Recently, I read and enjoyed Catherine Cavendish’s The Pendle Curse. The book is sprawling with ambition and crawling with ghosts and witches. As soon as I finished it, I knew I wanted to get Catherine over here to Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley and grill her. I’ve got questions…man, have I got questions…
SRW: Welcome Catherine! Thanks for walking into my inquisition chambers.
CC: My pleasure. I do so love a grand inquisition!
SRW: Tell everyone a little bit about The Pendle Curse.
CC: Happy to. 400 years ago, in the bleak windswept and frequently stormy countryside of Pendle in Lancashire, England, ten men and women were hanged as witches. In my story, they come back, with scores to settle. In the present day, a young woman is haunted by dreams of a distinctive landscape and even more distinctive hill. It seems so real to her she searches for it on the internet – and finds it. Naturally, she must go there and see it for herself. Once there, events overtake her. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil...and a curse that will not die.
SRW: Okay. While reading the tale, I kept wondering something…Catherine, are you a witch?
CC: Er – no. Although I do have a broomstick.
SRW: Sorry! Didn’t mean to “Geraldo” you right off the bat. But one thing I love about The Pendle Curse is the nonchalant way you drop in tidbits and background about witches without feeling the need to handhold the reader and walk them through it. Guess I’m just saying you have a natural affinity for witchdom and pull it off with grace and ease.
CC: That’s very kind of you to say so. Although The Pendle Curse is loosely based on fact, I didn’t want to give everyone a history lesson and send them all off to sleep.
SRW: At the end of chapter two, there’s a true shocker, one that knocked this jaded ol’ reader outta his seat. I won’t spoil it here (it’s part of the “Curse,” after all), but it certainly forms the story-line of the book, both past and present. I really liked getting a jolt upfront instead of having to wait for it. Was this intentional? Or did you make it so to propel the story-line?
CC: Both. I like to jolt my readers, and scare them. I think it’s also vital to keep moving the story along and a sudden shock usually achieves that. Glad it worked for you!
SRW: Continuing along the same lines, how do you, the author, see the character of James?
CC: James is a complex character. He is intensely loyal to his family, and anyone who harms them better watch out. He is a powerful witch, well versed in the dark arts he has learned from his mother and grandmother. He is obsessive, ruthless and capable of extreme cruelty without a second thought. James will do anything to get what he wants and, having made a vow, nothing – not even death – will break it.
SRW: To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. Actually, that’s not true, my opinion of him changed throughout the book. Several times. Very nice job of writing.
How do you categorize The Pendle Curse? Is it a horror tale, a ghost story, a romance? All of the above? Which is most important to the tale?
CC: It’s a horror story – with witches. Real witches. Nothing sparkly about this lot!
SRW: The romance angle…again, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. (It’s hard to talk about this angle without giving away major spoilers!) There’re two concurrent romances going on in the book: Laura’s in the present and James’ in the past. I’m onboard with the present, shipping away (well, until we get further in). But the past love story? Not so much. How do you feel about James’ love story?
CC: As you say, it is difficult to talk about James’ passionate feelings without giving too much away. I will say that he is obsessed. Totally, 100% obsessed – and that’s unhealthy.
SRW: There are clear-cut villains in your tale. And some people who tread the line between good and evil. Just when I start liking James, he uses witchcraft for nefarious purposes. I’m a fan of the color grey in characters. But James presented a peculiar case. Imminently rootable, yet…a little scary, not very trustworthy. A romantic though, ladies. Catherine, what’s your take?
CC: It’s interesting you see him as a romantic. I don’t really. It’s that obsession thing again. It drives him to do anything and everything to achieve his goal. Anyone who stands in his way will be eliminated.
SRW: My favorite scenes are when Laura, the modern day protagonist, is investigating Pendle Hill. There’s a wonderfully paranoid sense of “what the hell’s going on here?” as she visits with creepy old women who may, or may not, know more than they’re letting on. Reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby and other great past paranoia-driven supernatural thrillers, the scenes are masterfully written. And more than once, the ghostly aspects of the book brought to mind great ghost tales of the past: a little M.R. James, possibly some Shirley Jackson. Are you a fan of these books? What other writers inspire you?
CC: Thank you for those lovely compliments. I don’t often blush but you’ve made my cheeks all pink! Yes, I am a huge fan of M.R. James and Shirley Jackson. I love that creepy, ghostly, something-lurking-in-the-shadows kind of horror. My other favourites are Stephen King (I know. Predictable!), Anne Rice (she writes great witches), Ramsey Campbell, Richard Matheson, and some newer writers such as Ronald Malfi, Russell James, Hunter Shea, JG Faherty, Sephera Giron… the list keeps growing. There is some great emerging talent out there.
SRW: Okay, tell us a little bit about your other works. And where the reader can find them.
CC: I have written a number of novels and novellas – a lot of them with a Gothic flavour. Ghosts and demons feature frequently and I do love visiting the past. Prior to The Pendle Curse, my novel Saving Grace Devine was partially set early last century. My next novel – The Devil’s Serenade – will be published by Samhain in April and is set in a brooding Gothic mansion which has been infested by evil, thanks to its builder, Nathaniel Hargest. He has been dead for many years, but his demonic spirit lives on.
My novels are published in print as well as ebook, and The Pendle Curse is also available on audio. All can be found on my Amazon page as well as Barnes and Noble, Kobo and the usual online bookstores. Those published by Samhain can also be found on my publisher’s page, by clicking here.
SRW: What’s next darkening your keyboard, Catherine?
CC: After The Devil’s Serenade comes Wrath of the Ancients, scheduled for publication in December 2016. This one is set in Vienna, Austria. Adeline Ogilvy, a young widow from London, goes there on an assignment to type up the memoirs of the deceased archaeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. To do so, she must reside in his house but, from the moment she arrives, she discovers this is far from the fantastic opportunity she had been anticipating. She hears strange noises from behind the walls, sees shadowy figures that cannot be there, hieroglyphics that appear on the wall, and finds an enigmatic portrait of a long dead Egyptian queen. As Adeline types the pages of his manuscript, she discovers he dug up far more than just a famous mummy. Increasingly fearful, she calls on an old and learned friend for help, only to find he confirms her worst suspicions—and more.
SRW: Thanks much for being my latest victim, Catherine. Readers! Get thee busy and find her books at: