Tag Archives: gothic fiction

Article: The Dark Lady of Devon by Catherine Cavendish

Catherine Cavendish is one of my most loved authors and a great writer friend. She’s one of the most talented women gothic and horror writers working today and she’s extremely supportive of other authors and her writing friends. She lives in the UK and always offers me the best essays for my site featuring haunts from there (though she has featured some in the states too), which I always love. Enjoy her article today on a very interesting ghost, and check out all her gothic titles, recently re-released. Linden Manor, and some of her other books, are some of my favorite reads.

The Dark Lady of Devon

by Catherine Cavendish, author of Linden Manor

pic-1%2c-lady-mary-howard

“My ladye hath a sable coach,

And horses two and four;

My ladye hath a black blood-hound

That runneth on before.

My ladye’s coach hath nodding plumes,

The driver hath no head;

My ladye is an ashen white,

As one that long is dead.”

My novella – Linden Manor – features the ghost of Lady Celia Fitzmichael, about whom a scary nursery rhyme was written, which haunted my main character, Lesley Carpenter. In it, Lady Celia is never mentioned by name. Instead, she is referred to as ‘The Scottish Bride.’ And woe betide you if you laid eyes on her ‘blackened face.’

This made me research other notable hauntings by tormented brides (and women generally) and, inevitably, my path led to Devon, home of so many wonderful hauntings and folklore. Here, I found a tale which has all the hallmarks of a Daphne du Maurier dark story (OK, I know she wrote in neighbouring Cornwall, but you get my drift.) The tale of Lady Mary Howard is a dark and tragic one. Every night, her ghostly carriage and massive black dog, regularly travel sixteen miles from Okehampton Castle to Fitzford House and back again. Each time, the purpose of their journey appears to be to transport a single blade of grass.

pic-2%2c-the-tragic-end-of-sir-john-fitz

So who was Lady Mary? And why does she perform this repetitive ritual?

She was born Mary Fitz in 1596, only legitimate child of Sir John Fitz, a man whose inherited wealth made him too rich, too young (at age 21). He spent his money, sinking into depravity and degeneracy to Dorian Gray proportions. His wickedness eventually alienated him from the whole of Tavistock – the town near his home of Fitzford House. Then, two men were killed on the steps of his house. They included his best friend. John Fitz slid into insanity and committed suicide at the age of 30, leaving nine year old Mary alone. She was sold by King James I to the Earl of Northumberland. He married her off to his brother, Sir Allan Percy, to ensure her fortune passed to their family when Mary was just twelve years old. Her new husband was 31.

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The enforced marriage was shortlived as Percy caught a chill while on a hunting trip and died in 1611. Soon after, Mary eloped with her true love, Thomas Darcy. Tragically though, he died just a few months later. Mary had yet to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, so she was technically still the Earl’s ward. He married her off to husband number three – Sir Charles Howard, fourth son of the Earl of Suffolk. They had two children who both appear to have died in infancy. Then he too succumbed and died – of unknown causes – leaving Mary a widow for the third time at the age of just 26.

By now, tongues were wagging. That’s a lot of husbands to lose in rapid succession. Had the father lived on in his daughter? After all, didn’t Sir John Fitz become mixed up in murder at one time?

By now, perhaps as a result of her experiences at the hands of unscrupulous men, Mary had learned a little about keeping her hands firmly on her own purse-strings. She was now a wealthy and desirable widow and married husband number four – Sir Richard Grenville – who no doubt thought he was onto a good thing. He soon found out his new wife wasn’t to be taken advantage of. He didn’t like it and vented his wrath cruelly on her. Mary refused to relent, and kept her money safe.

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In the end, Sir Richard’s cruelty became too much for Mary and she sued for divorce, between 1631-32. From then on, a series of extraordinary events saw Sir Richard imprisoned for debt, his subsequent disappearance for seven years and terrible injustice heaped on Mary when he returned and a court ordered that he could seize Fitzford House and her possessions. When Mary eventually turned up there (she had been living in London), she found the mansion wrecked.

