Catherine Cavendish: My Gothic Influences

Mary Shelley

 

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I have been reading horror for as long as I can remember. Can I recall the first time I read Mary Shelley’s most famous work, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus? No. It seems to have been in my life forever.

Mary Shelley wasn’t just a one book author. Following on from Frankenstein (published in 1818), came Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), Lodore (1835) and, finally, Mathilda, published after her death.

Yet she will always be identified with that one story which spawned dozens of Hollywood films and countless imitators. But, if Mary hadn’t visited Switzerland with her lover, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friends, the infamous Lord Byron and his physician, John Polidori, the story might never have been written.

 

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Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on 30th August 1797, daughter of the famous feminist and writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, who died ten days after her birth. Her mother had written and published the radical and (for its time) sensational, The Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) and her father was the philosopher and political writer, William Godwin, who was left to bring up not only his own daughter, but also his wife’s daughter, Fanny Imlay – the result of her liaison with a soldier.

The young Mary loved nothing more than to read, and made extensive use of her father’s library. She said that, “As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to ‘write stories.'” Her first published work was at the tender age of ten – a poem called Mounseer Nongtongpaw.

The Godwin household saw a steady stream of illustrious visitors, including Wordsworth and Coleridge, but one particular visitor – a student of her father’s – captured not only her attention but also her heart. Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley began an affair in 1814, while he was still married to his first wife. Facing extreme disapproval by her father, the couple fled England and travelled around Europe, accompanied by Mary’s half-sister, Claire, whose mother had become her father’s wife some years earlier.

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In 1815, Mary and Shelley had a baby girl who tragically died a few days later. In 1816, she, Percy and Claire met up with Lord Byron and John Polidori and stayed at the Villa Diodati in Geneva. It was there, on a rainy evening, that Byron entertained his guests by reading from a collection of ghost stories and then set each of them a challenge – to come up with a horror story. From those early beginnings, two notable works would eventually emerge. In addition to Mary’s Frankenstein, John Polidori produced his classic work (often wrongly attributed to Byron), The Vampyre.

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Poor Mary didn’t have the easiest of lives.  Later in 1816, her half-sister, Fanny, committed suicide and soon after, the same fate befell Shelley’s wife. The two lovers married in December 1816 but suffered the loss of two more children before Shelley drowned in The Gulf of Spezia, leaving Mary a widow at the age of just 24.

Mary herself died of brain cancer, on 1st February, 1851, aged 53. She is buried, with the cremated remains of her husband’s heart, in St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, alongside her parents. Nearly a century passed before her novel, Mathilda, was published. This dealt with themes of incest and suicide – not topics we generally associate with the era of Jane Austen!

Mary Shelley was a woman ahead of her time. Frankenstein’s timeless quality remains a landmark of Gothic literature and one that has formed part of the foundation for countless horror writers down the years. I have no reason to assume that will ever change.

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Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:

 

Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body? 

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it.

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish bride herself, a sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley, terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last.

Linden Manor is available from:
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com.au
Kobo
B&N

About the author

Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and mildly eccentric tortoiseshell cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid 18th century which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV.

When not slaving over a hot computer, Catherine enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

www.catherinecavendish.com

https://www.facebook.com/CatherineCavendishWriter?ref=hl

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4961171.Catherine_Cavendish

http://twitter.com/#!/cat_cavendish

 

 

 

My Writing Process

There’s a new meme doing the rounds and this is it. I was tagged by talented  author Catherine Cavendish – author of the dark and spooky (do go check her out, that link on her name works!). She challenged me to answer a few questions about my writing. So here goes…

The Three Usual Suspects at Waterstones York

The Three Usual Suspects at Waterstones York (L: Julia Kavan R: Cat Cavendish Seated: Me)

What am I working on?

It would be easier really to say what I am not working on. My writing has led me off in different directions and whilst I wouldn’t claim to be a polymath there are times I feel ever so slightly like an emerging polymathette (if anything ending in -ette can be so physically large! Maybe a couchette? In leatherette?).

