We are delighted to share with you the cover art for Lorraine Wilson's second novel, The Way the Light Bends. This time the artwork has been created by Jay Johnstone, whose work we love very much.
Our gorgeous Celtic dragonfly, ushers us neatly into this intense dark fantasy novel set in Scotland, among the trees and the ocean, with strong element of folk horror.
About the book:
Sometimes hope is the most dangerous thing of all. When their brother dies, two sisters lose the one thing that connected them. But then a year after her twin’s death, Tamsin goes missing. Despite police indifference and her husband’s doubts, Freya is determined to find her sister. But a trail of diary entries reveals a woman she barely knew, and a danger she can scarcely fathom, full of deep waters and shadowy myths, where the grief that drove Tamsin to the edge of a cliff also led her into the arms of a mysterious stranger ... A man who promised hope but demandedsacrifice...
“Wilson’s novel is rooted in a deep sense of place, beautifully evoking the history and magic of Scotland. A fantasy-tinged story about the hole grief makes, complicated family relationships, and the road to healing.” A.C. Wise author of Wendy, Darling
Lorraine on writing The Way The Light Bends
This book has been with me a while. I wrote it, edited it, lost then rediscovered my faith in it, revised it, and now, finally, it gets to fly free. It is a very different beast to my debut – where This Is Our Undoing came from a sort of existential anger, this one comes from the memory of loss, or more specifically, of becoming lost. Grief is an odd sort of thing, it’s a universal emotion, just as much as love or hate, and yet our language is so poorly equipped to express it. We ourselves as a society are so poorly equipped to express it that it can create its own fractures between us; it can isolate people like nothing else quite does. I have always thought that many folktales stem from loss, from attempting to explain random disasters to justifying infanticide during famine. Nature is cruel, death is cruel … and thus so is the folklore around both.
There’s one particular bit of Celtic mythology that I always thought especially sad (you’ll have to read the book to find out which one!), full of lost children, desperate adults and a pervading sense of families broken apart by tragedy. When I started to think about a story exploring how grief can feel like a haar – a sea fog - that you cannot get out of, and of sisters who have lost one another but are both trying to find a way back, it was this myth that instantly came to mind. And so this book became filled with Scotland, its mythology and haars, and its persistent echoes between nature and the human heart.
It wasn’t an easy book to write. Like I’ve said, grief is not something we speak about comfortably so to write about it is equally hard. But this book isn’t just about grief, it’s about love too, and how infinite and multi-faceted love can be. It’s about how sometimes we are too lost to see love, but how that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and that it isn’t holding us like an anchor or a kite-string or a compass. The sisters in this book are both, in very different ways, lost; The Way The Light Bends is about how they find their way home.
Lorraine on the Cover Art by NewCastle artist Jay Johnstone
This is my second time seeing the cover of my book take shape, but my first time being (loosely) involved in the consultation on the artwork itself. I think, from this position of absolute wisdom, that it might be my favourite part of the pre-publication process. It is a wonder to me is that somehow Francesca and Jay Johnstone turned my incoherent mumbling about dragonflies and ‘Celtic-y stuff’ and water, into this stunning cover design.
I knew I wanted a cover for this book that was stylistically quite different to Daniele Serra’s exquisite artwork on This Is Our Undoing, because the books are so different and I felt it was important to signal that. What I didn’t know was whether it was possible to hint at water and shadowy darkness, Scottish myths and ephemerality, inter-connectedness and nature all in one design. And yet that’s exactly what Jay has done. The Way The Light Bends is a book about the lines that connect us; to each other, to the wild places, to folklore and despair and hope. It’s a book about what happens when those lines become lost in the darkness. To me, this cover hints at all those things, which is really quite wonderful isn’t it?
The dragonfly is a perfect symbol for this book, just as the fox was for This Is Our Undoing, because as well as being a creature born from dark waters, it captures something of the dichotomy between wonder and danger, fragility and strength that ties the two sisters in this book to the paths they both walk through their grief. Also, and I know this is ridiculously biologist-nerdy, but I absolutely love that the dragonfly even has wing veining beneath its light-catching swirls. Thank you, Jay, for turning my vague arm-wavy wishes into something so utterly lovely!
