Author Catherine Bell Discusses ‘The Children of Manson’ and More

 

By Jason Harris

 

Catherine Bell

Catherine Bell

JH: Your adventure in writing started in 2001. How did that come about?

CB: I had just started secondary school at age 11, and had always enjoyed reading in my spare time. In English classes, my passion for writing began to flourish, partially because of support from teachers, as well as at home, so it became something I enjoyed and felt confident in pursuing.

JH: The Cathy Stories came about from your time in school. Can you tell my readers how that came about, what’s it about and how long this work is?

CB: This book still makes me smile now, mostly because I get very nostalgic when talking about it. It was a fun piece to write, probably only 50 or so pages long, and was all about “Cathy” the main character, and her friends, who battled evil demons while having to crack puzzles and codes. It was all based in at school, too, so the mentors in the book were all based on teachers. It was a comedy, and it was my first attempt at writing for a particular audience.

JH: How did the opening of your first book, Whistler’s Travels, come about being published by Manchester Metropolitan University and why only the opening?

CB: This was a piece I submitted as part of a writing competition, and so I got it published that way. At that point I had only written the opening, so it was a good opportunity to test the water, and see if it was something worth following up [on].

JH: What inspired you to write your first book and what was the idea behind it?

CB: My first serious completed work was Eden from the Ashes. With it being my first piece, looking back I feel it is quite disjointed, so I will definitely be undertaking a  huge re-edit before it comes into the public domain. It was a really interesting project for me, as it allowed me to experiment and really understand the freedom of writing. I finished that book when I was around 18, so it will be good for me to have a look back, and try and develop some of the ideas behind it.

I was inspired to write it as I had suffered hugely from bullying, and as, at the time, I was a very shy, reserved person, I had no real outlet to express how I was feeling. This is where writing became a huge emotional support for me, and continues to help me alleviate stress as well as being a very enjoyable pastime.

JH: The title for Whistler’s Travels was changed to Eden from the Ashes? What is it about and what was the reason behind the name change?

CB: The book itself is a fantasy fiction, focused on a socially isolated character, who decides to leave the village he has lived in all his life, and break away into the unknown. The story is about him developing as a person, learning more about his interests and limits, and understanding how his interests and habits had been formed by his environment, not be his personal choice.

The title Whistlers Travels was never a serious title for me. It came about because I needed a name to reference my work, and that was a simple one. It kind of stuck, however, but once it was finished, I wasnt happy with that as a final title. It didn’t fit well with the storyline as it had developed, and didn’t really give an insight as to the meaningfulness of the book to me. Eden from the Ashes is much more fitting.The-Children-of-Manson-book-Cover1

JH: Your second work Nomed was also re-named. It changed to Apocalypse 2012, then to Man Down, then to The Children of Manson. What’s this work about and is there a story behind all the different title changes?

CB: The Children of Manson is a horror [story], which ties together terror, gore, and psychosis, with a subtle political undertone. It was a way of expressing some of my views about some real life issues as an undertone, while the predominant storyline was horror. It centres around Dee, a student who seeks comfort from her isolation at University from her flatmate Lily, and their friendship quickly blossoms into something more.

Unbeknownst to Dee, a sinister figure is watching her closely. He grows exceedingly paranoid as he tracks her movements over time, as he fears she knows about his own dark secrets. Underneath the home in which he is cared for, a maze of passageways are home to a cult following, vigilant in their tasks under Lloyd’s watchful eye.

Their aim? To prevent pregnancy, destroy fertility, and if necessary, will go to the very extreme to achieve their goals.

The reason for the many name changes was that the book underwent a huge re-edit, where the plot line massively changed. For this reason the first title was no longer relevant. I re-named it Man Down to continue the story, but again, wasn’t entirely happy with this new title either.  It was when I decided on the cult following as a major part of the storyline that I became set on The Children of Manson. There are also other subtleties in the storyline , for example the “Family” reference, that helped me decide that this was a most fitting title.

JH: You published The Sick & Sombre Tales of Sinister Town-Part 1 this past October. This was another work of yours to sustain a name change. Why the name change and why break it up into different parts? And how many parts will there be?

CB: The name change was to allow myself some flexibility as to the content. My focus for Part 1 was to give some background as to the characters and the general environment of Sinister Town. Initially there were 7 short stories, but I felt some were better placed in Part 2, so I needed to change the title to reflect that.

At the moment, I plan there to be 3 parts. Part 2 is well on its way to completion, and I’m already building some ideas for Part 3. Whether there will be further parts after that … we will just have to wait and see.

JH: What are the different styles and what’s the impetus behind this series?

CB: I’m planning for the three parts to have three different focuses, i.e. the first one was about building up the actual characters who live in Sinister Town, so the next part will  [focus] instead on an invader to the town, and the defense mechanisms the town uses to keep intruders out.

JH: Do you have a specific writing style?

CB: I think my writing style is quite distinguished, in that it is probably recognizable, but in saying that, I try to experiment with different styles depending on what I’m writing, and the type of atmosphere I’m trying to create.

JH: What genres do you write in?

CB: I write predominantly horror, though I am thinking of expanding in to fantasy/comedy, as I have bits and bobs still in the planning stages.

JH: Who is your favorite author/authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

CB: My favorite author is Stephen King; my favorite work by him was a joint piece with Peter Straub, called Black House. It is to this day the best book I have ever read in terms of fear. I remember vividly being too scared to turn the page, and even flipping forward a couple of pages first to steel myself into going back to read it.

That is what inspired me to write horror myself. I want to instill that feeling in others; I feel that the images the imagination conjures are so much more powerful than those fed to us by films.

JH: What books have most influenced your life the most?

CB: R.L. Stine deserves a lot of the credit for introducing me to the horror genre as a child (though I enjoyed all sorts of non-horror titles as well), as I would devour his books every evening after school.

Through my teenage years I did read some of  R. L. Stine’s more mature works, but quickly became enthralled by Stephen King, and have never looked back. In fact, I have two of his books by my bedside as I type this!

JH: What are your current projects?

CB: I am currently working on a new horror [story], called The Black Sheep. I am looking to create a piece that explores the deep emotional effects of bullying, and the characters in this book play out a physical expression of those effects.

JH: Where can readers find your work and find out more about you?

Please have a look at my website to find out more. You can also find me on Twitter: @TheCathyStories. On Facebook. I am also on Google Plus or on Amazon.

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