Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Catriona Ward Interview - Sundial

Photo Content from Catriona Ward
CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She studied English at the University of Oxford and later earned her master’s degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. Ward won the August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel for her debut, The Girl from Rawblood, and again for Little Eve, making her the first woman to win the prize twice. Little Eve also won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, and will be published by Nightfire.


Publisher ‏ : ‎ Tor Nightfire (March 1, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250812682
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250812681

Praise for SUNDIAL

“Sundial is a heart-in-the-throat smash.” ―Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman

“Ward is surely one of the most talented writers working in the thriller genre today. This book will haunt you.” ―Alex Michaelides, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Masterful...[A] must-read for fans of gothic literature and taut psychological thrillers.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“As if we needed further evidence, Sundial confirms Catriona Ward as one of the brightest stars in horror fiction. As compelling and unique a voice for the 21st century as Shirley Jackson was for the 20th. She’s brilliant.” ―Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Road of Bones and Ararat

“Holy moly, Sundial plumbs the psychological depths and traps of toxic relationships, expertly mixing suspense, shocks, and menace. It's a wild, twisted family gothic unlike any you've read before, and one you won't soon forget.” ―Paul Tremblay, author of Survivor Song and A Head Full of Ghosts

“This novel is reminiscent of the best of Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates, and I cannot think of higher praise.” ―Thomas Olde Heuvelt, author of Hex and Echo

“There are two things you must know about Sundial. First, it's a great read, a genius piece of storytelling. But second, this is true horror, the horror of everyday life that we make ourselves blind to, horror that is brutal, truthful, terrifying. Catriona Ward knows horror.” ―Alma Katsu, author of The Fervor

“Catriona Ward has done it again with Sundial. Elegantly horrifying, this tale of a family's darker-than-dark past drives the knife in deep and isn't afraid to twist. It's a desert-dust nightmare with a scorpion's sting, and I LOVED it.” ―Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters

“It's a cracker, even better than The Last House on Needless Street. It was dark, and unsettling, and creepy and enthralling.” ―Lisa Hall, bestselling author of The Party

“A deeply dark and unexpected tale about families, love, hate, the long shadow of the past, and the redemptive power of storytelling. Clever, poetic and immersive.” ―Araminta Hall, author of Imperfect Women

“Absolutely, stunningly, heartbreakingly wonderful. A wild beast of a book.” ―Virginia Feito, author of Mrs. March

Greatest thing you learned in school.
To read. I’m still astounded by the sustained act of empathy made possible by reading and writing. It’s as close as we get to telepathy in the real world. But even more magical, because it’s collaborative. The story grows fed by both the writer’s and the reader’s mind.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I love my family – my partner, parents, sister, nephews. That love remains one of the strongest forces in my life. So, one of the greatest fears I could draw on for my books is the possibility of that love going awry. I always want to explore that sometimes contradictory feeling of being deeply reliant on those you love and are related to, as well as being isolated with them. Or even, as one might see it in relation to my upbringing, trapped with them.

These conflicting, powerful feelings are the engine that hums beneath the hood of my books. And they raise troubling ideas and questions. I want them to. How close is too close? When does love become dependence? Or as an editor once asked me, ‘What is it with you and sisters?’

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
As I was saying about reading earlier, it’s the closest we can come to understanding someone else’s experience. It connects us through understanding and empathy. It transmits feeling and knowledge and fear and love through any amount of time and space. Storytelling teaches us new ways to see the world, and allows us to experience feelings we might never have, otherwise. Horror, for me, is particularly powerful in this way. I can only make the reader afraid of things I am genuinely afraid of. So, for me, horror is reaching out through the page to the reader, asking them to take your hand and walk through the fear together. Horror is about the darkness, but equally, for me, it’s about finding those moments of light and hope, in the midst of it.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
The short story collection Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. I go back to it again and again. It always teaches me something new. Her worlds are so vivid, you come away feeling that it’s this one here and now that’s imaginary.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m writing a new novel, LOOKING GLASS SOUND, about New England writers who are deadly rivals. Dickie Harlow retires to a cottage in Maine to write a revenge novel about his recently dead old friend and lifelong nemesis Sky who he considers to have ruined his career. But notes start turning up written in Sky’s handwriting, his characteristic bright green ink, and Dickie starts to fear that Sky may not be as gone as he’d thought. It’s very bizarre, writing about writers. It’s giving me an uneasy insight into how psychologically complicated the process is, of transforming experience and feeling into story. LOOKING GLASS SOUND will be published by Nightfire in March 2023.

