Guest Post By Lydia Ruffles
I never considered writing The Taste of Blue Light from any other point of view than Lux Langley’s, a 17 year-old whose life unravels after she suffers a blackout while interning at an art gallery.
We’re inside her head from the first line – ‘I will find the old Lux and when I do I will climb back inside her and sew myself into her skin so I never get lost again.’
All Lux knows is that she woke up in hospital and now her mind is fractured and splintered. She’s disconnected and lost inside herself, dreaming in red and getting excruciating headaches. Memories surface only to sink again. The truth about what’s happened is buried deep inside Lux and she has to dig it out before it consumes her.
Lux was an intense character to write and I immersed myself in her world. By the time I finished telling her story, I was dreaming as her or that I was walking around Richdeane Arts School, where much of the book is set. I collected images that inspired me and made a playlist that I’d start each writing session listening to. I even went to an art therapy class and made the artwork that I thought Lux would make, including an oversized book with extra compartments with secrets folded in on themselves.
Nothing is more boring to me than cardboard characters who don’t challenge our empathy and I was interested to find out what readers would make of a young woman who thinks and behaves in a way that’s complicated. People spend a lot of time performing what they think others want from them. Lux has lost her capacity to do that because she’s suffered a trauma and because we’re inside her head all the time there’s a double lack of filter. She can be smart, caring and funny. But she can also be spoiled and doesn’t always make the best choices. In other words, like a real person, she isn’t perfect.
Because we’re inside Lux’s head, readers are in the dark about what’s happened to her too but we see her thought process. So when she’s running through the woods lost, we know her desperation when she forgets why she’s doing it. When she hurts her friends and the guy she likes, we get the inside track on why.
I needed to find ways to give clues about what’s happened that Lux doesn’t pick up on. For example, an alarm goes on and nobody else reacts to it so we wonder if it’s really happening. There are clues in the unusual ways she reacts, the leaps in thinking she makes and her physical response to things that seem normal like visiting a gallery or going to a fancy dress party. There’s also information in the things other people say and do (for example, she walks in on her friends and they suddenly stop talking), and even in things that are revealed that Lux forgets. People who have read the book twice have said it was really interesting to pick up on more of this the second time round, to see some of the things that they and Lux missed.
Another thing that was really important was finding ways to give readers a break from all the bad things happening inside Lux’s head. Injecting a thread of dark humour was one way. Showing how supportive her friends are and giving her the chance to fall in love were other ways. Lux’s synaesthesia also adds intrigue in a way that isn’t always frightening – she gets to experience the world in a different way. I have synaesthesia too so based a lot of it on my own experience.
I missed Lux when I finished writing The Taste of Blue Light and it took a while to get into a new character’s voice when I started working on my second book. I think Lux will stay with me for a long time and I hope readers feel the same.