Many writers would say that seeing their book published is a fulfillment of a dream. But Sharon Darrow means it quite literally.
The author of Through The Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story Of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein says that she first became fascinated by Mary Shelley after waking from a mysterious, nagging dream that led her to do some library research on Mary Shelley and her mother, the eighteenth-century writer Mary Wollstonecraft. The more Sharon Darrow learned about Mary Shelley, the more she began to feel a connection with the young woman who eloped scandalously with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was spurned by family and friends, and wrote the Gothic classic Frankenstein, all by the time she was nineteen years old. “We share a concern about the effects of new technologies on our hearts, minds, and lives,” Sharon Darrow says of the ways her life and Mary Shelley’s intersect emotionally. “We are also both preoccupied with the complexity of parent-child relationships, and we both have had to make choices that were difficult but personally necessary.”
Sharon Darrow says that the hardest part of writing the story of Mary Shelley was simply figuring out just how to approach it. “At first I thought of it strictly as a biography, and I tried to stay too close to what I was reading,” she says. “But once I began to think of the story as historical fiction, I was freer to focus on the aspects of Mary Shelley’s life that truly resonated with me.” Visiting an exhibition of memorabilia honoring Mary Shelley and her mother gave Sharon Darrow inspiration as well. “Once I saw a lock of Mary Shelley’s bright auburn hair, she came alive in a whole different way,” the author says. “She was less the historical person that other people have interpreted and more a real person who had something to say to me.”
Sharon Darrow feels that Through The Tempests Dark and Wild, with its haunting stories within the story, has much to say to young readers. Mary Shelley’s calling as a writer—which was not considered suitable for a woman of her time—and her personal choices set her apart from her peers and her family, causing her a sense of loneliness and isolation that many adolescents will find familiar. “Even when teenagers are surrounded by family and friends and lead a normal and ordinary life, they often go through a phase of feeling lonely,” Sharon Darrow notes. “It’s part of forming an identity separate from parents and family and exploring whatever they have to express in the world.” For Mary Shelley, self-expression would come through writing a timeless horror story that evokes her own feelings of being abandoned emotionally by her father. “I think it’s important for readers to see just how young Mary Shelley was when she realized that writing would be her life’s work,” Sharon Darrow says. “She was already a writer, wonderfully educated, and hungry for learning before Percy Bysshe Shelley came into her life.”
Sharon Darrow, who teaches in Vermont College’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults, has three daughters and lives in Vermont.