 

Blood of the Gods

Have I had some terrific feedback on this from test readers! But, to date, the agents I have approached, whilst commending my writing, say they wouldn’t have a clue how to sell it. If you’ve ever read Anne Rice‘s vampire books, or Joanne Harris‘s Sleep, Pale Sister, then you’ll have a teeny weeny idea of what Blood of the Gods is. I have combined ancient Rome and the god-emperors with a dreamy, dark, parallel world of bad business in the present day. And my vampire is, well, let’s say traditional (ie. no sparkles and no hint of empathy with mankind) and different, too. I continue to seek a suitable lair for this but will wait for the right offer as it has been a labour of love and a result of which I am proud.

 

Threshold

Glass prison

My first foray into the psycho-sexual, written together with author Julia Kavan. I write the part of a troubled psychiatrist, Julia the part of a disturbed young woman who enters his life. There were times we doubted we would get to the end without one of us killing the other, but here we are. It was a great experience – I hope for Julia, too – and has produced a tight, chilling tale that almost all readers have loved. I say almost because one said it was too disturbing to finish – and that was such a compliment! As with Blood of the Gods, we are looking for a suitable institution to take this one forward.

 

Massacre Magazine

Human hand with blood

Click to see on Amazon

 

Click Image

Click to see on Amazon

 

Alert: Overuse of the word ‘proud’. But I am. We are. Of this new venture. What Julia and I realised was that the established publishing world seems afraid to touch real horror, and this means that there a good writers of it not being published. So we had the idea to produce a new magazine which would take only the edgiest of submissions, the stories that push the boundaries, and instead of trying to make money out of it simply use it as a vehicle for exposing horror writers we think deserve a chance. We’ve had some terrific stuff in the first two editions and just wait until you see what’s in Issue 3 next month! Our thanks to all those who have subbed from all over the world – and thanks to those who have published with us. There is still lots to do, but progress is sound and the feedback positive.

 

Humour

Italian flag

My little eBook – rather an ePamphlet – The A-Z of Understanding Italians has been such a success that I have decided finally to write my semi-autobiographical novel about the hiarious adventures of a struggling ex-pat estate agent in Italy. Yes, this was the book I wanted to write in 2008 and was told by ‘those who know’ not to bother. Well, I reckon they were wrong. The reaction to A-Z has astonished me and that’s market research in my book. So, right now this new one has the working title Mozzarella and Mayhem and is in the early stages. Watch this space.

 

Humanist Funerals

It seemed to me that as I enjoy writing stories, and it was suggested to me that I could ghost write family stories/autobiographies, that I could probably do something useful and rewarding with this skill that I seem to have. You know, I have always fancied being a cardinal or bishop, but being an atheist is rather a block to that. So when I saw that the British Humanist Association was looking for new funeral celebrants I was almost defeaned by the bells ringing. If you want to know more about this side of my life please visit my other website:

http://humanistfunerals.org/

 

How does my work differ from others?

It’s mine! (Well, except when half is Julia’s).

 

Why do I write what I do?

Because I am what I am. I think the love of horror comes from being forced to attend Catholic Mass as a child. Such blood lust and cannibalism.

Some people don't understand Romanicism

 

How does my writing process work?

It’s a reflection of my own life: three steps forward, two back. I stagger around bumping into ideas and try to keep them in my head for a time when they might come in useful. I lay awake at night worrying about a new novel and only when I feel I have a decent idea do I begin to write anything down. Then I try to be strict, by starting at 9am (ish) and not stopping until I have written at least 1,000 words each day. Some days I manage more, but rarely. I can’t leave a crap sentence on the page/screen, you see. I read published books with lines like, “She sat up and threw her legs off the bed,” and “His eyes bounced off the top of the cupboard.” Well, sorry and all that, but it is crap writing and doesn’t get near my second draft. I tend to turn in on myself and woe betide anyone who disturbs me just as the right word is emerging.

