I have recently received a copy of Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan which was released on the 25th February 2016 published by Little Island.
I have heard such wonderful things about this book and it’s beautiful writing and I cannot wait to get reading it soon!
I am lucky enough to have been asked if I would like to feature a special guest post by Deirdre Sullivan and I jumped at the chance.
Today Deirdre has written a beautiful guest post entitled ‘Darkness And Light’.
*hands over to Deirdre*
‘I would like to make things beautiful, but a tawdry and repulsive kind of beauty. A braver sort than people have from birth. Sexy zombies on a bicep. That sort of thing.’ Ces longs to be a tattoo artist and embroider skin with beautiful images. But for now she’s just trying to reach adulthood without falling apart. Powerful, poetic and disturbing, Needlework is a girl’s meditation on her efforts to maintain her bodily and spiritual integrity in the face of abuse, violation and neglect.
Darkness And Light
When I was a little girl, I was afraid of the dark. Lights were off, the house was quiet. I couldn’t distract myself with reading, like I normally would do when I felt anxiety creep up through my gut. My parents used to leave the door open a crack, to let the light get in. It was not enough. I needed a night-light. Only, I didn’t need it. I only wanted it to keep me safe. And there’s a difference there. It’s subtle.
It’s hard to make that leap from bright to dark. From comfort to the unknown. And darkness is the unknown, when you’re a child who has a big imagination. So many thoughts can float inside your head, so many little worries. Things that wouldn’t matter in the day. Everything is smaller when you see it.
Books and friendship made me braver. I always loved reading horror, it was a very safe way to be scared. To practice fear a little at a time. I could slam it shut when it was scary. I rarely slammed it shut. I wanted more. Stories of vampires and witches, demons who made offers. Men with knives. Things that trailed long, soft fingers over walls and thin lace curtains. Half-seen shadows, solid to the touch. And if they visited me in the night, kept me awake, it meant the book was good. The words were working. And little by little, I became more able to close my eyes and sleep and shut them out.
Friendship was the second thing I used. My best friend when I was in school was a fancy little girl, who took her own pillow with her in a special suitcase when she left the house to sleep at mine. It had a yellow pillowcase. There were no feathers in it. The pillows in my house didn’t have feathers in them either. Except for one, that was weird and bumpy and soft. It’s strange to sleep on things pulled out of creatures. Her skin would pucker red to feather touch. She couldn’t sleep with the light on, this fancy little girl. And she was brave. She knew about all the horror films, and would tell me the stories of them in the daytime and the night. They didn’t scare her. She felt very safe within the world. And with her I was safer. Friendship is a weapon and a shield.
Anne Frank, in her diary, talked about candlelight defining and defying the darkness. How, battling against it makes it seem a bigger, scary thing. I think in a way, that’s what the night-light had done for me. Protection for the protected. Security for the secure. My friend, all big blue eyes and freckles, nerve and mischief, put her foot down. She needed sleep. And sleep to her meant dark. The door could be open a crack. The light could peer right in. But nothing in the room to contrast with the dark, to stave it off. It needed to be welcomed, like with sleep. I remember lying on my back. Eyes open for a long time. Waiting for something terrible to happen. It never did. I was very loved and very safe. Friendship is stronger than fear.
Books and friendship are still my go-to tools when times get hard. To them I added writing. Stories in your head can comfort as well as frighten. And sharing them can make you just as nervous as lying in the dark, watching the nightlight battling it out with your imaginings. The first time I read my work in a writers group, I was twenty-one. My heart was beating, and my hands were shaking. And it was fine. And friendship grew there too, to make it safe.
Sometimes, with my second novel Improper Order, and my latest one, Needlework, people ask me why I write about harder things in life, and for teenagers. It’s implied that adults can handle it more. They’re used to all the hard things life can mean. But what’s more teenage than raw, rough things? Than scrambling to negotiate your body, your emotions, the onslaught of adulthood, the person that you are and who you will become? As you grow older, you have more responsibility, but you are also surer in your skin. You hold the lessons learned like a compass. They tell you where to go, in light and shade. And always life can teach you more and more. Pour darkness on you, in you. Drench your skin in sunlight till you burn. You cannot fight it. That’s the world we live in. Things you can’t control are always there, no matter what your age. You need to empathise with other people, to help them on their journey. Friendship. Sometimes you learn what people can survive from things you read. Books.
I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I can look at it, and find things there that are worthy of respect, support and love. We can venture in. And sometimes we will wander there for a while, looking around, learning to negotiate shadowy shapes and soft surprising things. But somewhere, there will be a door, a window. A story or the soft voice of a friend.
You can buy a copy of Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan here or why not visit your local independent book shop!
About Deirdre Sullivan
Deirdre Sullivan is a writer from Galway. As well as the Primrose Leary trilogy (Prim Improper, Improper Order and Primperfect) she has written three books in the Nightmare Club series and her next novel, Needlework, will be released in early 2016. Her first and third novels, Prim Improper and Primperfect, were shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Awards. Deirdre was also the only young adult author shortlisted for the EU Prize for Literature in 2015.
When Deirdre is not writing she is a reader and a guinea pig enthusiast. She still likes cake, but she’s been hearing some good things about biscuits recently.
You can find out more about Deirdre on her website – www.deirdresullivanbooks.com
Or why not follow her on twitter – @propermiss
A huge thank you to Deirdre for such a beautiful fantastic guest post and to Andrea for organising!
Have you read Needlework? What did you think? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !