GUEST POST: Catherine Cavendish

The Feast of Nicnevin

It’s Halloween again – or for those of us who prefer the old ways – Samhain.

We all know that this great and ancient pagan festival celebrates the crone. In other words, the old and wise woman more commonly known as a witch. She is associated with bringing us into life and helping us cross over into the world of the dead and she has many names. You may have heard of Hecate (or Hekate) – the three-headed goddess of Greek mythology (although her origins are probably far earlier). She is the goddess of witchcraft, the night, magic, necromancy, the moon and ghosts and is often depicted with a pair of flaming torches, or with dogs, keys, a snake. She knows about herbs, poisons, and all manner of magical arts, making her greatly revered among witches. She is also well documented. Consult your favorite search engine and you will find plenty of information on Hecate.

I would venture to suggest though that probably only those who are serious students of witchcraft or of folklore – Scottish folklore in particular – will ever have stumbled across the somewhat elusive and shadowy Nicnevin who, whatever her origins, has become a much-revered goddess among witches. She is a true crone who rides the night sky, clad in gray, preferring stormy nights and who commands a following of nymphs and ghosts who accompany her on her travels. She can predict the future, achieve mastery of both sea and land and her special festival is Samhain.

On that night when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest, Nicnevin reigns supreme. For many she is firmly linked to the better-known Scottish Queen of Winter – Cailleach. Certainly they are both tied to the festival of Samhain and are part of the trilogy of the year, and of life – represented by the Maiden (Bride or Bridget) who ushers in the spring growing season at Imbolc where the Mother takes over and nurtures life until we are back to the end of the old year and beginning of a new one – the tasks assigned to the Crone (Nicnevin or Cailleach).

In common with Hecate and Cailleach, Nicnevin’s symbols are associated with protection, divination and ghosts or spirits. Interestingly, she is often depicted with pumpkins and other gourds – and traditionally these were frequently carved with symbols of protection and used to light the path of the dying, illuminating their journey from this life into whatever lay beyond. So that’s where the Jack O’Lanterns came from!

Sir Walter Scott described Nicnevin as a ‘gigantic and malignant female…who rode on a storm and marshaled the rambling host of wanderers under her grim banner’. Nicnevin had extensive powers over sea and land, able to build mountains and large hills simply by dropping large stones from her apron or basket. Equally, she could change water into rock and sea into land. There is no tradition of her bearing children but because she was inextricably tied to the cycle of the seasons and therefore to the cycle of birth, life and death, she was worshiped as a mother goddess – similar in stature to Frigg in Norse tradition.

I said Nicnevin’s origins were shadowy and they are, because no one really knows where she sprang from. There are a number of theories, including the possibility that she may even have been based on a real person. As far as her name is concerned, it may derive from a Scottish Gaelic surname, ‘Neachneohain’, meaning ‘daughter of the divine’ but that is by no means certain. The first recorded mention of Nicnevin doesn’t arise until 1580 when court poet to King James VI of Scotland – Alexander Montgomerie – described her in verse:

Nicnevin with her nymphes, in number anew
With charms from Caitness and Chanrie of Ross
Whose cunning consists in casting a clew.

She then drops out of literature until John Leyden in the early 1800s described her as one of the “popular appellations” of the Queen of Fairies, Hecate, the great hag and others. Robert Cromek declared she was near kin to Satan, warning that she presided over ‘Halloween Rades’, causing mothers to warn their children to behave or they would be given to the ‘McNeven’. In his description she is portrayed as wearing a long gray cloak and brandishing a wand which she used to conduct her conversions of water into rock and sea into land.

As for the theory she was based on a real person, this remains a possibility. In May 1569, an accused witch known variously as Nic Neville or Nicneven was condemned to death and burnt at the stake. This was in St Andrews, Scotland but another contender is a nurse, Catherine Niven or Kate McNiven who hailed from Monzie. She also died at the stake, convicted of witchcraft although the date varies from 1563 to 1715 – the last date putting her firmly out of contention.

Whatever the truth of her beginnings, there is no doubt that Nicnevin is a force to be reckoned with – an all-powerful witch not to be dismissed lightly, despite the lack of information on her. Maybe she was once mortal, or maybe, like Hecate, not. But one thing is certain, if you travel out on a stormy night when the clouds race across the dark and troubled heavens, thunder rolls all around you and the rain lashes down on your face, take extra care. Do you see something flash by you, in seemingly impossible flight? Do you hear the beating of hundreds of wings as a massive flock of geese escort Nicnevin and her acolytes across the tempestuous sky?

Be certain, on such a night – especially if it is Samhain – Nicnevin is about. Perhaps you will call on her for help to develop your own psychic powers. If so, this little spell may help you:

The Crone Spell
Only to be performed on Samhain – the Feast of Nicnevin

To cast the spell, you will need:
Two teaspoons of dried mugwort
One teaspoon powdered elder leaves
Six drops cypress oil
One charcoal disc in a flameproof dish
One tall black candle, plus matches or a lighter
Mortar and pestle

Casting the spell:
In the mortar and pestle, blend together the mugwort, cypress oil and elder leaves and grind until it achieves a fine consistency capable of being sprinkled.

Light the charcoal and the candle while saying:
Nicnevin, goddess of the crossroads
Show me,
Guide my thread into the spaces between

Sprinkle the blended mugwort, cypress oil and elder onto the burning charcoal and inhale the aroma.

Close your eyes and picture yourself walking from an easterly direction toward a crossroads at sunset. Stop and face north. Concentrate and a dark figure will emerge and approach you. Nicnevin is now with you. She will crook her finger, beckoning you to follow her. You do so but when she takes you to a gateway, you do not pass through it on this occasion. Look at it carefully, study any symbols marked on it. When you are ready to move between worlds in your lucid/psychic dreams, you must pass through it or look for its symbols and follow them.

When you have memorized all you need to, you will find you can open your eyes. Your lucid/psychic dreams will be available for your summoning throughout the winter.

Invest in a Book of Shadows if you don’t already have one, and note down all your lucid dreams until Imbolc (February 1st).

    Boo-graphy: Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels and novellas.

    Her novels include: Dark Observation, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe, The Garden of Bewitchment, The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse, and Saving Grace Devine, among others.

    Her novellas include: The Darkest Veil, Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife.

    Her short stories appeared in a number of anthologies including Tomes of Terror, One of Us, and Haunted Are These Houses.

    She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.

    Eligos is waiting…fulfill your destiny.

    1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill’s subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet. Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past… Something or someone – is targeting her.

    Flame Tree Press
    Barnes & Noble
    and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)

    [Note: All photos are from Flame Tree Studio, Shutterstock, or are the author’s own.]

    Christmas Takeover 35: Catherine Cavendish: Swallow Lodge

    Swallow Lodge

    A Short Story by Catherine Cavendish
    2,828 words

    I should have known the house would be trouble. After all, anywhere that is on the market for over £150,000 less than all the neighboring properties must have something wrong with it. Apart from being virtually derelict of course.

    Swallow Lodge. The name captivated me. The moment I first laid eyes on the empty dwelling I knew I had to own it. Strange really because in its current state, it certainly wasn’t habitable. In fact, the estate agent wanted me to look at the more suitable house across the road. But no, I had to have this one, and the more she tried to dissuade me, the more determined I became. Eventually she caved in and a couple of months later Swallow Lodge became mine.

    Maybe it was the unusual shape that appealed to me. The central section towered upward, tapered to a narrow pinnacle and housed the two upstairs bedrooms. To the right and left of this, the building was single story. Judging by the sorry remnants of peeling paint and ripped wallpaper, Swallow Lodge had once been decorated traditionally, with care and taste. What would poor Miss Frobisher make of it now? I attributed the chill that enveloped me, when I thought of its last owner, to an unseasonal nip in the air.