Her marriage to Grenville was the only one to produce children – a son, Richard, who died young, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary – neither of whom Mary had anything to do with as they served as a constant reminder of their father. She did keep one child with her though. Her son, George, born around 1634 and whose father is unknown (possibly Theophilus, Earl of Suffolk).

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As she grew older and remained, with her son, at the restored Fitzford House, Lady Mary became noted around Tavistock for her strong will and imperious temper. When her son died unexpectedly in 1671, she never recovered and died soon after. Then the legendary hauntings began.

It is said that, at dead of night, the gates of Fitzford House creak open and a massive black hound, with flaming red eyes bounds forward. Behind it rattles a coach made of bones, driven by a headless coachman. Its single passenger is a ghostly lady. Sixteen miles up the road, the coach stops at Okehampton Castle where the dog picks a single blade of grass. Back at Fitzford House, the dog lays this carefully down on a stone. Legend has it that when all the grass has been thus transported from Okehampton Castle, Lady Mary will finally be at rest.

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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 has just been reissued by Crossroad Press and is available from:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:

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And are currently available – or soon will be – from:

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

Catherine Cavendish Amazon page

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Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black 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. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

You can connect with her here:

Catherine Cavendish

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

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2 Comments

Filed under Guest Posts, Uncategorized

Interview with the Interesting Catherine Cavendish on Writing Gothic Literature

Welcome Cat, my friend, to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Our readers are sure to be delighted today as GOTHIC seems to be a hot topic in reading and writing these days on my site. Since your newest creation just released, called Linden Manor and part of a Samhain Horror Gothic novella series, you are in fine position to talk on the subject!

LindenManor

We are very happy to have you here with us! What has it been like to publish this work with Samhain, reaching us over yonder in the U.S. while you sit in Wales enjoying all kinds of historical goodness?

Cat: Samhain was on my publishing radar for a long time. I was just waiting for the right opportunity and when Don D’Auria (Executive Editor) announced the Gothic Anthology competition, it was like manna from heaven for me. It’s one of my absolute favourite horror genres and both our countries have such strong Gothic traditions, so it’s perfect for me.

Erin: I love gothic literature too, as you know! I am thirsting for more to be written and was so happy to hear Samhain take on publishing some. It was freezing in Ohio for so long, now today it feels 80. I won’t complain, but I will be drinking iced tea, with ice cubes….or how is the weather in Wales? How about I take a quick trip and we can take a walk around some old ruins. Do you drink hot tea or what is your drinking pleasure?

Cat: We’ve had some gorgeous spring days. Where I am – in North East Wales – we’ve been sheltered from most of the really awful weather this winter. I know it’s been terrible in parts of the USA, and in parts of Britain, whole communities have been flooded out.

As for old ruins…well, around here, on the border with England, we have a lot of castles. They were built by King Edward I in response to the uppity Welsh who would insist on mounting uprisings and trying to gain freedom and independence from England. Today, the political party Plaid Cymru has much the same agenda – although they don’t tend to mount uprisings!

Around four miles from where I am now is Rhuddlan Castle built on Edward’s instructions in 1277, but not completed until 1282, at the same time Flint Castle nearby was also being built for the same purpose.

Flint Castle Aerial North Castles Historic Sites

Flint Castle Aerial North Castles Historic Sites

Before we set off, I think a cup of Earl Grey tea, with a slice of lemon, will get us in the right mood.

Erin: I can’t ever pass up Earl Grey, it’s one of my favorites! Where are we going to head on our walk? Let’s get started and I’ll chat away with you while we explore.

Cat: I’d like to take you somewhere with a really creepy atmosphere. It’s not far from here, in a small town called Ruthin and it is the former gaol. A number of ghosts regularly linger there including prisoner John Jones who escaped twice – once in 1879 and then in 1913 when he was shot and died soon afterwards. Now he doesn’t seem able to leave.

Ruthin Gaol - condemned prisoner

Ruthin Gaol – condemned prisoner

William Kerr, Ruthin’s cruel and infamous Gaoler from 1871-1892, used to beat and starve prisoners as well as infuriate them by jangling his keys outside their cells. One day he simply disappeared, having left the Gaol on a perfectly normal day. No one knows what happened to him but his jangling keys and incessant banging on cell doors can still be heard today.

