Catherine comes to Worldhoppers to share an original Christmas-themed short story, Charity. And to talk about her newest release, Door and Other Twisted Tales.
I hope you all enjoy the Q&A as much as I did and make sure to check out Catherine’s featured author page.
Support Catherine by visiting her on social media through Twitter and Facebook. But, as always, the most important thing we can do to support our indie authors is dive head first into their work and enjoy the worlds they have created.
Ryan: Catherine, thanks for joining us and aiding our Christmas spirit! We know you spent an entire career in education and took to social media speaking about the importance of literacy. Tell us what else motivates your writing?
Cath: Thanks Ryan. I’m very grateful to you for inviting me to join Worldhoppers’ Guild this week. I’m truly honored!
It’s true, my whole career was in primary education where I led literacy throughout the school for many years. I can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to engage their children in speaking and listening from a very young age. It pays dividends throughout life, not just with regard to creativity , but in every area of learning. My Mum told me stories and read to me all my life, so I was fortunate to have had a good start. She also placed value on literacy, praising my achievements and holding on to special pieces of writing I’d done whilst I was still at school, some of which I discovered in a keepsake box addressed to me after she died.
What else motivates me to write? One of the biggest motivations for me, is that writing fiction provides a channel for what would otherwise become pent-up thought, which I know without doubt would otherwise manifest itself in anxiety. This is one of the reasons why most of my fiction touches on mental health issues in one way or another, sometimes explicitly, but often through the use of dark humor.
Ryan: We love all types of speculative fiction – and think the anthologies of stories are wonderful, especially for the busy reader. Door and Other Twisted Tales is one of those books. How did you go about picking the plot and ideas for the “locations and incidents throughout history” for the stories?
Cath: It all started with Door. My husband and I were on a long car journey which passed by a bleak, featureless mountainside with nothing as far as the eye could see except a derelict building in the distance. We began to weave a story… what if it were a secret, government complex, where just one man was employed to hold whatever lies behind the door at bay? By the time we reached our destination, the bones of the story were there, and I couldn’t wait to return home in order to write it.
I then decided to continue to explore the portal theme by imagining our world to have been visited by various supernatural beings down through history and all over the world. Hence, the stories were written chronologically and take place as far afield as Australia, France, Japan and the U.S.A, as well as a few which were set at home in the U.K.
Some stories are linked to mythical creatures, such as Billabong, which features the legendary Rainbow Serpent of The Dreamtime, and Wave which is based on the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan and features Namazu, the giant catfish, whilst others are purely imaginary.
All the stories have common threads though: one ̶ the notion of a visitation by a supernatural being, and two ̶ each story carries a moral message about how we live our lives on this planet.
The final story in the collection, Bunker, is set during the WW2 Blitz and takes the reader full circle, back to Door, and answers the question as to how the secret government complex originally came into being.
Ryan: What’s next for Catherine McCarthy now that Door has published. What can we expect to see on the horizon?
Cath: I’m currently editing a novel in the magical realism/urban fantasy genre which is actually set in my immediate surroundings – yes, literally in my own house, garden and the lane and woods behind my house. Two years ago my husband and I bought a two hundred old Welsh cottage in rural Wales. Having previously lived in modern houses and in urban environments, this house is so inspirational! It has so much history attached to it, including the original, hand-written deeds, the death certificates of previous owners, and a bird skull found within the stone of the building during renovation. Having no immediate neighbors, it is easy to lose oneself in such surroundings.
This next novel, The Wolf and the Favor, features a main character who is a young girl with learning disabilities who lives with her Dad. The theme of the novel is one of trust… having been let down badly by her Mum, a narcissistic actress, she has to learn who to trust in life.
The novel is sprinkled with Welsh mythology, as well as a very local tale of the last duel ever to be held in Wales, literally just down the road from where we live.
The antagonist, a powerful Celtic witch, uses the child in order to bait those who have imprisoned her within the woods behind the house.
Apart from that, I don’t want to give anything more away, especially pertaining to the wolf, so I will just add that there are some very dark scenes as well as lighter, more whimsical ones.
I love dark, gothic fiction, so also have plans for a magical realism novel set in a Victorian apothecary in the old closes (narrow lanes) of Edinburgh, Scotland. In this novel, I want to challenge myself by writing it from the point of view of the actual building. I love to include personification as a literary device, so that should be interesting.
Ryan: The future of writing and sharing – I don’t think anyone believes traditional publishing will disappear, but independently publishing allows for freedom. In the small sample-size we’ve shown our audience, you approach reading with several different mediums (you narrate your story on Youtube, illustrate your characters (or monsters), and give readers insight through book trailers. How do you see this industry continuing to evolve?
Cath: I think our audience demands more and more visual and auditory stimulus these days. They’re so used to being part of the gaming culture, particularly in the fantasy/horror genres, so we can’t afford to lose sight of this fact.
I’m really fortunate to have a husband (Tony) who spent all his working life in the field of arts and media. He is multi-talented, including being able to write his own music as well as create all the artwork and trailers etc. for my books. In the past, he’s worked for an animation company, has been involved in the making of a Phillip Pulman documentary, and has been nominated for an international original musical score prize.
Of course, this also means that we have all the necessary equipment at home, so it is relatively cost free which is a great advantage. As well as my website, which we aim to make as interactive and visually stimulating as possible, we’re currently working on the book trailer for The Wolf and the Favour and also plan to record an audio version with an original musical score and sound effects to accompany it.
We hope one day to create a graphic novel of one of my stories, as they are really making a come-back in recent times.
Ryan: What is Catherine reading / watching right now that you’re enjoying? I draw so much inspiration to get working from others. Me? I’ve started The Witcher on Nexflix and love it.
Cath: That’s strange as we started watching it just last night! Tony loved playing The Witcher games, particularly Witcher 3. When we moved to the country,we decided to give up t.v. as we believe it can stop you from taking up other more fulfilling pursuits. We have a projector room for DVD’s and Netfilx and that’s it.
Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, I draw inspiration from all kinds of places and carry little notebooks wherever I go. It might be a view, a building, a smell or even a sound. For example, the inspiration for the story Plague, from my Door collection, came whilst sitting in a woods in France one evening and suddenly hearing the sound of a flute being beautifully played, drifting through the woods. There was no-one in sight, so as you might imagine, it was quite a surprise. We later discovered the reason, but I won’t spoil the magic by divulging the answer!
I read widely and am inspired by writers such as Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, Laura Purcell and Jess Kidd to name but a few. I also like to support other self-published authors as well as authors who are published by small, indie presses, so for every traditionally published book I read, I also read and review two indie books.
My all-time favourite books are probably The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Eowin Ivey’s version of The Snow Child – just magical!