 

Now I have to tag two more authors. Here you go:

Julia Kavan

Xavier Leret

 

More Vamping with Ally Shields

Following on from yesterday’s expose of that vampire slaying kit, what better way to keep the weekend flowing than with a visit from fellow author Ally Shields and her latest book Burning Both Ends?

BurningBothEnds_ByAllyShields-453x680

Ally: Thanks so much, Steve, for allowing me to indulge in a little BSP (Blatant Self-Promotion)! I have a new release in my Guardian Witch urban fantasy series.

S: Be my guest.

A: Before I get further into that, I’d like to digress and talk for just a moment about writing an on-going series, especially the difficulty of handling series characters.

S: Oh, yes, do. I can’t imagine writing a series.

A: It’s both harder—and easier—than one might think. It’s easier, because you don’t have to create a whole new person, complete with color of hair, color of eyes, mannerisms, background. You already know these people and are ready to involve them in a new adventure. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to remember every description, every mannerism, and everything your character has said and done. And scraps of note paper get lost, and files get buried on your hard drive.

S: I would lose them.

A: Most authors also have their characters grow and mature, not only in each book, but from book to book. That means you have to constantly reassess how your character now feels about beliefs they held in the past. It’s a challenge.

If you screw up, your readers will notice and remind you. Forcefully. Sometimes I wish I had an assistant to keep it all straight. I work hard at being consistent, and if you find errors, I’m going to blame it on the cyber gremlins! :)

S: They get everywhere!

A: Now, I’d love to share a peek at my latest book…

Burning Both Ends (Guardian Witch #3) Blurb:

Friend or lover. Life or death…

Supernatural cop Ari Calin arrives at the hostile Toronto vampire court with an ultimatum from the Riverdale vampires: Sebastian, Toronto’s vampire prince, must stop his unprovoked attacks—or else. Ari wasn’t expecting a fight—the “or else” was typical vampire grandstanding. But even with vampire Andreas De Luca by her side for a show of strength, things get ugly fast. Toronto’s vampire world is in crisis, and surrounded by enemies, Ari and Andreas find themselves under attack.

Then Ari gets the call from the Magic Council ordering her home. Steffan, a good friend and leader of Riverdale’s werewolves, has gone missing during top secret negotiations with the US government, and is believed to have been kidnapped—or killed.

Andreas can’t abandon the Toronto vampires, and Ari can’t leave him to face impossible odds alone. Neither can she disobey her orders from the Council, or leave her friend Steffan to be tortured and killed. Ari’s loyalties pull her in two directions—the closest thing to love she’s ever known on one side, and friendship and duty on the other. If she can stay alive long enough for the choice to matter…

Excerpt:

Fangs flashed where her cheek had been an instant before. Ari whirled, crouching to meet the vampire’s return charge, and her fingers sparked, witch blood clamoring for action. Refusing its urgent call, she threw the magic powder as he wheeled and sped toward her in a blur. Green particles sparkled. A loud thump. The vampire recoiled from the invisible barrier and took two staggering steps. A direct hit. Before a smile more than touched her lips, the dark figure recovered and leaped. Ari backpedaled, but his weight drove her to the hard ground.

He grinned down at her, a lock of dark hair falling across his forehead. Trapping her arms above her head, he leaned close, his dark eyes glittering. He brushed her lips with his and whispered, “Better—but not yet good enough.” Andreas shifted his six-foot, muscled body, sprang up, and offered her a hand.

Ignoring the courtesy, Ari scrambled to her feet. Getting pinned by your boyfriend wasn’t always a good thing. “Back off, bloodsucker,” she grumbled. She shook out the fallen leaves and pine needles that clung to her long, honey-colored hair.

Andreas chuckled. A rich, warm sound. “Touchy tonight. Did I put your nose out of joint, little witch? And here I was, trying to help with your training.” Andreas glided across the forest clearing with the smooth grace of a natural predator. He collected their cell phones from under a park bench where they’d stashed them earlier in the evening and handed her one.