Then there’s William Hughes who was the last man to be hanged in the Gaol. He murdered his wife and on the 17th February 1903, six people watched him die for it. But he has never left…

Ruthin Gaol

Ruthin Gaol

Erin: Sounds lovely, well maybe not lovely, maybe a little spooky…ahaha…but I am game. As long as he doesn’t try to take me prisoner, so watch my back!! Now on to the questions….

Q: You just published your novella, Linden Manor, with Samhain Horror Publishing. Can you explain that process some and about how four novellas will be later published into one print anthology?

A: Samhain held their first Gothic Horror Anthology Competition last year. The rules were simple – it had to be Gothic, full of atmosphere, shadows, darkness and scares. There was a maximum word length 25,000-30,000 words and any combination of demons, ghosts and spooks of any kind could be used. I immediately set to work and that same day the germ of an idea which developed into Linden Manor was born.

My good friend, fellow horror writer and writing coach, Julia Kavan, helped me hone the story and I sent it off in good time for the September 15th deadline. When the email arrived from Don, saying, ‘Welcome to the Samhain family,’ my squeals of delight echoed off the walls and probably half way down the road!

On May 6, 2014, the four winning novellas were published in ebook format as standalones. In October we will all amalgamate in the print anthology. With Russell James, Devin Govaere and J.G. Faherty, I am in some stunning company. The entire anthology is called What Waits In The Shadows and I think that sums our stories up perfectly!

Four gothic tales

Q: What was your inspiration for Linden Manor? Talk about how you formulated your ideas!

A: I sat back, closed my eyes and let my mind drift. An image of a large Gothic house, set in its own land and isolated from its neighbours floated into my mind, along with a spooky little rhyme, quoted at the beginning of the story. It begins, ‘Run and hide, far and wide. Run and hide from the Scottish bride’. Everything just stemmed from there. Almost immediately, I knew I had to set the story in a rural landscape that had been populated for thousands of years. That led me to one of my favourite locations, the leafy and richly historic county of Wiltshire (where Stonehenge and Avebury are located). The mysterious character of Isobel Warrender formed before my main character, Lesley. While Lesley’s name never changed, Isobel began ‘life’ as Cynthia. Then I decided it simply didn’t suit her!

Q: What makes Linden Manor fit the genre of gothic? So many people are asking and discussing the definition of gothic lately. What do you feel encompasses gothic? How does your novella fit that?

A: Gothic to me, most often, evokes an old, imposing spooky house with a history. The house may or may not be a character in itself because it has soaked up so much tragedy or horror over the centuries, not just from its own existence but from what has gone before. The atmosphere is dark and gloomy, heavy with anticipation of something terrible to come. Nothing good is ever going to happen in such a house. It waits, it lurks, it harbours evil and may help it to thrive. It traps the innocent and unwary and sucks the lifeblood out of its victims. Here spirits walk, trapped in a timewarp, in a different dimension. Some may be seen, others not. Some are tragic, others deadly. Here demons thrive. Linden Manor is a house just like that.

Q: Do you think gothic literature is a new trend brought back by lovers of classic gothic of the past? Why do you think people are so interested in it?

A: I’m not convinced it ever went away. It’s a form of escapism – and let’s face it, we all need a bit of that. Some people escape into a nice, cozy murder mystery, others into a ‘happy ever after’ romance, but those of us with a love of being scared, thrilled, held in suspense, yet knowing no actual harm will come to us, love to lose ourselves in that dark atmosphere that epitomises gothic literature. It generates a delicious feeling of anticipation. We wonder, what waits in that shadow over there? There are also no guarantees that anyone will get out of this alive – or in one piece, either mentally or physically. It keeps us guessing right up to the last page – and even, sometimes beyond.

Q: What are some of the classic gothic literature that you can think of as examples? What are your favorites?

A: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Shirley Jackson’s the Haunting of Hill House and Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black spring to mind. Plus anything by M.R. James and Edgar Allan Poe. And let’s not forget Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and her sister, Emily’s Wuthering Heights.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Q: You also have a penchant for ghosts and the paranormal? Does this fit into your novella as well, even though gothic reads don’t always have to have ghosts?

