Free Range Films.
Connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover and author image courtesy of Crooked Lane Books and used with permission. Ladybower Reservoir image retrieved from on 4.15.19. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Join me on Instagram].