On Writing ‘For You Are Julia’

C. G. Menon

I’d been living in Cambridge a few months before I took my first trip out to the fens. Living in the suburbs of the city itself had been a study in watching movement, in watching change. By contrast, the fens were a study in timelessness.

There’s something terribly contemplative about a flat landscape. I began to write “For You Are Julia” the day after that trip, but it wasn’t until at least a year later that the piece really took shape. The fenland isn’t the sort of place that has an immediate story. It’s quiet and it doesn’t change, except for minute, organic upheavals as the water laps away at a bank.

It was these tiny changes that gave me the real impetus for “For You Are Julia”. The protagonist is quiet, just like the fens. You have to dig a little deeper for her story, watch a little closer. She’s an older woman, relatively content, to whom nothing – in the end – really happens. It’s astounding how much there is to say about the people to whom nothing really happens.

Julia is a grounded, centred character right throughout the story. I knew that I didn’t want this to be a simple tug-of-war love story between the feckless Tom and the steady Edward, with Julia as the rope in between. She has her own mind, and throughout the entire narrative Julia understands that both these men have flaws. Neither of them quite offer her anything more than what’s inside her own head. In the end, Julia settles it. She makes do. She gets on with things. She might regret her decision, certainly – in fact, I think she does. But it’s hers, in the end, and who’s to say that she wouldn’t have regretted choosing the other way? In the end, the older lady to whom nothing really happens turns out to have had a rich story all along. You just have to take your time to see it.

You can read ‘For You Are Julia’ in the new, spring issue of The Lonely Crowd which may be purchased here.

mj8NcYHJC. G. Menon has won the Asian Writer prize and the Winchester Writers Festival short story award. She’s been shortlisted for a number of prizes including the Willesden Herald prize, the WriteIdea prize and the Fiction Desk Newcomer prize. She splits her time between London and Cambridge, and is currently working on her first novel.

© C.G. Menon, 2016. Banner image © Jo Mazelis, 2016.