A: Oh yes. I love a good, frightening ghost, don’t you? Beware of the Scottish Bride…

Q: This is your first published work with Samhain, but you’ve been a writer for much longer. What other works have you written? Are they all in a similar genre or do you write various types of works?

A: Miss Abigail’s Room is probably my most Gothic until Linden Manor. The Second Wife too has many Gothic elements, as has a short story of mine called In My Lady’s Chamber. Cold Revenge and The Demons of Cambian Street are paranormal horror and my new novel, coming out on July 1st – Saving Grace Devine – is a horror with a timeslip.

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Q: Have any real stories in Wales ever intrigued you enough that you wrote any stories about them? Why or why not?

A: There is a rich literary tradition in Wales – although I have not lived here for very long, so am still on a learning curve. There are many haunted properties and stories, so I look forward to exploring those for the future.

Q: I hear you have a ghost lives near you or in your own home? What is that like??!

A: She’s benevolent. Fortunately. The building in which our apartment is located is at least 250 years old, so you would expect it to have seen a fair amount of activity over the years. It would appear that our ghost is probably a lady called Miss Edwards who owned a haberdashery shop on the premises in the early part of the 20th century. She switches on lights and there was a spooky incident involving the washing machine once, which seemed to be her trying to get our attention. My husband has heard footsteps upstairs, when no one but him was there, and he has also heard her voice. I get a little shiver up my spine when things happen, but as long as my cat doesn’t get scared, neither do I!

Q: Is it difficult to find a ghosts “voice” when writing a novel? How do you put yourself into their shoes, so to speak (even if they don’t wear shoes!!)?

A: I create a backstory for the ghost just as I would a living character. Very little of that will appear in the story, but it will have everything to do with their actions, appearance and motivation for haunting.

Q: What kinds of methods do you use or details to create ominous and foreboding scenes?

A: I vary the length of sentences. Short. Choppy. Phrases rather than whole sentences, when I want to raise the tension. I describe what I see, taking care to use descriptive verbs wherever possible without resorting to overuse of adjectives or adverbs. And I describe what I see in my head. It’s a dark place at times!

Q: What else do you have upcoming in the way of any released books? You mentioned you have a new book coming from Samhain Horror, a full novel, in July?

A: Saving Grace Devine on July 1st. Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll read you the blurb, which should give you a basic flavour of the story:

Can the living help the dead…and at what cost? 

When Alex Fletcher finds a painting of a drowned girl, she’s unnerved. When the girl in the painting opens her eyes, she is terrified. And when the girl appears to her as an apparition and begs her for help, Alex can’t refuse.

But as she digs further into Grace’s past, she is embroiled in supernatural forces she cannot control, and a timeslip back to 1912 brings her face to face with the man who killed Grace and the demonic spirit of his long-dead mother. With such nightmarish forces stacked against her, Alex’s options are few. Somehow she must save Grace, but to do so, she must pay an unimaginable price.

SavingGraceDevine72lg

Q: Do you feel that women in the horror genre have had a harder time getting published or noticed than men? Now or in the past? If so, are things gradually getting better? How hard do women need to fight to be noticed?

A: I think there are some excellent female horror authors – Susan Hill, I’ve already mentioned, although she is more accurately a multi-genre author, as was Daphne Du Maurier. Anne Rice is another major influence. There does seem to be an increasing number of excellent new voices in horror, who happen to be female. Julia Kavan, Lisa Morton, Sèphera Girón…the list grows.

Then, of course, the winning novellas in Samhain’s competition comprised two female authors and two male. I think that the success of authors such as Stephanie Meyer may possibly have led to some expectation that a woman will tend towards the ‘sparkly vampire’ type of paranormal, but there are plenty of us shouting our horror corner these days. The Horror Writers’ Association, and publishers such as Samhain really help. As they say, ‘It’s all about the story’. Write one that ticks all the boxes and it doesn’t matter which sex you are (at least, that’s my experience).

Q: What words of advice do you have for other writers? What have you found works best for you in terms of plotting your story or finding time to write?

