Sunday, October 17

‘Every monster has a story’: Catriona Ward on her chilling gothic novel | Horror books

When Catriona Ward was around 13 years old, he would wake up every night with one hand on her small back and push her out of bed. “It was absolutely terrifying. I could feel like there was someone in the room. “If Google had existed in the early 1990s, it might have learned about hypnagogic hallucinations earlier, intensely real sensations on the border between wakefulness and sleep.” But it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not, the fear is real. And there is nothing like it, that fear in the dark. “

Fear in the Dark is what fueled his 2015 goth horror debut, Raw blood, monitoring Little eve, and now his third book revelation, The last unnecessary house on the street, released March 18. Buzz has been building for months around a dark and bold act from a novel that can only be tentatively described at the risk of revealing too much. While Ward’s previous novels were historical chills set in remote corners of Britain, with young women traumatized by cursed families and social oppression, the new book seems at first like a contemporary American thriller. There are horrors hidden in a dilapidated house on the edge of a forest; an avalanche of missing children; a vulnerable woman in search of answers. Ward introduces us to Ted, a strange lonely boy who lives with his daughter Lauren and cat Olivia, and then repeatedly pulls the rug from under the reader’s feet.

The starting point of the book was the relationship between serial killers and their pets, explains the captivating and optimistic Ward with Zoom of Dartmoor. What happens when those without empathy connect with another living being? As he points out in an epilogue, Dennis Nilsen’s dog, Bleep, “was the only creature with whom he could be said to have a functional relationship.” But the project was getting nowhere, until life changed radically: the end of a long relationship, leaving her job for a human rights foundation, and, at 38, returning to live with her parents, left her without nothing to hold on to except the idea of ​​this strange story about a cat ”.

“When you erase certain things in your life, you leave a blank space and all these thoughts began to arise. A dam opened and I realized what I had to do. “

One of the many surprises in the book is that it is narrated in part by Olivia, a fastidious and deeply religious feline who refers to humans as “teds” and gives us an outside perspective on her untrustworthy owner. (“Ted is not a very clean ted. His bathroom doesn’t look like the bathrooms on the television.”) Olivia, Ward says, owes David Sedaris something; she provides a humorous respite from the otherwise heartbreaking narrative. He admits that writing like a cat is difficult.

“I started having fun with him when I realized that what a cat Really What I like is watching a TV show that describes different types of naps.

What do people see in a cat? What do they need from them? It’s quite a moving relationship. They are fulfilling our desire for something mystical, sphinx-like and unknowable, and yet elusive and friendly. There is a magic about a cat that we desperately need, these days more than ever. “

Establishing the book in the United States opened up memories of a “very compartmentalized childhood.” Ward’s father was a water economist for the World Bank and the family spent periods of time in the US, as well as Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen and Morocco, returning for a couple of weeks each year to an old house. on Dartmoor, where Raw blood It is established. Ward’s mother taught English wherever they were assigned, while Ward and his younger sister “didn’t really take an exam” until they studied for A levels in the UK at Bedales. “I never felt uneducated because we read all the time. All we did was read. “Moving so often, sometimes without even a working phone, it was impossible to maintain ties outside the family;” Take down a guillotine. “She and her sister had” a very intense emotional relationship because just it was the two of us, we loved each other very much, but since there was nowhere else to put it, it becomes overwhelming. We were also very much alike. You’re in the process of becoming, growing up, and it’s strange to your sense of identity. “

Ward soon took advantage of gothic and horror fiction to contextualize his night terrors. “The first ghost story I read was ‘The Monkey’s Paw.’ I remember thinking ‘Ah!’ I have the same emotion of The curse of Hill House. I thought: is is where you put that. This is how you rationalize and contain that feeling. By sharing it, by opening it to the light, it disempowers it. “

After studying English at Oxford, Ward trained as an actor in the United States, “everything he had wanted to do since he was a little kid,” but was paralyzed at auditions. Now she links her theatrical ambition with the desire to tell stories: “I was a huge inhaler, I inhaled and consumed all the books I could.” She worked on Raw blood as part of a master’s degree in creative writing at UEA, but the book ended up taking him seven years. “I found it difficult to reverse the tide, from receiving words and stories to my own creation. It felt like a great act of recklessness. “

A superbly accomplished slice of gothic reinvention, Raw blood tells the story of a cursed family, trapped in an old house, whose generations are haunted by a malevolent female presence: “a woman, or once a woman. White, Starving … “Explore the psychological, social and bodily horrors, from the ‘ghastly kitchen’ of Victorian dissection laboratories to the global carnage and existential devastation of World War I, and even the medical brutalization of women in the early 20th century … “I just wanted to write a proper Gothic novel,” says Ward now, describing it as a “kaleidoscope” of the genre, with nods to Frankenstein, Dracula, The turn of the Screw Y The woman in white.

