Meet Natalie Haynes, author of the Women’s Prize 2023 longlisted novel Stone Blind. A book which iNewspaper called “An extraordinary retelling of the Medusa myth.”
The premise of this book is powerful and unique, so what was the inspiration behind the novel? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…
Describe your novel in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.
It’s the story of Medusa, reassessing whether she’s a monster by asking you to consider her as a sister, daughter, protector (her name literally means guardian).
What inspired you to write Stone Blind?
I wrote a chapter about Medusa for my non-fiction book, Pandora’s Jar. When I finished it, I was still really angry about what happens to her, both within her myth (she’s assaulted and then cursed) and to her myth (which became much less nuanced and more misogynistic in the modern world than it was in the ancient one). My feeling is that if you still burn with rage for a character after you’ve written 9000 words about them, you probably owe them a novel.
Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or your book?
The Libyan coast, where the Gorgons live. Athens, Mount Olympus, Pellene in Thessaloniki, the Atlas Mountains, and of course the seas around and near Greece, especially the Mediterranean off the north coast of Africa
Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?
The most fun to write? Any scene with Athene in it.
The most challenging logistically? The gigantomachy (huge cast of characters, loads of action). The most challenging emotionally? The snakes.
The most fun to read the audiobook of…? The crow.
Which of the characters from the book would you most like to spend a weekend away with and why?
Sthenno and Euryale and Medusa, of course! Is it still a girls’ weekend if three of you are gorgons? I’m assuming yes.
What first inspired you to write?
I suppose reading first inspired me to write, and the more I read the more I wanted to write. Then when I realised the book I most wanted to read didn’t yet exist, I knew that was the one I had to write.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
Read it aloud. Now read it aloud again. That’s how you find the music in it. Also, at a proofreading level, you’ll spot the errors faster.