Tag Archives: writing gothic literature

Interview with the Lovely and Talented Author Sandra Byrd: Mist of Midnight and Writing Victorian Gothic Literature

Linger on my site a little today and read through this interview if you are a fan of Victorian Gothic literature! I’ll be chatting right now with Sandra Byrd over tea and shortbread about her book, Mist of Midnight (AVAILABLE NOW-March 10, 2015) and her thoughts on constructing Gothic literature. If you missed my review last week, check it out HERE.

And after our chat below, you can ENTER TO WIN a lace bookmark featured here, keeping with the theme of her book detailing Rebecca, the main character’s, mother making Honiton Lace.

Hi Sandra, Thank you for coming by to chat with me today on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Come in and have a seat. Tell me how 2015 has been for you so far while I make us drinks as we get ready to have a seat in the comfy chairs in my library.

Sandra: Thank you for having me to your library, and for introducing me to your friends.  The friend of my friend is my friend, right? Especially friends who read! 2015 has been crazy and busy, so I’m glad for a chance to sit with you for a bit.

Erin: You’re welcome anytime! It’s still pretty cold with snow in Ohio, so I’ll put on the teapot, or I can make coffee? What is your pleasure? I’ll be having some Earl Grey tea, with sugar and cream.

Sandra: One favorite is a London Fog, Earl Grey tea, lightly sweetened, with warm cream.  Would that do?

Erin: It would be my pleasure, and I’ll bring out a few shortbread cookies too. Then we’ll get started with some questions!


Sandra: Shortbread – yes, please.  It showed up in my book, so of course I had to bake a few batches to eat while writing!

Q: Mist of Midnight is your first Gothic romance mystery, which in my opinion was a huge success. What made you decide to write in this beloved, yet sometimes obscure sub-genre?

A:Thank you, Erin! That means so much. I simply loved reading them as a girl, teen, and awoman. Then they seemed to fall out of favor, and I had a hard time finding ones I loved, ones that echoed the traditional novels and their expected tropes but have been updated for our time.  I spend so many hours researching and writing that I always try to choose genres, eras, and people who deeply interest me.

Q: Were there authors or books of similar taste that you studied or enjoyed that gave you ideas for when you created your own novel?

A: I read quite a few Gothic authors “back in the day” but the one I loved best, and who stuck with me the most, was Victoria Holt.  She wrote Gothic Romances under that name, and English historicals as Jean Plaidy, and I loved all of her books. So she influenced quite a bit of my writing, the Tudors, too.

I did want to update the concept a little for modern readers.  I like more of the hero on the page than was present in quite a few of the gothic romance novel of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little strongerminded than was popular then.   I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith.  But I tried my best to stick with the “ingredients” that people expect when the read a Gothic Romance:

  1. A large property, in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.
  2. A Byronic hero.
  3. Characters around that are trustworthy… or not.
  4. Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.
  5. A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.

There are many other “ingredients” one may choose from when writing a Gothic novel: a woman in a nightgown, medications that help or harm, secret passageways, etc.  The trick is to include many of the elements that are desirable and expected but craft a story that stands on its own.  I don’t read any other books in a genre just before I write in, or while I’m writing in it.

Q: Your sense of foreboding and suspense was crafted perfectly, what techniques or descriptions did you do in order to create a Gothic feel?

A:  I thought of what frightens me, of what frightens most people.  Sometimes those are things like darkness and being lost, and being alone with no help.  More often they are internal, thinking you’re losing your mind, or knowing that no one is there to help.  In Gothic Romances, the heroine very often has no parents present because she’s completely on her own, which is risky and isolating, and must puzzle her way out.  That isolation is anxiety producing, too.  Who to trust? Who not to trust? The decrepit or uneasy setting adds to this, too. 

01_Mist of Midnight

Q: Your descriptions that you had character Rebecca speaking of in regards to India were phenomenal and so authentic. Have you been to India? How did you delve into such precise feelings of 19th century India?

A: I have not been to India! I read many books written by the English, in India, in the 19th Century, and then by Indian people in the past hundred years who experienced the good and bad that had come from colonialism.  I watched movies and television set in India and interviewed Indian people.  I had an Indian author read my manuscript for authenticity.  How I would love to go myself, however!

Erin: I was certain you had been there!! You really articulated a true feeling of missionary work as well.


Q: You had many interesting characters in your book, especially among the estate staff. Who was your favorite to create and why?

A: Rebecca and Luke, for sure.  But among the secondary characters, Michelene was the most fun to create because I find we women are so much more multifaceted in our emotional manipulation and complexities than are men.  French lady’s maids were highly sought after, and I enjoy French culture, too, so that was a delight.  Even though none of us wants to be like her, all of us can understand her envy, I think.

Mrs. Ross was a delight to create because she captured an element of Gothics for me that I wanted to do in a fresh manner.  And she likes shortbread. 🙂

Erin: Yes, Mrs. Ross was amazing. I enjoyed the intertwining of the French culture, and of course, I always like shortbread. Reading your book reminded me to make some again!

Q: Speaking of characters, how do you create them with such depth? How do you intertwine them in such a way when formulating a suspenseful mystery so that you are never sure which one to be suspicious of?

A:  I think the trick is to remember that none of us are completely good or bad and to plumb the motivations for why each person does what they do.  At the heart of it we all struggle with insecurities and desires and pure motives and tainted ones.  We each come to that Y in the road; one person turns left and another right.  At the end of the book, I hope it’s clear to my readers why each character did what he or she did.  I spend a lot of time thinking through the lives of all of my characters, primary and secondary before I write.  And I observe people in real life.  That kind of sounds gothically creepy!

Q: How do you feel about balancing Gothic fiction with Christian fiction? Do you feel that most Gothic readers can accept the Christian undertones? How do they complement each other in regards to underlying themes or allegory?

A:  Honestly, it would be anachronistic to write about 19th Century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life.  I don’t seek to write “Christian fiction” so much as it interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches a situation in her era and setting.   I don’t set out, ever, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine’s eyes.  So hopefully that makes a good story whether a person is a Christian or not.  I certainly profit from and enjoy books that have no or other religious underpinning, or take place in situations and cultures other than my own.  I hope that both Christians and those who are not Christian can be transported by the story and let it entertain and speak to them individually.

Supernatural elements, whether naturally explained or not, are an integral part of Gothic Romance.  I find them completely complimentary in a book if organically done with an understanding of the genre.  We can’t understand everything, we cannot control everything, but when we are courageous and take action, things happen, and we are helped.  That’s the supernatural and the natural working hand in hand.

Erin comments: That’s wonderful. I felt the same and I was explaining that to Tim when talking about you and your book. He asked me about the religious element and how you presented in the novel. I, too, feel like anyone can read this wonderful book.

Q: Victorian England is the perfect setting not only for Gothic literature but for classic, clean romance. What do you like most about using this era when writing a novel?

A:  The Victorian Era is easier than the Tudor Era to write about because there is much more source material! I can go online and read the newspaper printed in Hampshire, in the year my books are set in, which is marvelous.  What is difficult is that there are many more expected elements in a Gothic Romance, so it’s a little more restrictive because you have to make sure they are all, or mostly, in there but a way unique to the story.

The clean part is truly enjoyable to me.  It allows the emotional and intellectual portion of the relationship to develop before the physical, which is then so much more satisfying when it occurs.  It doesn’t happen on the page, of course, but I let the reader know that it will and she can imagine the rest!


Q: Many people come to my site when trying to answer this question: “What is gothic literature?” Therefore, tell us how you define it?

A:  I had researched this very thing before I set out to write, so I’ll share a bit of wisdom that I learned from the experts with a few of my own thoughts, too!

Ann B. Tracy, author of the romance chapter in the compilation, The Journal of The Gothic, tells us that, “The jocular description of modern Gothic Romances like Victoria Holt’s The Mistress of Mellyn as ‘Girl Gets House’ is not altogether off the mark. The home for which they long, their happy ending, is not to be bought with moral compromise.”  She continues, “The heroines of Gothic Romance are not the vaporous, swooning creatures of caricature, undone by over-sensitivity; their troubles are real… they lift the black veil, go to the attic, confront the possible spectres— attempt, in short, to shed some factual light on their mysterious surroundings and find their ways out of the Gothic dilemmas.”

