I’m honoured and touched to have received some fantastic advance praise for The Monster’s Wife from K J Wignall, an author whose work I’ve long admired:
This is a superb debut, an atmospheric and gripping mystery that picks up where the original Frankenstein left off. But to call it a sequel would do it no justice, because this book is fresh and original, and bursting with the most beautiful and lyrical prose. A stunning novel.
K J Wignall
K J Wignall is the author of the Mercian Trilogy, “the most compelling vampire books for young adults since the Twilight Saga.” As Kevin Wignall, he’s published four crime novels and a number of acclaimed short stories and has been nominated for an Edgar in the US and for the CWA Short Story Dagger in the UK. All his work has attracted film interest and two of his novels – including For the Dogs - are currently under option. I love For the Dogs and will be very excited to see the film version when it comes out. I’m thrilled that one of my favourite authors said such kind things about The Monster’s Wife.
As part of Chorlton Arts Festival, John Brewer and I will be taking wet plate portraits for this two-day event on Saturday May 24th and Sunday May 25th organised by Michele Selway in a pop-up shop on Chorlton High Road. Chorlton Arts Festival is one of the UK’s leading multi-arts festivals. Now in its 14th year, the festival showcases local and national talent in music, comedy, visual arts, performance and more, working with over 30 venues in Chorlton.
Wet Plate Event
Saturday & Sunday, 24th &25th May 2014
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
486 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M21 9AS
There will be lots of fantastic stuff to enjoy at the festival, including music, art, performance and this fun event at the old barbecue meat shop. So please drop by for tea, cake, vintage clothes, art prints and of course… making metal and glass plates with large format Victorian cameras! Props available. Fancy dress optional.
I’ve just received some amazing advance praise for The Monster’s Wife from one of my favourite authors, Sara Maitland:
That Mary Shelley has a lot to answer for!
This is an extraordinary novel, an honourable response (neither venerating nor sneering) to its progenitor, while being startlingly original. Kate Horsley has grounded and voiced her Frankenstein “sequel” in the Orkneys which bring their own mythic load with them and she takes the Gothic to new places, where the darkness of Frankenstein meets the darkness of isolated communities of love and fear and survival. It is brilliantly weird, dark and “horrid” – and it is a tender account of women’s friendships and dreams of freedom. It is profoundly touching and weirdly macabre at the same time. I’ve never read anything quite like it and I think it is wonderful.
Sara is the author of numerous works of fiction, including the Somerset Maugham Award-winning Daughters of Jerusalem, and several non-fiction books about religion. Reading her beautifully meditative A Book of Silence was one of the things that drew me towards Orkney to research and write the novel in the first place and her short stories collected in Moss Witch, exploring scientific concepts through the lens of myth, metaphor and fairytale, were a source of great inspiration to me in my own mythic retelling. I never expected such a moving and thrilling response to my own work from a writer I regard so highly and I was near to tears reading her words.
I had a great day last Thursday making ambrotypes with artist Vineta Gailite. Vineta’s hand-made dolls, sculptures and recent shadow puppet theatre work, Imaginary Islands, are beautiful, eery and full of atmosphere. I love the way each of her pieces tells a story or draws on one.
Hand-tinted ambrotype of Vineta with her creations.
I’ve commissioned Vineta to make a special doll for my partner’s daughter Violet and what she’s made is magical: it’s both a likeness of Violet and a puppet with its own personality. In return, I offered to show Vineta how to make ambrotypes (wet collodion photographs on pieces of glass) and to help her take some portraits of her dolls.
‘Violet’ guarding the ambrotypes © Vineta Gailite.
We worked in my partner John Brewer’s studio in Ancoats. I demonstrated the process to Vineta, who set up a series of still lives. We had huge fun making images of them. Vineta got the hang of wet plate straight away and made some lovely glass images and I took a portrait of her sitting with her creations.
The portrait reminded me of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. After I’d sprayed the back black to make a positive image, I hand-tinted the glass using chalk pastels to make it a bit more of a special object in return for the fabulous creation Vineta is giving to Violet.
John Brewer and I will be taking wet plate portraits for this all-day event on Saturday April 12th organised by Michele Selway in an empty shop on Chorlton High Road.
All profits go to the final year students’ Contemporary Photography Final Degree Show at Stockport College in June.
Wet Plate Collodion Fundraiser
Saturday, 12th April 2014 at 10am – 5pm
486 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M21 9AS
Please drop by for tea, cake and photography. Friends and family welcome. It will be a fun day making metal and glass plates with large format Victorian cameras and props… fancy dress optional!
Me making a nuisance of myself back when.
At the moment I’m working on a new novel, The American Girl, the first in a planned trilogy of psychological thrillers with a female lead. So far it’s been a sybaritic experience to immerse myself in the sun-drenched world of a small French town replete with a cast of eccentric local characters, all with their own dark secrets. The novel is part crime fiction, part autobiography drawn from my teenage adventures in the South of France (I came. I saw. I didn’t kill anyone, I swear…)
One feverish summer. One cold corpse.
