From Australia, to Connecticut, US – and now up to Wales, UK! Yes, these chats are global, and we never know where we’ll end up next!
This is the third instalment in my series of chats titled ‘A Day in the life of...' and my previous guests – Louise Forster from Australia, and Sharon Struth from the US - have both been most gracious in opening the privacy of their writing space, and their writing day, to us.
|Bilinudgel, NSW to Connecticut, USA to Wales, UK|
I find it most inspiring to hear the stories of other authors. Sometimes, it feels like I’m all alone, sitting in here at my laptop with my dogs and cats. But thanks to today’s technology, I’ve made friends and colleagues all around the world.
Wales – home of celebrated authors Dylan Thomas, Roald Dahl and Ken Follett – has long been a country of interest to me. My forebears came to Australia from England, Ireland, and Wales, and I’ve visited my Welsh cousins, who are strewn from Wrexham in the north, to Newtown in the south, and across to the ancient city of Caernarfon on the west coast. I remember visiting the magnificent ruins of the castle on the shore, looking down onto market day in the village square below.
And so, today I’m thrilled to have celebrated author, Catherine Cavendish, visit today and chat with us about a typical writing day in her life.
Catherine Cavendish is a prolific and successful author with seven novellas and short stories published in the paranormal horror genre. Now, most regular visitors to my blog will know that paranormal horror is probably not my usual genre of choice, but when I first read the blurb for ‘The Second Wife’, I just had to own it.
So, I’m wondering what motivates a woman from Wales, who has a slightly eccentric and autocratic tortoiseshell cat – and a Mr Cavendish – to write horror stories? And more to the point, where does she do this?
Catherine, a warm welcome from usually sunny Brisbane (although today it’s raining), to beautiful Wales. Croeso – welcome to my blog.
Diolch (thank you), Noelle. It’s great to be here. I’m ashamed to say you know far more about Wales than I know about Brisbane and Australia generally. Although I have some distant relatives and a couple of friends now living there (albeit in Melbourne and Sydney), I’m afraid I’ve never visited (hangs head). Ah well, never say never!
Noelle: Catherine, you are a prolific author – how long have you been writing?
Many, many years – off and on though. I first started as a child and my first real story was about a girl called Marceline, who was an aristocrat caught in the midst of the French Revolution. It was probably rubbish, but I was only nine years old (or possibly eight? I can never remember exactly). I was the sort of weird child who loved nothing more than writing the essays my friends groaned about. To me, it wasn’t homework, it was pleasure.
Noelle: Have you always been interested in the paranormal, in horror, and – y’know, spooky stuff?
I blame ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ a chilling short story by W.W. Jacobs. I blogged about this recently http://www.catherinecavendish.com/2013/05/the-man-behind-monkeys-paw.html . We read it at school (again I was eight or nine) and I found it deliciously frightening. I wanted more, so this inevitably led me to Dennis Wheatley (Stephen King was still at school then too!). Over the years, my interest has never waned and has developed into an enthusiasm for real unexplained paranormal occurrences.
Noelle: Looking at your other books, you seem to like dead people. Um, do you ‘see’ dead people?
That’s an interesting question, Noelle. Strictly speaking, no, I don’t. Oh, I’ve seen movements out of the corner of my eye – less so as I’ve grown older. I did see, what I will always believe was, a ghost once. But this was an animal, not a human. My husband, on the other hand, has seen something in our flat here. We live in a very old building, dating from around 1760 and things do happen here from time to time for which we have no explanation. We have both heard someone, but my husband seems to experience more auditory phenomena from her than I do. In another part of the building (not our flat), things have been caught on CCTV for which no one has had a rational explanation.
Noelle: I’m wondering if you have to share your desire to write with other commitments, such as a day job? Do you have a routine for writing – a schedule?
I do have other commitments and we do split our week between two locations but recently, I have been fortunate enough to be able to give up the day job, thanks to my husband who is very supportive of my writerly ambitions. I’m very lucky. Routine varies, depending on our location, but I do try and write every day.
Noelle: I have a rule that when I’m sitting at my laptop in my office, I’m ‘working’, but if it’s a nice day and I feel like getting a bit of sun, I take my laptop outside to the terrace and sit there. Where do you write? What do you surround yourself with?
|Catherine's very neat (compared to mine) Workstation|
I am making a concerted effort this year to make the most of the infrequent warm and sunny days in this unpredictable British summer of ours. So, yes I do work outside when I can.
In the photo though, you’ll see my workstation in Wales. It’s in the corner of our large kitchen and you can see my screen and keyboard. Behind it is a pinboard for the essential notes, reminders, loose ends, helpful hints and other detritus (I mean, necessary accessories) us writers pick up along the way. There are no windows, to encourage no distractions. I like to work in peace and quiet, so I can drift into my world, let my characters take over – and scare myself half to death. If I’m scared, I know I’m onto something. It is not unusual for my husband to come in (the entrance is behind me), suddenly speak and be rewarded with a terrified shriek from me.
My cat, Mimi, who will be 18 in August, often sits right under my chair – until she feels it necessary to remind me it’s teatime. At that time, she will jump up onto the printer table beside me and attempt to rewrite my manuscript.
Noelle: Is there a particular view, or maybe some music, that inspires you on one of those days when the muse seems to be elsewhere?
Not really. Very often, if I’m having one of my slow writing days, I’ll do something else, such as the ‘business’ of writing, or compose my next blog to get me into the writing frame of mind again. I find that, while that day may not add much to my WIP, I’m usually back on form the next. I think it may be my brain saying ‘give it a rest for a day, will you?’
Noelle: My elder sister married a widower, and I remember how she gradually, and tactfully, removed the many mementoes of the former wife from their home. Talk about walking on eggshells. Can you tell us what motivated you to write ‘The Second Wife’?
Er – yes. It’s going to sound bizarre, but it involves a chair. It belonged to my husband’s late partner and I can’t sit in it. Illogical I know, but I really can’t. And I have tried. Its double appears in ‘The Second Wife’.
Noelle: I think many women would relate to that certain uncomfortable feeling of being ‘the second wife’. Have you had a lot of readers tell you how the story resonates with them?
A few have certainly.
Noelle: Are you able to share with us what you are working on now?
Yes, I’m happy to, Noelle. It’s a novel called ‘Saving Grace Devine’ and I’m at the first draft stage, but it’s coming on well. I hit a sticky patch, where I pretty much painted myself into a corner but then, all of a sudden, the solution presented itself to me and I’m off and running again.. This often happens, owing to the way I write. But I never let it worry me, because however impossible the resolution seems, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere (and it isn’t always a train coming in the opposite direction!)
The story involves a timeslip and a picture with some highly disturbing properties (but nothing like Emily’s portrait in ‘The Second Wife’). Poor Grace was drowned and died with a curse on her lips. For her to pass over, Caroline must free her, but the price could be the cost of her own soul..
As with my other books, this is not gory, visceral horror. I’m known for chilling, Gothic, ghost and paranormal horror stories, and this is one of them!
Noelle: Where can readers find out more about you, and how can they buy your books.
I’m very easy to find. Here are some of the most obvious:
The pleasure has been all mine, Catherine. Thankyou!