    The house had been empty for ten years following the old lady’s death on Christmas Day. When I asked about her, the estate agent knew very little. A care assistant had found her and been too traumatized to go into detail. Dorothy Frobisher owned the house for sixty years and died in it at the age of ninety.

    On the day I took possession of her former home, I took photographs and emailed them to my daughter in Australia. Unfortunately, even the warm summer sun pouring in through the windows could do little to improve the sorry state of the place and Carol didn’t share my enthusiasm. Her face wore an incredulous expression when I Skyped her that night.

    “Mum, whatever possessed you? It’ll cost you a fortune to put that place right. Half the roof’s down for a start!”

    “I know,” I said, as waves of ecstasy washed over me. “It’s going to be perfect. For the first time in my life, I’ll be able to decorate the way I want to without your father chipping in and insisting on white walls and fitted carpets. I can have hardwood floors, themed rooms—”

    “And an overdraft the size of a small African country.”

    I sighed, seeing Carol’s lips set in that familiar thin line. Just like her father. But she could say what she wished, I would have my Swallow Lodge and I would have it my way. After all, my daughter lived in Sydney. She could hardly do much about it, even if I decided to paint the walls shocking pink which, of course, I wouldn’t.

    With hindsight, I suppose the difficulty I had in finding builders to work on my new pride and joy should also have told me something. They were all perfectly keen at first, until I told them the address. Then, mysteriously, each one of them seemed to discover they had a big job somewhere else that would keep them occupied for the next six months. I was unfamiliar with the area, as I had lived in the city – thirty miles away – until my husband George died. That’s when I decided on a change. My move to Swallow Lodge represented the first step on the path of my new life. How naïve I was. How reckless.

    I eventually found a builder. He wasn’t local and gave no reaction when I told him the address. Together we drew up plans and he set to work. Meanwhile, I carried on living in the small flat I’d rented since I sold my house, and dreamed of the day when I could take my furniture out of storage and move into my perfect home.

    Derek, my builder, worked long hours all through summer and beyond. Every time I went along to have a look at how he was getting on, I came away more excited than before. With my approval he engaged a gardener to sort out the wilderness at the back of the house, painters, a plumber, a glazier and, of course, a roofer. It took practically all my savings, but I was getting the house I had always wanted and didn’t begrudge one penny.

    Finally, two weeks before Christmas, the day came when all their combined efforts were complete. Derek handed over the keys.

    “It’s all yours, Mrs. Steadman. I hope you’ll be very happy in your new home.”

    “I’m sure I will, Derek. You’ve done a wonderful job. Thank you. It’s exactly how I imagined it would be.”

    He hesitated.

    “What is it?” I asked. “Is something the matter?”

    “It’s… well… I suppose it depends how you feel about them, but I think you may have bats under your roof.”

    “Bats? Are you sure?”

    Derek shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Not entirely, no. I’m only going by the sound, you see. I’ve been up there and saw nothing. Pete, who did the roof, said he couldn’t see any sign of them either. It’s a bit of a mystery how they could have got in really. Mind you, they’re crafty little buggers. Doesn’t take much.”

    “You say you’ve heard them?”

    Derek nodded. “A few days after I started here, I heard scratching noises. I ruled out rats and mice straightaway. Definitely not those little blighters. No, I’ve heard them before and I’d say you’ve got bats. Trouble is they’re a protected species, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with them. Hope that’s not too much of a nasty surprise.”

    “No, no.” I sighed. Did bats do any harm? Hopefully not. “I’ll learn to live with them. I’m sure they’ll keep away from me and I’ll return the favor.”

