Catherine McCarthy lives in a two hundred year old house in West Wales with a disused farm track that leads down to woodlands, and if that doesn’t provide the perfect setting for a horror and fantasy writer, I don’t know what does. Talking to Catherine, who is warm and bright with a melodious Welsh accent, you wouldn’t think there was anything spooky about her.
A life long lover of books, Catherine’s first memory is of her mother telling her stories before bedtime. An excellent storyteller, Catherine’s mother instilled in her appreciation of written as well as verbal tales, and Catherine devoured books as a child, being able to read before she started school at age five.
Intrigued by topics such as the Black Death as a child, it’s perhaps not surprising that she grew up to write horror and dark fantasy. Her love of literature influenced her choice of career, and she taught in primary education for twenty-nine years, being in charge of English in her school for most of that time.
Teaching full time left little time to write, and it wasn’t until the last ten years that she started taking her writing seriously, writing a middle grade dark fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Apprentice, which she self published through Createspace (now Kindle Direct Publishing) as she didn’t feel ready to navigate the world of querying publishers and agents.
After the death of her mother, she wrote Hope Cottage, a dark contemporary novel which acted as a cathartic release for her grief and loss. All profits from the novel go to The Brain Tumour charity in the U.K.
Horror has always been a love of Catherine’s, especially psychological horror. Fascinated by psychology, whether applying it to teaching, writing or helping to cope with anxiety, it’s understandable why this plays such an important part of Door, her collection of chilling portal stories. Fond of Dracula and the cosmic horror works of H P Lovecraft, folk stories and myths play a big part in her writing.
When it comes to what she likes best about writing, Catherine is quick to answer: mental focus. As she suffers from anxiety, she has a lot of negative mental energy that can become difficult to handle. The actual action of writing, getting lost in the characters and plot, helps distract her and turn overactive thoughts into something productive and positive.
When asked what she likes least about writing, the answer takes more thought. Marketing, and line editing seem to be her least favorite activities. The non creative stages of editing are something she has to force herself to do.
Unfortunately editing is something that is keeping Catherine busy at the moment, as she is deep in the trenches getting her next book ready for querying. Set in West Wales, The Wolf and The Favor is a dark magic realism coming of age tale about Hannah, a young girl with Down Syndrome, who learns who she can trust as she navigates the woods surrounding her house. It sounds fascinating, and I’m looking forward to reading it.
What’s next for Catherine? She already has the bones of her next novel formulating. A dark fantasy set in Edinburgh, she’s looking forward to having an excuse to travel to the historic city for research.
Look out for Catherine’s answers to my questions on what mythology means to her later this month.
Read my review of Door by Catherine McCarthy.