Quincy Perkins is sixteen when her father sends her to a small French town to get rid of her for the summer. She expects to be bored in St. Roch, where her too-cool exchange Noémie does nothing but lounge at the local pool, sunbathing and flirting with boys. But when Noémie’s older brother Raphael arrives, everything changes. A small-town hero with a tragic past, he tells Quincy about his life in Paris, his dreams and regrets. Suddenly they’re in love…
And then Raphael turns up dead. Quincy was at a drunken party with him before he disappeared. To make matters worse, she has no clear memory of what went on that night. The town turns against her and the American girl becomes everyone’s favourite suspect.
Now Quincy must find out if she has blood on her hands, a journey that will take her to the darkest place of all.
I’m thrilled to bits with this eye-catching cover for my first novel, The Monster’s Wife, due out in July with Barbican Press. The artwork by Jason Anscomb of Rawshock Design is wonderfully original and at the same time absolutely in the spirit of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, from which my novel draws its inspiration. The Arcimbaldoesque collage of natural objects is both beautiful and grotesque, which really resonates with the novel, described below:
And the Bride was made flesh…
To a tiny island in Orkney, peopled by a devout community of thirty, comes Victor Frankenstein, driven there by a Devil’s bargain: to make a wife for the Creature who is stalking him across Europe. In this darkly-wrought answer to Frankenstein, we hear the untold tale of the monster’s wife through the perspective of the doctor’s housemaid. Oona works below stairs with her best friend May, washing the doctor’s linens and keeping the fires lit at the Big House. An orphan whose only legacy is the illness that killed her mother, Oona knows she is doomed. But she is also thirsty for knowledge, determined to know life fully before it slips away. As tensions heighten between Victor and the islanders, Oona becomes the doctor’s trusted accomplice, aiding in secret experiments and seeing horrors she sometimes wishes to forget. When May disappears, Oona must face up to growing suspicions about the enigmatic employer to whom she has grown close – but the truth is darker than anything she could imagine.
I’m just making my final touches to the novel and it’s great to feel like the book is so close to being a tangible object!
Recently, I participated in an international wet plate series called The Mask Series. The project was coordinated by Shane Balkowitsch who assembled 150 alternative photographers from over 25 countries, making the series the largest international wet plate collaboration since Frederick Scott Archer first invented the process in 1848. The goal is to raise awareness for the technique and also create a collection of plates for exhibition in a gallery and publication in a book. The prop used in each image is a vintage Czech M10 gas mask.
I enthusiastically signed up for the mask project and looked forward to mask coming my way. But I wasn’t prepared for what an emotive object the mask would be. When I tried the mask on, it was stifling, haunting. I imagined gas attacks, nuclear explosions, air raid sirens.
My idea for the masked baby came from imagining my Dad, a baby during WWII, wearing the ‘Mickey Mouse’ masks used by children during the war. The relatively large size of the Czech mask gives the picture a more ominous feel, as if the baby is weighted down with adult problems. The sins of the father. I took a couple of test shots to establish exposure. The ambrotype I submitted to Shane was also a test shot and in fact, I was getting so frustrated with my images, I was about to throw the towel in after I took it. But when I saw it lying in the cyanide solution, I quite liked its eerie feel.
You can read my account of the process here.
21st June 2013 12:30 pm 5:00 pm
Lecture Theatre 3, Furness College, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG
Discover the 19th century art of wetplate collodion photography, in which images are taken on tin and glass. See the process in action and have your portrait taken on tin with a Victorian camera!
- 12.30 pm onwards, Furness: Tea, coffee and soft drinks served.
- 1pm – 1:30 pm, Furness LT3: Introductory talks about spirit photographs, post-mortem photography and cartes de visite by Dr Catherine Spooner, who specialises in Gothic literature and culture and Victorian literature and portraiture specialist, Dr Kamilla Elliot. Alternative Photography expert and artist John Brewer will discuss the wetplate collodion process.
- 1:30 pm – 5 pm, Furness LT3: John Brewer and Dr Kate Horsley (writer and wetplate artist) will take portraits for the rest of the afternoon.
Download PDF poster.
This event has been organised in collaboration with the Lancaster Department of English & Creative Writing and the Lancaster University Photographic Society.
I recently wrote an article called “Interrogations of Society in Contemporary African Crime Writing” for a special edition of the journal Moving Worlds. Crime Across Cultures, edited by Lucy Evans and Mandala White, “seeks to examine how discourses of crime and criminality are produced in a global context that extends well beyond the cloisters of Orwell’s English middle class. We ask how writers and cultural practitioners from around the world have diversified the crime writing genre, moving beyond the detective novel in order to experiment with a variety of media including short fiction, television, performance, visual art and graffiti.” My article examines the conflicted role of black detective figures in the novels of Botswana writer Unity Dow, Ghanaian-born crime writer Kwei Quartey and South African writers James McClure and Deon Meyer. I look at criminals who are casualties of wider traumas, cultural rifts, established systems of control and deeply embedded belief. For more about this special issue of Moving Worlds, go to: http://www.movingworlds.net/