Catherine Bell is a writer from the UK. She’s written the ultra interesting ‘Children of Manson’, a film that’s best introduced in her own words. We touched base with Catherine and asked her a few questions about the book and her journey writing it.
Since I was little I enjoyed the thrill of a good ghost story. I still remember the chills, the panic, the internal battle in my young mind “It’s just a story..” “But what if?…” that stayed with me. It stopped being fear as such, but I enjoyed replication that feeling though horror films, I have drank my way through shelf after shelf of horror fiction. Stephen King is my hero in that regard. I still remember reading King’s ‘Black House’, and – as a young adult- being scared to turn the page. that is what I want my readers to feel. I don’t think you can get that sort of intensity though other genres.
What inspired you to write this book?
At the time of writing “The Children of Manson” I was reading “Helter Skelter” the book about the Charles Manson cult. I was interested in the idea of cult ideology and how dangerous it is; and how easily the people involved can be convinced into doing almost anything. It also led me to think about the danger of unhinged minds coming together; and of the impact of ‘weaker’ personas being drawn into that situation.
Tell us about the book.
The Children of Manson is a horror, which ties together terror, gore, and psychosis, with a subtle political undertone. 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.
Tell us about your journey as a writer to an author?
My website is called The Cathy Stories. It does not sounds particularly imaginative at first glance, but it says a lot to me personally. I started writing from a very young age. I have files and files of stories I used to write when I was 6, 7 8 etc, and I would usually entitled them “The Cathy Stories”, or I would refer to them as that collectively. When I reached secondary school I began to write more seriously, and would enter into competitions etc. I also created a book that incorporated the personalities of my classmates, and, no word of a lie, I would write a new chapter each week and people would come and sit around me at lunchtimes and I would read the latest chapter to them. I would have people approach me asking if they could have a part in the story. It was a great feeling, but it was also fantastic that everyone was involved in this sort of collective fantasy story and that everyone was so eager to be involved. At university I continued to write for leisure, as a sort of stress reliever; I was able to focus my own fears and frustrating in terms of academia into my writing.
As an author, how was the writing process for this book? What amount of research went into writing this book?
Wow. I definitely did not anticipate it taking as long as it took. For a new writer; someone who has only ever written for my own enjoyment and for the sense of excitement and fulfilment rather than for any other reason, when it came to whittling down to a finished manuscript, particularly with a coherent ending that I was satisfied this, it was quite an intimidating task.
In terms of research, I read a lot into the psychology of serial killers and of their personality types to try to draw on those as inspiration for the characters.
How long did you take to write this book?
In all it probably took a good 3 years to reach the finished product.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
My favourite character is definitely Lloyd. I just love his poetic nature and how he can see the beauty in art and in death. I also like how he perceives things so passionately. I do think that mentally he does not necessarily mean to be a bad person, but he has a view on what is right and wrong and what in his own mind needs to be done to achieve a result. I have a deep level of affection for him.
What was the hardest passage to write in this book?
I did not find any particular passage itself difficult to write, it was more the tying together of twists and turns and coming to the end of a plot line and tracing the thread back and thinking yes, that follows, but more importantly, it is something that that particular character would do. If you manipulate a characters actions just to fit the story line, rather than in line with a characters personality, I think the reader can sense that, and the whole thing becomes completely not believable, even if we are talking about completely outlandish concepts.
As an author, what would you say to potential authors?
I would say read. And read. And read. Growing up, I was very open to different authors and different styles. Without knowing it I was almost working out what worked for me as a reader. Obviously the plot itself was important. However, it was also about the storyteller. It isn’t just about the story itself, it is about the way it’s told; the use of language. They placement of the words. I truly believe writing is an art form.
Have you ever watched Indian horror films?
I haven’t! Do you have any recommendations?
I enjoy trying my hand at short stories. I liken them to a ‘flash in the pan’ idea wise. I have recently written the Sick and Sombre Tales of Sinister Town. and that is a collection of short horror stories. I am now working on part 2 of that collection.
You can buy her books via her website.