    When I closed the door behind him, I leaned against it and took in my new surroundings. My mother’s grandfather clock finally had the home it deserved, in a hallway where it provided a focal point and a welcome. Its steady, rhythmic tick-tock felt familiar and reassuring. It no longer chimed the hours, since its bells had been removed years earlier. I also had the peaceful library I’d always craved, where I could sit in the evenings, lit by lamps and surrounded by books. And, when sleep overcame me, I could drift upstairs to my cozy bedroom with its dark oak furniture. So in keeping with my Edwardian home.

    I couldn’t wait to Skype Carol. I carried my laptop around the house and showed her the rooms, transformed from the ‘before’ photos she’d been so horrified to see. I had even erected a Christmas tree and strewn garlands of artificial holly and pine, bright with shiny red berries, around the walls and doors. With its decorations and twinkly lights, my tree looked festive and gave my home a seasonal finishing touch.

    Tour complete, I sat in the library, with my laptop on my antique partners’ desk.

    “It all looks lovely, Mum.” Carol smiled. “Not really my taste, but you always preferred old-fashioned stuff.”

    I smiled back. “You’re just like your father. He always thought modern was best.”

    “Only in Dad’s case, modern meant circa 1980.” Carol laughed, but then stopped abruptly. She stared closer into the webcam, her face wide-eyed, mouth slightly open.

    Goose bumps rose on my arms. “What’s the matter?”

    “I… don’t know. I thought I saw…” She shook her head. “Don’t worry. It’s gone now. Probably a technical glitch.”

    That night, I fell asleep straightaway and awoke before dawn. I needed the bathroom and the chill in the bedroom had me reaching for my dressing gown. Moonlight shone through the landing window, illuminating my way.

    I reached for the bathroom door handle. Invisible fingers stroked my hand. I jumped back. Spun around. No one behind me. No one either side of me. The moon withdrew behind a cloud and now I couldn’t see anything in the gloom. Where was the damned light switch? I fumbled around the walls and my fingers made contact with the hard plastic. I pressed. The bright light made me blink. Still nothing there. But something – or someone – had touched me. It couldn’t have been cobwebs. An insect maybe? The house was so quiet, except for the clock downstairs. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

    Above my head, in the loft, scratching, scrabbling. Bats, Derek had said. Then why did the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention? A loud groan echoed around the walls. A woman in pain. I ran into the bathroom and slammed the door, locking it. I hardly dared breathe as I strained to listen for the slightest sound in the sudden cold, still, silence…

    Finally, I dared open the door and peered around. The light from the bathroom shone out, illuminating part of the landing, but casting shadows where I didn’t want them to be.

    At the opposite end for where I stood, the dark void of my bedroom awaited me. There should be another switch to brighten that area, but when I found it, nothing happened. In desperation, I flicked it a few more times but still darkness where I so needed light.

    From nowhere, cold, invisible hands pressed down on my shoulders, forcing me back against the wall. The face – if it was a face – loomed in front of me. Hollow sockets for eyes set in a gray, twisting, amorphous mask that might once have been human, or could have emanated straight from hell. I pushed hard against an unyielding mass that pulsated and throbbed. Panic rose in waves, coursing through my body. But when my muscles ached and trembled, some inner reserve of strength, borne of terror, powered me and I wrenched myself free, hurling myself down the landing into my bedroom. I locked the door and huddled on the bed, hugging my knees to my chest. My heart thumped and my breath came in gasps. I had to stifle them. Too much noise and it would find me again.

    Above me, more scratching. I clapped my hands over my ears to drown out the noise. What was happening to me? Had I gone mad?

    I swore I heard a female voice whisper my name.

    ‘Vivien… Vivien…’

    For the first time since I was a child, I prayed, as the hours ticked by and night eventually gave way to dawn.

    I waited until the sun was fully risen before I dared unlock my door. Downstairs, my confidence trickled back as I saw nothing untoward. My tree twinkled merrily. In the library, I switched on the radio to the sounds of Nat King Cole roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Outside the window, a solitary robin hopped from branch to branch on the sycamore tree, each move dislodging a shower of snowflakes. The sky looked as if it would deposit more of the white stuff anytime, all adding to the feeling of Christmas right around the corner. My grandfather clock gave out its familiar low tick-tock as Nat King Cole gave way to Mike Oldfield’s take on In Dulce Jubilo.