Gothic romance heroes are called Byronic heroes, after Lord Byron, he dubbed “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”.  We women love to know whether or not we can tame a man who seems untamable and gothic romances are rich with just that sort of challenge.  Tracy says that our gothic heroines have the challenge of figuring out whether the “difficult or possibly villainous men around her will turn out to be the one she can trust and marry.” Victoria Holt named one of her best novels “The Devil on Horseback.” Was he?

To sum up, Inez Ashley Ross, in the April/May, 1995 edition of the Gothic Journal says there are, “The openings of classic gothics reveal three keys that unlock the reader’s fascination:

            *An imposing house that is linked to an ancient family       

            *An outsider of lesser status with whom the reader can identify and

            *Attention to sensory details that entice the reader into a mysterious past

Q: Have you researched Hampshire, England? What more can you tell us about it that might be of interest? I noticed the book was subtitled “Daughters of Hampshire.” Does that mean there will be more in this series?

A:  There will be two more books in this series: Bride of Poseidon, Book 2, which I am just finishing up, and Angels of Light, Book 3.  They’ll publish in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and will include many of the traditional Gothic elements, of course, but with new characters in each book.

I liked  Hampshire because Cornwall and Devon seemed a bit overdone for Gothics, and Hampshire is relatively easy to access from London and the sea.  It has forest, ruins, seaports, cliffs, cities and villages, and Winchester Cathedral.  Lots of good stuff with which to work! I did visit Hampshire while researching, including the County Records Office, and many lovely crumbling and restored houses.  I have friends who live there who read my rough drafts and make sure it’s sound as to the era and the place.

Erin: Wonderful news, I can’t wait to read them!

Q: What is your favorite Indian food? B: What is your favorite British food? If you don’t have favorites, maybe something you’d love to try.

A: I adore Indian food.  I love Butter Paneer; I love Onion bhaji, sliced onions dipped in chickpea flour and spices, kind of like onion rings.  I love papadums, and my favorite snack is Khatta Meetha, which you can buy online if you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby (I do).  Favorite English food is Sticky Toffee Pudding, which we enjoy each Christmas. 

Q: What else have you written and then, what else do you plan to write in the future?

A:  I’ve written quite a bit – mainly I stick with something till my interest is exhausted and then move on. I’m very happy writing English Gothic Romance for now, so I’ll be sticking there for a few years, and I hope readers will stick with me!

Erin: I’ll be here! (P.S. to readers, see all of Sandra’s work here:  www.sandrabyrd.com)

Q: I know you’ve been a mentor to other authors. What is a simple piece of advice you might give that would apply to many new writers?

A: Do not be dismayed.  The road is difficult from the start to finish and beyond, but there is nothing, perhaps short of birthing and raising a child, which is so satisfying as completing your book.  And the book obeys you all the time – unlike the child!

Erin: Thank you so much, Sandra, for taking time with me today! You are welcome back for tea anytime you wish, and I look forward to many more of your books in the future.

Sandra:Thank you, Erin.  I’m so happy to have come to chat with you.  Can I take the leftover shortbread home with me? 🙂

Erin: haha! A lady after my own heart!


One (1) lace bookmark, open to US & Canada residents only. Aren’t they beautiful??

Lace Book Marks Book Tour


Enter by leaving a comment in the section below. Leave also your name and email in which to contact you, or email hookofabook@hotmail.com with subject line lace.

– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

Also, Sandra has this giveaway going and you can enter to win on her website below!



