Dylan Farrow Spins A Tale Of Truth, Lies And Power In 'Hush'

Oct 4, 2020
Originally published on October 4, 2020 12:10 pm

Right now, young adult fiction is a genre that is really allowing compelling voices to tackle hard subjects in interesting ways.

In a new book, Hush, a cabal of magical men have literally stolen people's ability to distinguish fact from fantasy. The main character Shae is on a quest to find out who killed her mother and uncover what is really behind a plague that is destroying the land. Along the way, she learns that the most dangerous thing is to speak the truth.

The author is Dylan Farrow — the daughter of Mia Farrow and sister of Ronan Farrow. She has alleged that her adoptive father Woody Allen abused her when she was a child, something he has denied. The book was inspired by her experience.

It's set in a fictional land called Montane, which has suffered a lot of strife. "It's mostly a deserted wasteland spotted with a few rundown little towns at this point," Farrow says. "They were the victim of a pandemic, believe it or not! All of this is sort of held together by the ruling power known as High House."


Interview Highlights

On Shae, the main character, and her mysterious powers

There's a lot of misinformation — and no information — running around in the land of Montane. So she is very much on her own trying to sort out what exactly is happening to her. A huge portion of her journey of self-discovery is learning to adapt and trust her own intuition and in finding out who she is and what she can do.

On her love of fantasy

Fantasy has always just been something that I've gravitated towards ... I guess it was a safe haven for me to explore my own creativity. - Dylan Farrow

Well, fantasy has always just been something that I've gravitated towards. I guess I found a sort of escapism in that particular genre. It's so imaginative and rich and vibrant and different from reality. And I guess it was a safe haven for me to explore my own creativity.

On how Shae's story came about

Well, it was a slower process than I thought it would be. I struggled initially in finding my footing in this fantasy setting. But a lot of it came from observing the times we live in, and the changing climate — both literally and figuratively — and listening to the news and seeing people's reactions, and coming to this understanding of people being very confused and angry by this advent of fake news and this bombardment of information. I wanted to explore that theme and play around with that a little bit in a fantasy setting.

On her own experiences as a child

One of the things I have discovered over the years since coming forward with my own story is that it's not as uncommon as I would have believed earlier on in my life. - Dylan Farrow

Well, one of the things I have discovered over the years since coming forward with my own story is that it's not as uncommon as I would have believed earlier on in my life. I think the story of women in particular, and young women, having to struggle to to tell their stories truthfully and to draw power for themselves from that is not exclusively my story.

On whether this book is a way to lay claim to her own story

That seems fair, I think, aside from, you know, wanting to express myself creatively in, you know, the world building and the character development and the story planning, I've always wanted to express myself this way.

On the power of fantasy

It both takes a step back and makes its content very relatable. You don't necessarily have to be in a room with a dragon, but if you've ever experienced being in a situation where you felt such terror that a monster is coming after you or something like that, I feel like it provides a safe space to explore feelings that you might not necessarily process in your day-to-day.

On whether she worried about making her story public again

I feel very differently about this book than I do about previous things I have written. This is different in that it puts forward a part of me that I'm more excited about. It comes from a part of myself that I don't despise, I guess! In a lot of ways, it feels a lot more authentic to me.

This story was produced for radio by Hiba Ahmad, edited by Melissa Gray, and adapted for the Web by Petra Mayer.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

One of the reasons we do a lot of young adult fiction on this show is because it is a genre that right now is really allowing compelling voices to tackle hard subjects in interesting ways. In the book "Hush," a cabal of magical men have literally stolen people's ability to distinguish fact from fantasy. The main character, Shae, is on a quest to find out who killed her mother and uncover what is really behind a plague that is destroying the land. Along the way, she learns that the most dangerous thing is to speak the truth.

The author of this book is Dylan Farrow. That's the daughter of Mia Farrow and sister of Ronan Farrow. She has alleged that her adoptive father, Woody Allen, abused her when she was a child, something he has denied. This book was inspired by her experience. Dylan Farrow spoke to us from Bridgewater, Conn. I began by asking her about the fictional land the story is set in.

DYLAN FARROW: Well, Montane has been hit by a lot of strife, and it's mostly a deserted wasteland spotted with a few run-down little towns at this point. They were the victim of a pandemic (laughter), believe it or not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

FARROW: All of this is sort of held together by the ruling power known as High House.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the main character is a young woman called Shae, and she grew up in one of these poor villages. She was an outcast because her brother was killed by that terrible plague called the Blot. And there's something different about her, right? She has powers, but she doesn't exactly know what they are.

FARROW: Exactly. There's a lot of misinformation and no information running around in the land of Montane, so Shae is very much on her own trying to sort out what exactly is happening to her. A huge portion of her journey of self-discovery is learning to adapt and trust her own intuition in finding out who she is and what she can do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I do want to talk about what you write at the end of the book. You write that you grew up loving fantasy novels, that they were a refuge. Tell me about your love of fantasy.

FARROW: I guess I found a sort of escapism in that particular genre. It's so imaginative and rich and vibrant and different from reality. And I guess it was a safe haven for me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to touch on something a little sensitive that you bring up in the afterword. You say that your adoptive father used the overwhelming power of a verbal campaign to lead an entire generation into believing a false narrative. And this book is clearly about abuse of power and abuse of trust. That is rooted in your own experience. Can you talk about that a little bit?

FARROW: Well, one of the things I have discovered over the years since coming forward with my own story is that it's not as uncommon as I would have believed earlier on in my life. The story of women in particular and young women having to struggle to tell their stories truthfully and to draw power for themselves from that is not exclusively my story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, what the world knows about you is mostly what has been written about you. And everyone has expressed some sort of opinion. Is writing this book a way of staking a claim to your own story?

FARROW: That seems fair (laughter). Aside from, you know, wanting to express myself creatively in the world-building and the character development and the story planning, I've always wanted to express myself this way.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And it allows complicated subjects to be sort of dealt with in a setting that might not feel so loaded, right? I mean, what I love about fantasy is that you're still dealing with the themes that you would deal with in any book and novel, but they are taken in a context that makes it seem almost safer to sort of process them.

FARROW: I think that's absolutely right. Yes (laughter). I think that's probably also one of the reasons why I was so drawn to the genre as a whole. It both takes a step back and makes its content very relatable. You don't necessarily have to be in a room with a dragon, but if you're...

(LAUGHTER)

FARROW: If you've ever experienced being in a situation where you felt such terror that a monster is coming after you or something like that, I feel like it provides a safe space to explore feelings that you might not necessarily process in your day to day.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, we should say you have a partner and a child and a whole, full life. But I am curious - were you worried about having to bring your story out into the public discourse again?

FARROW: I feel very differently about this book than I do about previous things I have written. It puts forward a part of me that I'm more excited about. It comes from a part of myself that I don't despise, I guess (laughter). In a lot of ways, it feels a lot more authentic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we should say there's a sequel coming.

FARROW: There is, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How far along are you?

FARROW: I'm currently in the middle of Chapter 16.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK.

FARROW: Yes. It's been a wild ride for Shae and me (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dylan Farrow is the author of "Hush." Thank you very much.

FARROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.