A: First of all, it may be a cliché, but a writer writes. Only by practice do we get better. And read. Your genre, yes, but anything and everything – if it’s well written, or even if it isn’t. Analyze what works and what doesn’t, then apply the lessons learned to your own writing. Get a mentor/coach/fellow writer in your chosen genre who has the experience and can be trusted to give you honest, constructive feedback. Don’t be precious about those paragraphs/pages you slaved over. If they don’t work, out they come! I am not a great plotter and I use my regular walks down by the river as valuable thinking time. I also carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas, words, phrases that I might use, wherever I might be at the time. If you try and find time to write, you never will. You have to make time, and that usually means doing less of something else, be it housework or watching TV. It’s all about prioritizing. If you work full time, you’ll need to claw back time on your days off, write in your lunchtimes if you have them. Grab an hour at night before you go to bed. Whatever works for you. But do it!

Q: Do you have any more books in process at the moment? If so, tell us about them. What do you plan to write in the future?

A: I have one tentatively called Jane, Avenged. It’s about to undergo a second draft and, is taking shape. Then I also have an idea borne out of a nightmare (much as Saving Grace Devine was). No title yet for this one, but it involves a small, locked up house in a wood…

Q: What do you feel have been your biggest challenges as a writer and on the flip side, your biggest success?

A: My biggest challenge to date has undoubtedly been finding an active, well respected publisher of horror. My greatest success was finding one – and winning the competition!

Q: What are some places you’d enjoy traveling to? Any you’ve been to? And any you’d like to try to see one day?

A: We’re going to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum very soon. I’ve always wanted to go there as I love history – the older the better! Visiting the ancient palaces of Egypt was an amazing experience. I also love taking holidays to interesting prehistoric sites in Orkney and Wiltshire. Still on my ‘bucket’ list is St. Petersburg as I have a fascination for the last Tsar and his family.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

Q: How can readers connect to you, Cat?

A: I can be found on my website: www.catherinecavendish.com

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

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

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

Erin: Thank you SO MUCH for having me over to chat. You’ve worn me out with the tour. We’ll have to do this again and next time, we’ll bring a thermos of tea! Best wishes with your novella and upcoming works and please stop by again soon. Thanks so much for being such an amazing supporter of Hook of a Book!

Cat: Thank you so much for letting me haunt your blog today, Erin. I’ve really enjoyed it. Ooh, and Miss Edwards just said, “Bore da” (Welsh for “Good morning”).

Linden Manor, Synopsis~

LindenManorHave 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.

AMAZON

SAMHAIN PUBLISHING (get for $2.45 for limited time!)

Saving Grace Devine, Synopsis~
Available July 1, 2014

SavingGraceDevine72lgCan the living help the dead…and at what cost?

When Alex Fletcher finds a painting of a drowned girl, she’s unnerved. When the girl in the painting opens her eyes, she is terrified. And when the girl appears to her as an apparition and begs her for help, Alex can’t refuse.

But as she digs further into Grace’s past, she is embroiled in supernatural forces she cannot control, and a timeslip back to 1912 brings her face to face with the man who killed Grace and the demonic spirit of his long-dead mother. With such nightmarish forces stacked against her, Alex’s options are few. Somehow she must save Grace, but to do so, she must pay an unimaginable price.

Saving Grace Devine will be published on July 1st and is available for pre-order now at:

Samhain Publishing

Amazon.com 

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.ca 

Amazon.com.au 

B&N 

Kobo

Catherine Cavendish, Biography~

Catherine CavendishHello, my name’s Catherine Cavendish and I write (mainly) paranormal horror fiction.

I am delighted to announce that I am joint winner of the first annual Samhain Horror Anthology Competition with my new Gothic horror novella, LINDEN MANOR.This will be followed by my novel SAVING GRACE DEVINE in the summer, also to be published by Samhain Horror.

My current titles include: THE SECOND WIFE, MISS ABIGAIL’S ROOM, THE DEVIL INSIDE HER, THE DEMONS OF CAMBIAN STREET, COLD REVENGE, THE DUST STORM, SAY A LITTLE PRAYER, and IN MY LADY’S CHAMBER.  All are available from most online booksellers.