    Maybe I’d imagined last night. Perhaps I’d dreamed it and been in a half-awake, half-asleep state when I awoke to go to the bathroom.

    But then I opened the kitchen door. And stared.

    Sugar, flour and smashed eggs covered the floor. Ketchup smeared all over the worktops. Two bottles of white wine, unscrewed and emptied down the sink. Glasses and plates lay smashed on the draining board, cooker and floor, and someone had written on the newly painted walls, in bright red letters:

    Veni, mi domine Lucifer!

    My mind sped into overdrive. Burglars. It had to be. Well-educated burglars who had studied Latin? Unusual, to say the least. Besides there were no signs of a break in. When I checked, all windows and doors were locked from the inside.

    I picked up the phone and called the police.

    The attending male officers looked barely out of high school. It didn’t take long before I realized they thought they were dealing with a dotty sixty-year-old – bordering on senility -who had probably created this chaos herself.

    My curt responses to their inane questions were met with their exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. No, nothing like this had ever happened to me before. No, I wasn’t on anti-depressants, or being treated for any psychological condition.

    One of the officers took notes, while the other examined the writing on the wall.

    “It means”, I said, “Come, my lord Lucifer. I suppose whoever wrote it is into devil worship, or wanted to scare me.”

    The officer, who had introduced himself as PC Workman, turned back from examining the graffiti. “The old lady who used to live here dabbled in that sort of thing.”

    “Who? Miss Frobisher?” Surely not. I’d built up an image of a kindly old soul although, admittedly, I didn’t have any evidence to go on.

    The other officer – PC Ramsden – scoffed. “Daft rumors. Just because she lived on her own, people made up all sorts of stories.”

    His colleague remained adamant. “Oh, she was up to something, that’s for sure. Three local men went missing over the preceding three years before she died. Always at Christmas time too. The only thing they had in common was that they’d all come here to do casual work for Miss Frobisher. One was a handyman, another an electrician and I think the third was a decorator. It got so no one would come near this place.”

    An icy shiver shot up my spine. “But you never found any evidence linking her to the disappearances?”

    The police officer shook his head. PC Ramsden chortled. “Not likely to either. She was well into her eighties by then and hardly a match for three burly blokes.”

    “But these men have never been found?”

    “No,” PC Ramsden said. “But people go missing all the time. It’s not that hard to do if you’re determined enough.”

    They didn’t stay long after that, merely gave me a crime reference number, promised to look into it and left. They told me I could clean everything up, so clearly there was to be no fingerprinting. They simply didn’t believe me. I suppose I was lucky they didn’t arrest me for wasting police time.

    I sighed and set to work sorting out the mess, wishing I had some sort of explanation. I found none, except the crazy notion that, somehow, Miss Frobisher was behind it all.

    Carol Skyped me at our pre-arranged time of eight o’clock on Christmas Eve. I hadn’t told her what I had experienced and, as the days passed and nothing more happened, I calmed myself. I sat in the library, my laptop on the desk and, when I answered her call, her cheerful smile made me ache to be with her.

    “Happy Christmas, Mum.”

    “Happy Christmas, love. Are you enjoying yourselves out there in the sun?”

    She started to answer. Stopped. Stared hard at the screen. “What the hell?” She pointed behind me. Her hand shook. Her face a mask of horror. “I don’t know what that thing is, but for God’s sake, Mum, get out of there. Now. Just run!”

    I twisted around to see what had scared her so much. A black shape swirled and morphed into a caricature of an old woman. It opened its mouth in a hideous parody of Munch’s most famous painting. From the laptop, Carol screamed at me, again and again. “Get out, Mum. For God’s sake, get out.”

