I wrote Catch the Moon, Mary in 2011.
Actually, I started writing it in 2011 when I was volunteering at Oasis Crisis Centre for homeless youth in inner city Sydney. I had never understood homelessness and the events that led to homelessness before, and I felt it was a necessary part of my spiritual evolution to confront my avoidance of the tragic situation many people find themselves in through no fault of their own.
I really want to stress that the people, some as young as fifteen, that I met while I was working at Oasis Crisis Centre were homeless through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN.
They had chosen homelessness rather than the constant abuse occurring at home.
Imagine pimping out your pre-teen child to strangers. Imagine routinely beating up your adolescent son because you can’t handle your own life. Imagine pretending your daughter is not being sexually abused by her father, brothers, uncles, the elderly pervert next door.
People ask me how I could subject myself to that horror and I answer because the kids at Oasis had no choice. You’re very lucky if you do have the choice to ignore abuse, turn the page or the corner and walk away. I have literally had people say to me over coffee, “Oh, please don’t talk about Oasis, it’s too sad and it’s such a lovely day. Let’s not spoil it.” These days I don’t have much time for those people.
Prior to 2011 I used to cross the street if I saw a homeless person. I’m ashamed of myself for that cowardly behaviour. These days I stop and chat and give them money. I always carry cash when I go to the city for just that purpose. But more than money, most homeless people just want to be heard and treated as human beings. I learned that at Oasis. So, facing my own lack of humanity I volunteered to work as a music teacher, a singing teacher to be specific, and it was one of the best choices of my life.
Finally, I stopped being afraid of homeless people and saw homelessness as everybody’s problem to solve and the starting point is inclusivity rather than exceptionalism. Once I was able to see the human face of abused kids, I understood that until you get past your fear and prejudice, you’re no use to them. Their stories of truly horrifying circumstances in the homes they ran away from made me aware of the absolute necessity of seeing them as powerful human beings with possible futures rather than broken, irretrievably damaged souls with no hope. I suppose abused people became my “normal” and finding a pathway through for them was my job. I realise now that when someone opens up to me about their historical abuse, I don’t even find it confronting. I just listen and wait for that cue to start helping them process their healing. If you listen closely, you will hear the change in their voice when they talk about their passion in life. Once you isolate that dream it becomes the focus of your conversations with them. Supporting their dreams and finding pathways for realization is the way to help build a bridge to a better future.
But in amongst the stories of horror I also heard stories of survival from these kids and many of them involved what they called guardian angels or unseen companions who gave them a sense of worth and protection. It was this that gave me the idea for Catch the Moon, Mary and I started writing the story of a sexually abused, gifted child whose guardian angel saved her. But life has so many incidences of moral challenge/rape that I also wanted to address the idea of selling your soul for money or fame. How to retain ownership of your gifts when grifters will forfeit them for fame and make themselves rich twisting your genius into commercial warp. My heroine, Mary Granger, manages to retain her innocence by disappearing into her creative nature, her soul and ultimately, she draws others into that sacred space with her.
It took me many years to get the story just right and finally it was published in 2015.
I continued Mary’s journey in Paradis Inferno and this time she is catnip for the Devil himself, who wants her untrammeled genius in order to illuminate and heal his own soul. But no-one can do the hard yards for you and the easy road ends in a wilderness of loss.
Again, people asked me but how I can bear to write about the Devil. How can I spend time with evil? My answer again is that fantasy serves no-one and it’s better to confront the things you fear and find the pathway through rather than dodge the shadows.
I wanted to redeem the Devil or at least have Mary redeem the Devil.
In between Catch the Moon, Mary and Paradis Inferno I wrote Fields of Grace about an actress who becomes a famous star in London’s glittering theatreland in the 30s. She meets the other half of her soul and loses him to the irredeemable evil of antisemitic prejudice. A mighty wave of darkness engulfed the earth in the Depression years and into the hellish years of WW2.
People fell victim to their unconfronted fears of otherness and the underlying greed that permeates humanity, the lust for false power and the god of gold, overwhelmed their morality. In Fields of Grace, I was unable to redeem Hitler and multitude who marched in lockstep with him throughout those terrible years but because I held the pen in Paradis Inferno, I was able to redirect the Devil, set him on the right path and get his foot on the first rung of Jacob’s ladder.
He must get himself home as we all must.
Oasis Crisis Centre is https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/oasis/ always looking for volunteers.