“Thanks.” Ari avoided his eyes. Damn right she was annoyed. She was competitive, and second place wasn’t good enough—even against a master level vampire. Especially one who wasn’t really trying to kill her.

Andreas studied her face, his voice pragmatic. “I am glad you are taking this seriously. Other combatants will be less charitable than I, less mindful of breaking your pretty neck. I can almost guarantee Sebastian will continue his fight with Prince Daron, and next time he may lead the attack. You might have to face him again.”

“Oh, come on. You can’t really believe he’d come to Riverdale. He’s too comfortable lording it over everyone in Toronto.” Andreas shrugged. “It is unlikely, but a sobering thought. With Sebastian, anything is possible.” He frowned, obviously thinking about the brutal vampire leader. “He has grown more aggressive, erratic, perhaps less sane, as sometimes happens with the elder ones. Our defeat of his minions will only fuel his rage and make him more determined.”

“Minions? What kind of word is that?” Ari demanded. “You really should update your vocabulary. Being born in seventeen hundred and something is no excuse for using words no one understands.” She was just being bitchy. In truth, she wouldn’t change a thing about Andreas’s speech or sexy voice. The archaic words, the faint accent of Italian aristocracy, and the shivers of sensation it produced were all part of him. She never got used to the seductive effect…even when she wanted to be annoyed.

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Both-Guardian-Witch-ebook/dp/B00E0LCE0O/

B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/burning-both-ends-ally-shields/1116093682?ean=2940148741022

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/books/burning-both-ends/luAT3r-Z3Eiy8ZLBvgppPg

ARe:  https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-burningbothends-1246180-139.html

Author Bio:

Ally Shields was born and raised in the US Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for her urban fantasy series. After  a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time writing in 2009, and Awakening the Fire, the debut novel in her Guardian Witch series, was released in September 2012.  Ally still lives within driving distance of the Mississippi with her Miniature Pinscher, Ranger. When not writing, reading, or spending time with family and friends, she loves to travel in the US and abroad. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.

Author contact links:

Website: http://allyshields.com

Blog: http://allyshields.com/blog.html

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShieldsAlly

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AllyShieldsAuthor

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6527209.Ally_Shields

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/allyshields

Other books in the series:

Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1), published September 2012

Fire Within (Guardian Witch #2), published Marsh 2013

Blood and Fire (Guardian Witch #4), coming in the fall of 2013

BTW, I suggest you read the books in order to follow the on-going characters and story arc!

Summer Reading – A Devilishly Good Offer

Six Signed Copies Only

Six Signed Copies Only

If you’re off to Italy for your holidays this summer what better book to take than Diavolino? Set in Umbria it’s guaranteed to warm things up even if the weather takes a nose dive.

I have just 6 copies sitting on my desk and I’m offering them signed and dedicated for only£6.99 including postage and packing. If you want one, drop me an email at emmett.steve@gmail.com and I’ll reply with instructions.

There’s no evil catch. No competition, no subscription. Just £6.99 by PayPal and the book is yours. Amazon currently sells at £11.89 by the way. Oh, and you don’t have to be going to Italy for your holidays – or on holiday at all.

The Hangman’s Daughter: Book Review

Hangman's

Publisher: AmazonCrossing (24 May 2011)

ISBN-10: 161109061X

Author: Oliver Pötzsch

Blurb

Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead—marked by the same tattoo—the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos.

Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

A brilliantly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller, The Hangman’s Daughter is the first novel from German television screenwriter Oliver Pötzsch, a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan. Three further titles in the Hangman’s Daughter series are currently in translation.

Review

And that blurb sold it to me, but I can only hope the three further titles have a different translator. Let me dwell a little on the translator rather than the author, because I have to give voice to the possibility that my disappointment with the book lies not in the story but the English version. Alas, my German is not good enough to read it in the original. The translator is apparently no amateur. We are treated to a biography even in the book. On Amazon his bio is much bigger than the author’s, so he begs scrutiny.