My Shirley Jackson Award winning novel LITTLE EVE will be published by Nightfire on October 11th this year. I’ve been revisiting the text and writing a new afterword for the book. Returning to my second novel in this way has been an absolutely wonderful, and quite intense experience. I’m rediscovering all the feelings that drove me to write it. It’s like a form of time travel – revisiting my past self.

I’m very excited that the film production of The Last House on Needless Street is underway, with the Imaginarium, Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s production company. They’ve been kind enough to give me a seat at the table as executive producer, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

In your newest book; SUNDIAL, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
‘Sundial,’ is set in the Mojave Desert. A traumatic event forces Rob to take her twelve-year-old daughter Callie on a bonding trip to her old childhood home in the California desert - Sundial. Rob and Callie’s relationship is badly fractured - they mistrust one another, and each has a suspicion that the other means her harm. Rob’s parents were scientists who carried out dubious experiments at Sundial during her childhood - and she realises that this past might have implications for Callie’s future. I’m fascinated by the more out-there experiments carried out by the CIA in the 1960’s and 70’s – the MK Ultra era. Many were only recently declassified. Some are barbaric, as well as just plain odd – implanting electrodes in dogs’ brains so they can be operated by remote control, for instance. Some people who read Sundial think I came up with that, but it’s all too real.

It’s very different to Needless Street, but it has a lot of themes in common with it, too – especially those of love, loss, and what we inherit from our past.

  • 1. I first had the idea for Sundial when I read this ARTICLE about remote controlled dogs being created by the CIA. It seemed so cruel that the dogs went through so much, for an experiment that was essentially a novelty. I was amazed that no one had used it in a novel before.
  • 2. I finished Sundial during lockdown in California, the day before my nephew was born. The next day my sister went into hospital to have her second son, River, while I spent two days taking care of his older brother, Wolf – a very brave two-year-old. He’d never been apart from his parents before and we had to get to know each other. It was a very emotional special time. Sundial and those strange days are always linked together in my thoughts.
  • 3. A fact that became a key scene in the novel – there are no fireflies in California.
  • 4. Writing the Sundial dogs made me think about the dogs I had in childhood, brought them vividly back into my memory. I became very passionate about the loveliness of dogs while writing this book.
  • 5. For this book I wanted to create an imaginative geography, which would overlie the real Mojave Desert. So, Honesty, the mining ghost town and Cielo the nearest city to Sundial are all fictional - though based in part on real places.
  • 6. California ghost towns, and indeed desert ghost towns are so atmospheric and surreal. I went on a long, long research dive about them.
  • 7. Through Rob’s college experience, I found myself rediscovering some of my awkward feelings about fitting in at school. Having grown up quite unsocialized, it was something of a shock to be plunged into an American high school and then UK boarding school. Luckily, it became useful material twenty years later.
  • 8. I saw my first hummingbird by the Golden Gate Bridge on my first visit to California, and I remember thinking, it looks like a clockwork heart that’s flown out of a chest. Years later, I put a version of that thought into Sundial.
  • 9. Jacaranda trees grow in Africa as well as California. So, when I first saw them in the California desert, covered in that distinctive beautiful purple blossom, I was hurtled back to my Kenyan childhood. A jacaranda tree, like hummingbirds, plays a crucial role in Sundial.
  • 10. Like Rob and Jack, I loved books about girls boarding schools when I was young. Needless to say, the reality was very different when I finally experienced it for myself at Bedales, in Hampshire, UK. Rob and Jack’s ‘Bingley Hall’ book is partly inspired by Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’ series. I had a seventies edition of ‘Third Term at Malory Towers,’ the cover of which featured a violent lacrosse game.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Sundial explores those questions we all ask ourselves, that humans have been asking since we first existed – what are we, and what makes us so? How far are we ourselves, or a product of genetics or environment? The message I hope the book conveys, as strongly as possible, is that it’s never too late. We have free will. If we’re lucky, we can change, heal and recover – to fight another day.