Little eve, which won the Shirley Jackson Award and a British Fantasy Award, takes place in the middle of a cult on a small Scottish island after World War I, with women and children enslaved by the charismatic uncle. Beginning with a massacre, it intertwines the fates of two teenagers: a murderer and a survivor. The horror here stems from the sadistic control exercised by the damaged patriarch, who creates a toxic family that is also a prison.

Both Raw blood Y Little eve explore the idea of ​​second sight, and in a dying scene, Eva’s eye is removed as part of a ritual. Ward was born without seeing in one eye, but it took a boyfriend to point out the connection. “It didn’t occur to me, not once, that I was writing something from my own personal experience! The way you use yourself is so strange. The writing always happens off stage, in your peripheral vision. “

Ward wanted The last unnecessary house on the street be a starting point: “write the crazy and anarchic idea that I came up with, instead of worrying too much about creating the Platonic ideal of a Gothic novel.” (She also said to herself: “I can’t write another book about lonely girls abused on the moors.”) But he continues his fascination with how monsters are made and how we recognize the monstrous within us. In Raw blood, the terror of “her” hovers between projection and self-recognition, while in Little eve each character is deformed by abuse at the hands of the uncle.

“I have a real affinity for the monster,” says Ward. Every monster has a story. Empathy and monstrosity go hand in hand, you cannot provoke horror in the reader without evoking an intensely empathetic reaction at the same time. More than monsters, we fear becoming them. “

‘I can not see Fawlty Towers, awakens in me an innate horror: all the dread and anxiety of what will happen next! Photography:

Monster mothers, especially, are raised through your work. “I am not a mother and my own mother is not a monster. But one of the first things my parents asked me after reading Raw blood was: ‘Aren’t we ?!’ Family ties are so paramount and atavistic that you can always imagine the power, what would you do if it went wrong? Explore those relationships from a place of relative calm and tranquility. “

This is a fertile period for horror writing, from the successes of Andrew Michael Hurley and Kelly Link to new voices like Sue Rainsford and Lucie McKnight Hardy. It’s a welcome resurgence for a genre that has been perpetually marginalized for a number of reasons, from the feminization of early Gothic to the infantilization of Stephen King. “Some things are considered for children because they have great archetypal forms, they access fears that maybe only children are supposed to feel.” And perhaps, as such an intrinsic part of oral tradition, horror is still seen as “a bit curmudgeonly and country-like.” “Now we have electricity and Bodum kettles, we don’t have to be afraid!”

But, as Ward points out, this is “a big, generously shaped genre that has room for all kinds of variations.” His novels are all survival stories, based on Gothic conventions (fractured narratives, non-linear chronologies) to reflect the intrusive memories and irregular experiences of PTSD. But, in general, the horror can also be “very camp, in the manner of Susan Sontag”, with tropes displayed to a knowledgeable audience. “People know what it means when the reception dies on the cell phone, it’s a familiar path. I always try to subvert, not lower, expectations. Thriller and horror readers really enjoy the reciprocity between reader and author – you’re playing a fancy game of tennis. Each one knows what the signifier denotes ”.

And almost all art borrows from horror, he notes. “All good writing has horror. I can not see Fawlty Towers, awakens in me an innate horror: all the dread and anxiety of what will happen next! I feel about that what most people feel when they read what I write. “

In fact, Ward cheerfully admits that “I’m terrified of everything: very scared of the dark, hypervigilant, scared easily. People think that because I write horror, I’m used to it, but that would make me a terrible writer. Because I’m scared, the reader is scared.

“Horror is reaching across the page to the reader, saying I’m scared of this too, but if we go through it together, you look horror in the face. The very act of writing and reading Gothic or horror seems restorative to me. That’s the experience that people are looking for, a great mutual moment of gazing into the dark. “

The Last House on Needless Street is published in March 18th (Profile, £ 12.99). To order a copy, go to Shipping charges may apply.

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