As part of our support of Women In Horror Month, Motherhood of the Monstrous brings together some of the finest genres finest writers to discuss the authors who inspired them to take up the pen, and which of the new and emerging horror authors we should all be taking notice. In the spotlight today we are proud to welcome Catriona Ward, who was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA from the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, Rawblood (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015) won best horror novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award, and was selected as a Winter 2016 Fresh Talent title by WHSmith. Rawblood will be published in the US and Canada as The Girl from Rawblood (Sourcebooks, 2017). Catriona’s second novel will be published by W&N in 2018. She works for a human rights foundation and lives in London.
The best uncanny writing gives the reader a sense of slippage; the experience of having wandered, not out of the world, but slightly aslant within it, so that it assumes new and horrifying angles. More than any other writer, Shirley Jackson taught me about the generative fear that comes in the night, the darkness that lies both at the edge of worlds and within us. Her writing explores not just that darkness but the wild abandon of giving in to it. The horror we feel is horror at our own fierce joy.
I began reading the ‘Haunting of Hill House’ on a sunny morning. It quickly frightened me so much on every level that I had to put it down and go outside. The creeping madness of the setting, the eponymous Hill House, is bad enough, but the novel is composed of layers of insidious fear. We engage with the fractured world of Hill House through the wounded consciousness of the protagonist Eleanor Vance. Eleanor is trapped between her divergent impulses – she revels in her newfound liberty, since the death of her mother, but has a child-like compulsion to belong. As a result she is paralysed, deprived of agency. She becomes the perfect void waiting to be filled. We are horrified, helpless observers as the house’s evil slowly trickles in. The reader is twice trapped – in Hill House, and within Eleanor.
‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle,’ perhaps Jackson’s greatest, weirdest work, uses this slippage between character and surroundings to dizzying effect. Merricat Blackwood, the anti-hero, imprints herself in the Blackwood land and on the house with her vengeful, sinister magical thinking; nailing books to trees and burying silver dollars to ward off evil. But the evil has already arrived. The main event, the mass murder that took the Blackwood family’s lives, is already done and buried. Instead the slow plot takes us somewhere stranger, through the subterranean twists and turns of Merricat’s mind and into madness.
Everyone should read Kelly Link, whose writing endlessly reinvents the known, rendering it strange and fantastic. Reading her short story collection ‘Magic for Beginners’ was a seminal experience for me. It opened doors in my mind – fiction was both more boundless than I had thought. So was reality. Each of her works is a perfectly realised alchemical world fusing the familiar and the unfamiliar. She uses the tools of genre, especially horror – ghosts, zombies, vampires, automatons - to conjure truths about everyday life, and warm human detail to evoke the uncanny. Whether she is describing zombies running a 24 hour gas station, a mail-order ghost boyfriend or a magical TV show that morphs like a virus from week to week, the energy and clarity of her prose is crystalline.
Kelly Link’s vision of the world is joyous and anarchic where Shirley Jackson’s is dark and febrile. But both writers know that the real and the uncanny lie side by side, often touching; that they are often the same thing.
Winner of BEST HORROR NOVEL (August Derleth Award) at British Fantasy Awards 2016
For generations the Villarcas have died mysteriously, and young. Now Iris and her father will finally understand why. . .
At the turn of England's century, as the wind whistles in the lonely halls of Rawblood, young Iris Villarca is the last of her family's line. They are haunted, through the generations, by "her," a curse passed down through ancient blood that marks each Villarca for certain heartbreak, and death.
Iris forsakes her promise to her father, to remain alone, safe from the world. She dares to fall in love, and the consequences of her choice are immediate and terrifying. As the world falls apart around her, she must take a final journey back to Rawblood where it all began and where it must all end...
From the sun dappled hills of Italy to the biting chill of Victorian dissection halls, The Girl from Rawblood is a lyrical and haunting historical novel of darkness, love, and the ghosts of the past.
WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH LINKS
THE WOMEN IN HORROR MIXTAPE
INTERVIEW WITH KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARDS
THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN HORROR 1: A MAN EXPLAINS
28 Days Of Black Women In Horror
Interview with Lee Murray
Women in Horror Month
The Monstrous Regiment of Women in Horror