What part of Rob and Callie did you enjoy writing the most?
Callie often talks in emojis, which was interesting to write. She also has a very special relationship with some imaginary friends – a little silver dog she calls Dumpster Puppy, and a girl she calls Pale Callie. I loved exploring her anarchic imagination. And I loved writing about mothers and daughters in a way that seemed almost dangerous, that summoned the strength of that bond, without perhaps sentimentalizing it. Love feels more real on the page if you portray all its faces – including the sides of it that are less acceptable, more conflicted.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love Callie to meet Olivia the cat from The Last House on Needless Street. I feel they would understand one another.

  • 1. The Mojave Desert. What a wild unbelievable landscape. And it’s very gothic too – it looks like an expanse of freedom, but because it’s such a hostile environment and can kill you in so many ways – it’s actually it’s a trap, a way of containing you.
  • 2. The characters. You live every book, but in Sundial I felt I was looking out from behind Rob, Callie and Jack’s eyes. I went deep.
  • 3. The animals, especially the dogs and coyotes. Some of the treatment of them in the novel is upsetting, because the experiments they’re based on are upsetting. But there is some redemption.
  • 4. The TWISTS. Again, I found the process of writing this book so immersive – I often surprised myself with a twist. I was concentrating so hard that sometimes when I came up for air and I looked at the twist on the page, I had no memory of writing it. The book reveals itself in layers, like an onion.
  • 5. It’s got the same warm beating heart as The Last House on Needless Street. It’s ultimately about hope, through horror.
  • 6. It’s different to The Last House on Needless Street. It’s a more straightforward structure and it’s peopled with daughters, sisters and families both found and made, whereas Needless Street focused on isolation.
  • 7. The ending. I wrote the ending in a two-day rush, hardly sleeping or eating. It pulls the whole book together, but not in the way you think.
  • 8. Can I have the Mojave Desert again? I went on a desert research trip before lockdown, and I have never been so moved by a landscape. It’s both too big to exist and yet feels intensely alive – so bleak-seeming, yet so full of sound and movement.
  • 9. I wrote Sundial during lockdown. I think the isolation and containment we all felt makes its way into Sundial - without entering the narrative directly.
  • 10. It’s all about love. Pain, but also love.
Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I think it was from Washington DC, where I was born, to the UK when I was three months old, to meet the UK side of my family. We travelled a lot when I was a child – My sister and I grew up in the US, Kenya, Yemen, Morocco and Madagascar.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Fail. Not too many times, that grinds you down. But the occasional instructive failure is like armour. It protects you, by teaching you better.

Best date you've ever had?
My first date with my partner, Ed McDonald. He’s a fantasy author and we were on the same panel at ComicCon in London. We hit it off as instantly as if we were in a romantic comedy – we even had the compulsory comical misunderstanding. We went to the bar after the panel. Four years later, here we are.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
Nowadays, oh god, none of it. I spend my time sitting in a chair imagining things! I had a slightly wilder youth, though. The Madagascar years were amazing. Keeping chameleons and tiny tortoises we found in the garden as pets, walking in the rainforest, swimming on coral reefs and being together as a family. But it was lonely too. There were four people in my grade at school. It was one room – the teacher used to go down the rows, teaching grades 1 through 12. Letters took six months to reach it. It’s still a wild, very remote place, difficult to get to – in the 1980s even more so. But the land, the culture and the nature are the most extraordinary I have ever experienced.

First Heartbreak?
Every book I write breaks my heart over and over again. But we almost always fall back in love.

Favorite things to do alone?
I love to watch movies in the bath with a glass of wine. It requires very judicious laptop placement and great care taken not to splash.

Where can readers find you?
I’m often on twitter, @catrionaward, and Instagram, @catward66. All book news comes through there.

Sundial is a new, twisty psychological horror novel from Catriona Ward, internationally bestselling author of The Last House on Needless Street.

You can't escape what's in your blood...

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

You can purchase Sundial at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CATRIONA WARD for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of SUNDIAL by Catriona Ward
Winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card
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