Lorraine on folklore:
The mythology of my story settings is always in my mind as I write, and is far more in the foreground of The Way The Light Bends than it was in This Is Our Undoing. One of the reasons I find folklore endlessly fascinating is because it tells us so much about ourselves. It obviously casts a light on the societies that birthed those mythologies, but it also reveals parts of our modern, atheistic (or a-folkloric?) selves. We have not, of course, moved beyond our folklore at all, despite what we like to tell ourselves, it is just that those beliefs fed to us through childhood books and grandparents’ stories generally live in a subliminal, near-instinctive part of ourselves. Call it our hearts, if you like. We don’t, using Scotland as an example, generally believe in the Cat Sidh as a thief of souls anymore, and yet black cats are the hardest, by a long way, to rehome from shelters. We knock on wood, we shiver at the full moon. We don’t believe there are monsters in the woods, and we know there aren’t wolves. But if I were to take you into the forest in the dark of night, and leave you there, your faith in both those truths would become whisper-thin. My inner biologist sees social learning that has evolved to aid safe navigation of both community and environment; my writer self sees a veritable playground!
The intersection between our sublimated folklore and our everyday selves is emotion; it is the capacity of the human heart to transmute emotion into a myriad other forms. So when we write stories full of love or fear or grief, what is more natural, more utterly human, than to have those emotions turn into superstition or symbolism or fantasy? When I started planning a story about two sisters searching for a way through grief, the presence of folklore as one of the pathways before them felt very right. The lure of the unknown when the known is hard to endure is an incredibly powerful thing, I think. Who wouldn’t be tempted to believe in something unfathomable if it might ease their pain?
One of the recurring images in The Way The Light Bends is the liminal space – the light beneath an archway, the surface of the water, the moment of sunrise. There’s an indefinable pull to such moments or places, of looking at them and thinking … well, thinking what if? And what is any cataclysm, especially grief, riddled with if not what ifs? How many myths promise salvation if you are only brave enough to seek it out?
The folklore in The Way The Light Bends is, perhaps, my take on the idea that the cracks in ourselves are where the light gets in. It is when we are most broken that we let the unknown in, both light and dark; we turn from comfortless reality to foundless hope and fantasy in search of healing. That can be a good thing, of course, but it can also be terrible. There are monsters in the dark, after all, even if we have stopped believing in them.
Lorraine lives by the sea in Scotland, writing speculative fiction set in the wilderness and heavily influenced by folklore. She is fascinated by the way both mythology and our relationship with the natural world act as mirrors of ourselves and lenses for how we view others, and with a heritage best described as a product of the British Empire, she is drawn to themes of family, trauma, and belonging. After gaining a PhD in behavioural ecology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland she spent several years as a conservation researcher in odd corners of the world before turning to writing. She has been stalked by wolves, caught the bubonic plague, and once had a tree frog called ‘Algernon’ who lived in her sink.
She has published short fiction and non-fiction in, amongst others, Strange Horizons, Forge Lit, The Mechanics’ Institute Review and Boudicca Press. Her debut novel, This Is Our Undoing was released in 2021, and is longlisted for the BSFA Best Novel Award and SCK Awards.
The Way the Light Bends will be out August 2. Meantime, discover This Is Our Undoing and immerse yourself in the life of a conservation biologist, intrigues and a near-future Europe. Cover art by Daniele Serra. This book has been longlisted for the BSFA awards 2022 and shortlisted for the SKCA Awards 2022.
Yvonne Battle-Felton on This is Our Undoing:
Cinematic descriptions are intricately woven with engaging characters, intense narrative, and delicate relationships binding the past and the present. The narrative explores identity, loss, family, acceptance, and the secrets that hold families together often in spite of the forces determined to break them apart. Then there are the ghosts, monsters, gods, and heroes. An incredible story about the costs of accepting everyday violence, losses of privacy, intrusions on wildlife, human trafficking, the legacy of harm, loss, and trauma. It’s also a story about family, healing, forgiveness, and possibilities. It’s a touching experience that just might indeed be our undoing.