    But I couldn’t. The swirling mass, with its black holes for eyes, paralyzed me with its hideous stare.

    Deep voices chanted in the echoing distance. A hymn to their Master. “Veni, mi domine Lucifer! Veni, mi domine Lucifer!

    Carol’s hysterical cries screamed out from the laptop. “Mum listen to me, you have to get out. Just leave everything and go. Mum please!”

    A rapier stab of pain in my side knocked me to one side. I clasped my head in my hands, willing it to stop. Cold fingers invaded my mind. Violating. Searching. Infecting my spirit and my soul with floods of hatred and despair. Pure evil.

    I cried out. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

    The laptop shot off the desk and smashed on the floor. That brought me to my senses and broke the hold on me. I sprang to my feet and ran. Behind me, I heard the sound of splintering wood and shattering glass. The grandfather clock chimed.

    I ran. Out of the house, down the path. I ran and never looked back.

    A year later, I’m still running. I hear the chanting. It’s in the wind. And in my head.

    “Veni, mi domine Lucifer…”

    It’s Christmas.


    Cat first started writing when someone thrust a pencil into her hand. Unfortunately as she could neither read nor write properly at the time, none of her stories actually made much sense. However as she grew up, they gradually began to take form and, at the tender age of nine or ten, she sold her dolls’ house, and various other toys to buy her first typewriter. She hasn’t stopped bashing away at the keys ever since, although her keyboard of choice now belongs to her laptop.

    The need to earn a living led to a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance but Cat is now the full-time author of a number of supernatural, ghostly, haunted house and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. These include (among others): The Haunting of Henderson Close, The Devil’s Serenade, and Saving Grace Devine.

    Her new novel – The Garden of Bewitchment – is out from Flame Tree Press on February 10th 2020.

    Cat lives in Southport, in the U.K. with her longsuffering husband, and a black cat, who has never forgotten that her species was once worshipped in Egypt.

    When not slaving over a hot computer, Cat enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

    Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Catherine Cavendish

    Catherine Cavendish is a must-read horror author and someone I am super excited about having involved in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza. If you haven’t read any of her work, I encourage you to give her a chance. It won’t be a waste of time, I assure you.

    Meghan: Hi, Catherine. Welcome welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    Catherine Cavendish: I’m a published author of horror tales mainly in the supernatural, paranormal, Gothic, and ghostly traditions.

    Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

    Catherine Cavendish: When I was a child, I planted a conker that is now a flourishing, tall horse chestnut tree

    I am not fond of chocolate. I don’t hate it, but I could live without it perfectly happily. Cheese on the other hand…

    I have a phobia about stairs – I had a nasty accident involving them a few years back.

    When I was a small child, I wanted to be a ballerina.

    Again, when I was a small child, I had an invisible friend called Gerry. He went everywhere with me, much to my mother’s embarrassment.

    Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

    Catherine Cavendish: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Meghan: What are you reading now?

    Catherine Cavendish: I am re-reading Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James.

    Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

    Catherine Cavendish: Tales of the CityArmistead Maupin. I love all his books – a true guilty pleasure.

    Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

    Catherine Cavendish: There is no one answer to this as I cannot remember a time I didn’t want to write. The need to tell a story that builds in my head and refuses to go away is what always gets me started. I began writing as soon as I could hold a pencil.

    Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

    Catherine Cavendish: At my desk in my home office/library. The walls are lined with bookshelves. Perfect for me.

    Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

    Catherine Cavendish: Nothing out of the ordinary. I research locations and settings on the internet and create a file of pictures. I also do this with main characters. For books requiring research, I read a lot beforehand to drown myself in the atmosphere of the time and place in which I am setting the story.

    Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

    Catherine Cavendish: Hunting out and ridding the story of anomalies that creep in. Even when you think you’ve dispatched them all, there is always one lurking in a corner ready to trip you up.

    Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

    Catherine Cavendish: That’s a hard one to answer. I am particularly partial to my latest – The Haunting of Henderson Close – because I had the basic idea for that story for a number of years and finally got around to writing it.

    Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

    Catherine Cavendish: Creature by Hunter Shea is an amazing book – not only is it sublime horror but it is also one of the most moving stories I have ever read. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill is riveting, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, M.R. James, Susan Hill, Jonathan Janz… the list of amazing horror authors past and present continue to inspire me. Emily Bronte and Daphne du Maurier have also been sources of great inspiration and continue to be.

    Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

    Catherine Cavendish: Strong, multi layered characters working their way through a plot with unexpected twists and turns, challenges, atmosphere, suspense and an ending you weren’t expecting.

    Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

    Catherine Cavendish: I hate prissy, sweet, text book characters. I love flawed, sometimes damaged personalities who fight against the circumstances in which they find themselves. I like them to be non-conformist or to have broken away from the life they were expected to follow. I like rebels. I strive to incorporate this in my main characters. They are usually thirty years old, or more, and have had ups and downs in their lives. Of course, little do they know that things are about to take a turn for the worse and they will need all their reserves of strength and resilience…

    Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

    Catherine Cavendish: There are elements of me in most of my main characters but none are especially like me. I suppose the closest is probably Nessa who features in a novel I am currently working on. She goes through some of the major medical issues I faced a few years ago and I do see more of myself in her.

    Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

    Catherine Cavendish: If we are honest, I think most of us look at the cover first and make an unconscious snap judgement about the content of the story based on that. I am lucky in that all my publishers (so far) have involved me quite heavily in the process. For The Haunting of Henderson Close and my upcoming novel, The Garden of Bewitchment, the publishers – Flame Tree Press – invited me to submit suggestions. I did so, fairly comprehensively as I always do, and the resulting covers are as near to my vision as I believe it is possible to be. I am delighted with them and feel they accurately reflect the content in each case. This also applies to my titles with Crossroad Press.

    Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

    Catherine Cavendish: That you never stop learning and there is always room for improvement.

    Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

    Catherine Cavendish: That has to be in my current work in progress because it involved a serious medical condition and surgery I actually lived through. While I was writing it, I felt myself back in the hospital, in pain, a bit scared and wondering how I was going to get through it. As far as my currently published work is concerned, the final scene in Saving Grace Devine reduced me to tears.

    Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

    Catherine Cavendish: I think you would have to ask my readers that one. I like to think maybe it’s the combination of gothic with supernatural and the twists I take at the end. I like to challenge!

    Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

    Catherine Cavendish: I think titles are critical. Whenever I come up with one, I always check it to see if there are any other books with the same title. If there are, I avoid it and think again. Of course, there is nothing to stop someone else coming up with the same title as yours, but I think it prevents possible confusion if you try and avoid one already in use.

    Sometimes a title is the first thing that comes to me and, at other times, I really have to work at it, discarding three or four choices before finding the one that really fits the bill. One of the easiest was The Haunting of Henderson Close. I had picked the name of the Close after checking that no such place existed in Edinburgh and, as the novel was about an evil haunting, the rest came naturally.

    Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

    Catherine Cavendish: In their own ways, both, but because of the length of time and energy expended on writing a novel, the time when you finally decide ‘that’s it’, is a greatly fulfilling one.

    Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

    Catherine Cavendish: My take on horror is the jump-scare, something lurking in the shadows, the stuff of nightmares. I often set – at least part of – my stories in the past because I love history and exploring historical locations. Mine is the world of ghosts, demons, witches, devils and unquiet spirits, frequently with a Gothic flavour. I use folklore traditions that exist and ones I create myself. My target audience is anyone who enjoys a scary, creepy story, suspense and/or horror. When they have finished one of my stories, I hope readers have enjoyed the experience and want to read more

    Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

    Catherine Cavendish: If a scene fails to move the story along, or has no relevance to what came before or will come after, out it goes. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and I don’t tend to think about it anymore.

    Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

    Catherine Cavendish: I have a tin containing scraps of paper with notes on, or sometimes merely a line or two suggesting a plot for a short story, novel or novella. One came from a vivid dream I had which I can still remember around six years on. I was in a wood and came across an old timber hut. There was an exquisite and clearly expensive picture on the porch…and that’s all I’m telling you. I’ll write that story one day… maybe

    Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

    Catherine Cavendish: On February 10th, Flame Tree Press will be publishing The Garden of Bewitchment which is set in Bronte country – Haworth and its environs – in West Yorkshire, near where I grew up. This is a ghostly and Gothic tale involving twin sisters who are obsessed with the works of the Bronte sisters. Here’s the official blurb:

    Don’t play the game

    In 1893, Evelyn and Claire leave their home in a Yorkshire town for life in a rural retreat on their beloved moors. But when a strange toy garden mysteriously appears, a chain of increasingly terrifying events is unleashed. Neighbour Matthew Dixon befriends Evelyn, but seems to have more than one secret to hide. Then the horror really begins. The Garden of Bewitchment is all too real and something is threatening the lives and sanity of the women.

    Evelyn no longer knows who – or what – to believe. And time is running out.

    Meghan: Where can we find you? (Links to anywhere you’re okay with fans connecting with you.)

    Catherine Cavendish: Website ** Facebook ** Twitter ** Goodreads

    (I also have Instagram but I’m not particularly good at it! Camera-shy I guess.)

    Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

    Catherine Cavendish: Thank you to everyone who has read or reads my work. I really appreciate your support. Long may it continue. Keep reading scary stories!

    Cat first started writing when someone thrust a pencil into her hand. Unfortunately as she could neither read nor write properly at the time, none of her stories actually made much sense. However as she grew up, they gradually began to take form and, at the tender age of nine or ten, she sold her dolls’ house, and various other toys to buy her first typewriter. She hasn’t stopped bashing away at the keys ever since, although her keyboard of choice now belongs to her laptop.

    The need to earn a living led to a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance but Cat is now the full-time author of a number of supernatural, ghostly, haunted house and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. These include (among others): The Haunting of Henderson Close, The Devil’s Serenade, and Saving Grace Devine.

    Her new novel – The Garden of Bewitchment – is out from Flame Tree Press on February 10th 2020.

    Cat lives in Southport, in the U.K. with her longsuffering husband, and a black cat, who has never forgotten that her species was once worshipped in Egypt.

    When not slaving over a hot computer, Cat enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.

    The Haunting of Henderson Close

    Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

    In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released.

    Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face?

    The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

    The Devil’s Serenade

    Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…

    When Maddie Chambers inherits her Aunt Charlotte’s Gothic mansion, old memories stir of the long-forgotten summer she turned sixteen. She has barely moved in before a series of bizarre events drives her to question her sanity.

    The strains of her aunt’s favorite song echo through the house, the roots of a faraway willow creep through the cellar, a child who cannot exist skips from room to room, and Maddie discovers Charlotte kept many deadly secrets.

    Gradually, the barriers in her mind fall away, and Maddie begins to recall that summer when she looked into the face of evil. Now, the long dead builder of the house has unfinished business and an ancient demon is hungry. Soon it is not only Maddie’s life that is in danger, but her soul itself, as the ghosts of her past shed their cover of darkness.

    Saving Grace Devine

    “Can the living help the dead…and at what cost? “

    When Alex Fletcher finds a painting of a drowned girl, she s unnerved. When the girl in the painting opens her eyes, she is terrified. And when the girl appears to her as an apparition and begs her for help, Alex can t refuse.

    But as she digs further into Grace s past, she is embroiled in supernatural forces she cannot control, and a timeslip back to 1912 brings her face to face with the man who killed Grace and the demonic spirit of his long-dead mother. With such nightmarish forces stacked against her, Alex s options are few. Somehow she must save Grace, but to do so, she must pay an unimaginable price. “