I live with a longsuffering husband and mildly eccentric tortoiseshell cat in North Wales. Our 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, I enjoy wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

Check out my website at: www.catherinecavendish.com

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

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

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

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Filed under Q and A with Authors

Stillwater, by Nicole Helget, is a Gothic, Absorbing Read that Intertwines Cultures, Race, Madness, Loss, and Love

StillwaterStillwater, by Nicole Helget, is a literary work that delves into the most vile places in people, yet also into the most compassionate places all at the same time. Her light staccato prose rich with deep accents and personalities and characters with pain and emptiness, all searching for connections, to someone who cares for them, during such volatile times that were the late 1800s in small pioneer towns such as this one located in Minnesota.

Set during the times of The Civil War, I didn’t know exactly what to expect of the novel, but it really doesn’t at all focus on anything about the Civil War. People located Minnesota were fairly far removed from it, being so far up North, except for some of the soldiers from the North who “deserted” the war often fled far and bounty hunters were looking for quick cash.  The book really focused on a pair of twins from Stillwater, who were separated from an orphanage when they were just young, the girl Angel going to a rich family in the town and the boy, Clement, being left at the orphanage with the nun and the Native American woman who lived there with her and helped her to care for the children.  Not to give spoilers, but she became his mother he never appreciated throughout his life and Angel’s mother tried to be rid of her after adopting her. Because of their bond as twins, even living in different worlds, they found each other and connected in eerie ways.

The novel has a very gothic feel, a dark undertone revealing the sad parts of human nature. The carnal desires, the crude ways of people who fight to survive in the most dire of circumstances as was the frontier. In this time and place of the river town of Stillwater, where nature still fought its own battles against human conquering, Helget intertwines French fur traders, poverty-stricken whites, Native Americans, white Christians, runaway slaves, rich people (making money off logging industry) and all the orphaned and lost children of so many cultures. The real first generations to start mixing cultures and being lost to society.

Her novel is authentic and gritty and raw in a way that mirrors some of America’s best literary Southern gothic prose.  Women with mental illnesses, sent mad over loss, and undercurrents of witchcraft, supernatural occurences, murder, death, and horrible human elements are all to be found. Helget is attune to the thoughts, actions, and feelings of so many bizarre personalities she creates in her characters and all while being true to the nature (and the actual nature–i.e environmental surroundings) of small town Minnesota.

And yet, she also shows us that life is so fragile. Clement saving a baby bird prematurely hatched from the river, a Native American woman loving an orphan boy with every ounce of herself, a runaway slave doing anything to save her son.  A nun who always wanted children ending up having so many to care for in her refuge.  Moments of pure human emotion that is almost haunting to the reader.

Helget gives us a writing style that is poetic and deep, with depth of content and original, unique sentence structure and word choice. Character driven though it is, the imagery is a propelling force. Her content is compelling and absorbing as if the reader is pulled into the river, and the town, themselves.

As dark, deep, and engaging as it was, it took me only a few hours to read due to her sentence structure and the fast-moving story line that swept me away like a river’s rushing current. A very thought-provoking read, I’ll think I’ll be pondering about this book awhile longer as the layers unfold in my mind and the connections to the characters peel away exposing all their beauty.

Stillwater, Synopsis~

StillwaterPublication Date: February 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 0547898207Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.Stillwater, near the Mississippi River and Canada, becomes an important stop on the Underground Railroad. As Clement and Angel grow up and the country marches to war, their lives are changed by many battles for freedom and by losses in the struggle for independence, large and small.Stillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, squaws, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose.

Buy the Book~

Alibris
Amazon (Hardcover)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes & Noble (Hardcover)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Book Depository
Google Play
iTunes

Author Nicole Helget, Biography~

Nicole HelgetBorn in 1976, NICOLE LEA HELGET grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways.

She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Based on the novel’s first chapter, NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly.

Nicole Helget shares her thoughts on writing and her influences, as well as beautiful photos of her family (including six children!) at her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Tour Hashtag: #StillwaterTour
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