Judy Darley, the author of Sky Light Rain, uses fiction writing as a means to delve into her wild and urban surroundings, as well as answer riddles about the scenes she glimpses in everyday life. But she explains, not every human mystery needs to be fully answered to satisfy both writer and reader.
As a writer I’ve found that a lot of the fictions I create bubble up from my insatiable curiosity. I describe myself in bios as an author “who can’t stop writing about the fallibilities of the human mind.” It’s entirely true, but that’s only one of my preoccupations.
Reviewers and the fellow writers I turn to for feedback about work-in-progress often comment on how nature wriggles through my fiction. I feel most relaxed and open to fresh ideas when strolling amid fields, forests and even city parks, and enjoy looking out for bugs, birds and trees as much as I love people-watching.
My surroundings have a huge impact on what I write, as does my state of mind. In fact, I frequently use fiction as a way to understand the places I visit and inhabit, as well as my emotions and the factors shaping them.
In Sky Light Rain, I gave these influences a framework: Sky, Light and Rain. As I wrote in the opening of the collection, these short stories and flash fictions examine aspects of human existence, our connection to nature and behaviours towards one another.
Part one is Sky, and although strains of family run throughout the collection, this is the section where relationships between siblings, parents and children, beloveds, and, in ‘Shaped from Clay’, a teacher and her somewhat unsettling pupils, take precedence. They range from the story of a mother following her young daughter and estranged lover on a wild goose chase through Barcelona in ‘Woman and Birds’ to the tale of a foster-child confusing fiction and reality in ‘A Blackbird’s Heart’.
Part two is Light, which attempts to expose some of the darkness we hide within ourselves. Several characters in these stories make dubious decisions that put themselves and others at risk. In some cases, they discover their inner light, but for others the outcome is more ambiguous. In ‘Flamingos and Ham’, a teenager faces a dystopian future when the colour pink is banned, and in ‘Little Blessings’, a woman grapples with the prospect of a reunion she’s unsure she wants.
Part three, Rain, sweeps the beauty of our wild places into the ways we seek to survive losses and fears, whether through invented rituals, as in ‘Breathing Water’, or through diving deep to find our courage.
I touched on my personal experiences in tales like ‘The Sculptor’, in which the protagonist Isha is an ice sculptor whose father has semantic dementia, a condition he shares with my own dad. Using the elemental qualities of ice gave me a chance to explore the emotional landscape of a complex grief for someone still alive.
In other tales it’s the strength we draw from friends and family that ring true to my life.
In others still, a chance encounter prompts an entire world. I wrote ‘Lamp Black’, for instance, after seeing two girls play perilously close to a station platform’s edge, just as a train roars up. In my fictionalised version, it’s the girls’ mother who witnesses this scene, and I then had to work out how and why she came to be watching the danger without being close enough to provide safety.
For me, fiction adds an intriguing layer to the world, rippling with puzzles I have the pleasure of investigating, even if not all are fully solved by the last sentence.
In my opinion, not every story needs a neat ending. Leaving a few threads unknotted for the reader to tie as they wish is often the best way to finish, or not quite finish, a tale.
Find out more about the inspirations behind the stories in Sky Light Rain on Judy’s blog: http://www.skylightrain.com/sky-light-rain-untrue-blue/
Read some Sky Light Rain reviews here: http://www.skylightrain.com/sky-light-rain-reviews/