I started writing The Accident Season in November, just after the book is set. I wrote the first draft in a month and a half of a rush of words and all the while I was uncharacteristically cautious. Maybe it was something about telling a story at the same time as the story’s set. It was easy to step into it. I wrote so much about accidents that I got afraid of sharp knives, got cautious crossing the road or coming down the stairs; I imagined twisted ankles & broken bones.
I’m a fairly accident-prone person, partly because I don’t pay attention to where I’m going, and partly because I like adventures. I’ve broken five bones since the age of seventeen but that’s not why I wrote The Accident Season.
I’ve always written – diaries and poetry and novellas and novel-parts and novels-that-weren’t-to-be – but apart from the poetry it was all mostly just for me. One of the novels-that-weren’t-to-be was a book I wrote when I was sixteen that had a mysterious girl who showed up from time to time in the main character’s life, setting mousetraps and hanging flypaper and wandering through the woods with a net. I sat down at the beginning of November to tell that story but the first words that came out were “It’s the accident season, the same time every year.” So I decided to run with it, borrowing bits and elements from my sixteen-year-old book as I went. Clearly, my broken bones were knocking around in my subconscious. That, and the lingering love of the idea of some benign spirit looking out for reckless teenage girls. That, and having been a reckless teenage girl. That, and wanting to translate the dreaminess and the drama, the magic and the mayhem and all other alliterative terms for adolescence into book form. That, and wanting it to be set in Ireland.
The Accident Season is the story of seventeen-year-old Cara and her misfit family who, for one month of every year, become suddenly and inexplicably accident-prone. Some Octobers are full of cuts and bumps and bruises, some feature more serious misfortunes, but on the worst years Cara’s grandfather, uncle and father have died. Cara’s purple-haired mother believes that the accident season is a family curse, but her older sister Alice is sure it’s all just coincidence. Cara herself is more concerned with the fact that Elsie, a strange, friendless girl in school who she was close to as a child, appears in all of her photographs – even ones she couldn’t possibly have been around for. But when Cara goes to confront her about it, Elsie seems to have disappeared. As the accidents worsen and Elsie’s absence gets more worrying, Cara also tries to navigate her friendship with wild and witchy Bea, her feelings for her ex-stepbrother Sam, and their plans for a chaotic Halloween party in an abandoned house outside of town on the last day of the accident season – which is where everybody’s secrets finally rise to the surface and Cara finds the answers she’s looking for.
I grew up reading the wild and glamourous magic of Francesca Lia Block, the extraordinarily ordinary magic of David Almond and the witchy magic of Alice Hoffman, and I wanted to write something magical-realist (magically realist? Magic-realistic?) that felt as dreamy and wild as being a teenager felt for me – when sometimes you can’t be sure what’s real and what’s not, when everything is immediate and dramatic and love and friendship are all-encompassing. I wanted to write something dreamy and eerie, in which reality and fantasy are often indistinguishable, and I wanted to set it close to home, because if magic can be found on the streets of LA or the beaches of windswept Maine, it can also be found in a small town in the middle of Mayo.
I don’t live in Mayo – I’m from Dublin – but I spend a lot of time there with my family, in a small town close to the border with Galway which has a river running through it, and a forest full of old, creaky trees, and plenty of abandoned houses to take inspiration from. I started out with details in my head – mouse traps and butterfly nets, a month of misfortunes, a river running through a small town, an abandoned house – and added to them as I went along: a secrets booth with typewritten secrets strung up on lengths of washing line, an element of forbidden love, masquerade masks, red lipstick stains on cigarettes, lots of whiskey.
I linked the details, I wrote the story, I took care crossing the road. Mid-way through the several months of main edits for my publisher I slipped (onstage, during a performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as you do) and broke my wrist and had to write the rest one-handed, my left arm useless in a cast. I wrote the title of the book on the cast in permanent marker (much to the amusement of the nurses in A&E) and discovered a deeper empathy for my characters. I discovered all the things you can carry in a sling.
These days I’m writing a book about lost things, set in a similar forest. I’m getting a little worried about what might soon start to go missing.
(c) Moïra Fowley-Doyle
About The Accident Season
It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?
The Accident Season is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!
About Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Moïra Fowley-Doyle is half-French, half-Irish and lives in Dublin with her husband, two young daughters and one old cat. Moïra’s French half likes red wine and dark books in which everybody dies. Her Irish half likes tea and happy endings.
Moïra spent several years at university studying vampires in young adult fiction before concentrating on writing young adult fiction with no vampires in it whatsoever. She wrote her first novel at the age of eight, when she was told that if she wrote a story about spiders she wouldn’t be afraid of them any more. Moïra is still afraid of spiders, but has never stopped writing stories.