01_Mist of MidnightMists of Midnight, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Howard Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire
Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance


In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

Praise for Mist of Midnight~

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book~

Barnes & Noble

Author Sandra Byrd, Biography~

03_Sandra Byrd AuthorAfter earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra onFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

04_Mist of Midnight_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/mistofmidnightblogtour/

Hashtags: #MistofMidnightBlogTour #HistoricalRomance #HistFic #Victorian #ChristianHistorical

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @sandrabyrd @Howard_Books


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Author Cat Cavendish on the Making and Inspiration of the Gothic Linden Manor

Today, Catherine Cavendish is here again to talk about the inspiration for the setting of her novella, Linden Manor.  Based on Wiltshire, in the English countryside, she also talks about the type of mansion she used and why, as well as other writing tidbit that went into the creation of her Gothic story. You can check out the interview we had earlier in week, HERE.  And be sure to read about her book following her guest article!


Inspirational Wiltshire – The Perfect Setting
by Catherin Cavendish, Author

 pic 1

I knew my story – Linden Manor – needed a rural setting. I knew a Gothic mansion had to be at the heart of it and that the land on which it stood must have history dating back thousands of years. Immediately, I knew there was only one place for me – the rolling hills of the green and pleasant land that is the English county of Wiltshire.

For a county that is nowhere near the largest (I believe it’s ranked around 14th out of 48 in terms of area), Wiltshire knows how to punch above its weight. The whole timeline of English history is encapsulated within its boundaries. Stonehenge and the even older Avebury, the manmade fortress of Silbury Hill, long chambered tomb of West Kennet and other prehistoric sites with names such as Sanctuary and Windmill Hill, never cease to entice and enthrall archaeologists, historians and even casual tourists from around the globe. It has been this way for centuries.

pic 2

In the eighteenth century, gentleman antiquarian, William Stukeley, studied the ancient stones circles at Stonehenge and concluded that Druids were responsible. He dated the creation of the monument to 460BC – a few thousand years too late. He furthermore decided that the Druids were also responsible for Avebury and while we have known for many years that this was also chronologically impossible, old ideas persist. Recent excavations at Stonehenge are beginning to radically revise the timelines there, suggesting a much earlier date than had previously been thought. Soon, the same may be said for Avebury.

pic 3

Stonehenge stands proud on Salisbury Plain, where sightings of UFOs have regularly been reported over the years. Some people vehemently maintain that magnetic forces are strong in that area and attracting alien visitors. Others maintain the ancients were acutely aware of these forces and this is what led them to choose the locations for the many stone circles dotted across the British landscape. Salisbury Plain is largely owned by the Ministry of Defence and used for army activities of many kinds, including tanks, artillery, aircraft etc. It is thought by many that experimental testing of new forms of armaments may well be responsible for some, if not all, sightings.

 pic 4

Wiltshire is also the home of the famous White Horses – stylized depictions of horses, carved into the chalk hills. Of these, only the one shown here is ancient (probably Bronze Age), whereas the other seven surviving examples were carved within the last 300 years or so.

pic 5

Then we have the Moonrakers. These days, this is the collective name given to natives of Wiltshire, but, in past centuries the term related to a group of smugglers, probably from Devizes, who tried to avoid the excise men by hiding their ill-gotten hooch in a village pond. Under the full moon, they ‘raked’ the surface of the pond, causing ripples, meant to conceal the kegs beneath the surface. When the excise men challenged them, they claimed to be raking in a big cheese. The officers believed them to be simple country bumpkins and left them alone!

pic 6

And then there are the historic houses – stately homes and houses of architectural interest. Wiltshire has dozens of them. From magnificence of Wilton House, through to the homeliness of Great Chalfield Manor (pictured below) and across all styles in between, some are veritable palaces, while others provide a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. Not all though…

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My Linden Manor had to fall into the latter category. Gothic, imposing. A house of secrets. Wiltshire has many such houses. Here is one…

pic 8

 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:

Samhain Publishing


Author Catherine Cavendish, Biography~

Catherine CavendishCatherine Cavendish is joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology competition 2013. Her winning novella – Linden Manor – is now available in all digital formats and the print anthology will be published in October. She is the author of a number of paranormal horror and Gothic horror novellas and short stories. Her full length novel, Saving Grace Devine, will be published by Samhain Publishing in the summer.

She lives with a longsuffering husband and mildly eccentric tortoiseshell cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-8th 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, Cat enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.





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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!


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.


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.


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.


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







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.


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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