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The Dark Humour of Miranda Darling’s Novella Thunderhead

Interview with Miranda Darling by Freya Bennett

Thunderhead is a captivating novella that delves into the intricacies of Winona’s mind over the course of a single day. Within the depths of her beautiful and idiosyncratic thoughts, we find ourselves immersed in her world. Despite the brevity of the narrative, there’s a compelling story arc that culminates in a satisfying conclusion, evoking cheers from the reader.

Winona grapples with understanding her place in the world, her primary focus being the safety and well-being of her boys. Despite enduring a crisis of confidence, she remains resolute in her determination to protect them from any danger that looms. Darlings’ writing style is a blend of uniqueness, poetry, and power, presenting a narrative unlike anything encountered before. This exquisite book leaves an indelible mark on the heart, ensuring its memory persists long after the final page is turned.

Hi Miranda, how are you?

Hi! Very well, thank you.

Where are you right now and what can you see?

Right now, it’s early Saturday morning and I am in a suburban leisure centre that smells of feet. It’s raining outside and I am watching some netball players warming up; I am eating a kit kat for breakfast.

Congratulations on your beautiful novella, Thunderhead. It’s an absolutely stunning and unique piece of work. Can you tell us a bit about when the concept came to you?

I feel like we all contain multitudes and as we go about our daily life, we have no idea what is going on inside the people who cross our paths: we all contain ecosystems of bacterial life, years of memories and moments, collisions of desires and disappointments — entire galaxies. I tried to write a book that makes people want to pay attention to each-other, to the small moments, the petty tyrannies masking greater evils, the whispers, the sparks, the invisible things. . .

How long did it take you to write?

A few months, and also a lifetime.

We spend the novella deep inside Winona’s head, it feels like we’re only just able to grasp what’s happening outside of her mind, was this intentional?

Yes, completely. I wanted Winona’s interior life — the invisible, the unsaid, the screaming silence — to be given the starring role, with the exterior life operating as an intrusion, a catalyst, and a backdrop.

I feel like this story is so many women’s stories, do you hope your book may be a catalyst for many women to prioritise being free? 

I don’t want to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t prioritise . . . I write in the hope that people might recognise themselves– a part of themselves, their longings and emotions — and feel less alone. I write to connect: this book is a bridge. It is also a manifesto for freedom in so many senses of the word, and about love. When we pay rapt attention to something, we are expressing deep care that is a form of love.

How did you go about writing a dark comedy about such a serious topic?

Humour slides over and around and in between the defences we put up against the stories that might wound us or make us feel deeply uncomfortable. Humour is subversive, even rebellious, unexpected, entertaining. It sustains our attention and also, I feel mirrors the human condition which is so often bouncing to the absurd and back.

How does writing make you feel?

Deeply alive and deeply connected to some good and important place. It is also very often playful for me, a satisfying game with myself, a space where I amuse myself to no end!

What advice do you have for new writers keen to write their first novel?

Source your story from a deep and original place. Do the hard, hard work of coming at something from a totally true and authentic place. That’s not to say ‘real’; it means don’t take the easy, lazy way of seeing — see the world completely new every time you want to describe it. Startle yourself with your vision, don’t take any received phrases or tropes or descriptions. See everything as if you were seeing it for the first time through your character or narrator’s eyes. If you do this truthfully and honestly, then you will have written something no one else could have but you and that is a worthy thing, regardless of whether it gets published or not.

How are you feeling with Thunderhead about to explode into the world?

I am nervous — Winona is a tender sapling — but at the same time I feel like she has found a perfect home with Scribe and the team around her and I am excited to see if her story resonates with wider readers.

What’s next for Miranda Darling?

Another book, again with Winona at the centre. I am not done with her yet, and she is not yet done with her true struggle to be free. . .

Thunderhead by Miranda Darling, Scribe Publishing, available 4th April 2024

Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and editor from Dja Dja Wurrung Country who loves grey days, libraries and dandelion tea. You can follow her on Instagram @freya___bennett

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