Lee Chadeayne is a German-to-English literary translator. Most recently this includes The Settlers of Catan by Rebecca Gablé, a historical novel about the Vikings and their search for a new world, and The Copper Sign by Katja Fox, a medieval adventure in 12th-century England and France. As a scholar and student of both history and languages, especially Middle High German, he was especially drawn to the work of Oliver Pötzsch, author of the bestselling novel die Henkerstochter (The Hangman’s Daughter) a compelling and colorful description of customs and life, including love, murder, superstitions, witchery and political intrigue during early 17th-century Germany in a small Bavarian city.

The first thing I have to say about the book is that it contains not one memorable or thought-provoking line. That’s never good. It contains many confused and ambiguous sentences that any fledgling writer would have thrown back at him. The prose is, frankly, dull. And yes, maybe it’s not like this in German, but that is something I can’t prove.

But it also disappoints in ways that suggest the author may be to blame. It gets off to a good start but soon becomes a dull, historical detective story. There are no witches or sorcery, no devil and quite honestly there may as well be no hangman’s daughter. Considering the book is named after her, it’s a pity she has about as much relevance to the plot and the outcome as if she had been the milkmaid. I felt cheated. Add to that the sheer drudgery of the prose, the repetition of clues  that would have enable Clouseau to solve the case before the halfway point, and you can see why getting to the end felt like walking round the equator in a pair of stiletto heeled shoes.

It had so much promise. I want to believe it’s in the translation.

The Next Big Thing

I was recently tagged by Catherine Cavendish to participate in The Next Big Thing, where authors answer ten questions about their current works in progress. If you haven’t read Cat’s post about what she’s working on now, jump over to her blog to take a look. I love her stories: http://www.catherinecavendish.com/2012/11/the-second-wife-is-my-next-big-thing.html

 

Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish

In turn, I tagged dark fiction writer extraordinaire, Julia Kavan. Julia’s post will go up on her blog on 12th December, so be sure to go over and read it: http://www.juliakavan.com/

 

Julia Kavan

Julia Kavan

 

So thanks, Cat, for asking me what I’m up to with my writing. Here it is:

 

The Three Usual Suspects at Waterstones York

The Three Usual Suspects at Waterstones York

 

What is the working title of your book?

I Love You To Bits

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Like all ideas, from my head ;-) I kid you not. I don’t want to risk being sectioned or labelled as a psychopath, but…every day and week and month that goes by I fall more in love with my partner. Sometimes it hurts and makes me realise how close pain and pleasure are, that a very fine line separates them. The book explores seeking the ultimate act of love to achieve the most intense feelings possible.

What genre does your book fall under?

Horror. Of the psychological kind. (Maybe that should be unkind?)

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m afraid  my top choices are all dead: James Mason, Vincent Price and Donald Pleasence. If that rules them out and I have to choose from the living…Sam Worthington, Christian Bale and Javier Bardem.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I hate writing synopses. Pass!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

That’s an odd question because it presumes there are only those two options – and that’s not true. Just because an author doesn’t have an agent doesn’t mean his/her books have to be self-published. Many authors are published by legitimate publishers without having an agent. I am one of those authors. I’ll be honest, I would like to have a good agent and am always on the look for someone who likes my work enough to want to work with me, but if I can’t find that partner then I will continue to work with publishers directly. I have no plans to self-publish the book.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ll let you know when it’s finished. A novel in general takes me about a year; I don’t believe a novel of any real value can be rushed out in a few days and am always astonished when I see writers claiming they have done so.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None. I’m sure there is one but I haven’t found it yet. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can look it up.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

My partner of fifteen years.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Anyone fed up with ‘horror lite’ should enjoy the challenge and the pushing of the boundaries of acceptability. The human mind can be far more worrying than any monster.