Kate Horsley Menu



Monster’s Wife Reading at Lancaster University


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unilogoFrankensteinI’m really looking forward to visiting Lancaster next week to talk about The Monster’s Wife and catch up with old friends. So if you happen to be in County Main next Wednesday at 4pm feeling at a loose end, it would be lovely to see you there!

“Our former Creative Writing MA student, Dr Kate Horsley, will be visiting on Wednesday 4th March to give a reading from her book ‘The Monster’s Wife’, which has been shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. The event will take place in County Main SR1 at 4pm – all are welcome.”

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Scottish First Book of the Year Award

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Walking through the valley on Hoy.

Walking around Hoy to research The Monster’s Wife.

I was so thrilled when my publisher at Barbican Press, Martin Goodman, called to tell me I’d been shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year (Saltire) Award. I travelled to Hoy and wrote The Monster’s Wife out of my fascination with Shelley’s novel, with Orkney as place and because of my sense of the developing character of “the Bride”. It was a very personal project. I was so happy when I found out that it had been shortlisted for this award alongside the work of other writers I admire.

The Monster’s Wife is set at the end of the 18th century and when Dr Frankenstein arrives unnatural disasters begin. Panic spreads, affecting everyone but Oona. An illness, which leaves her little time to live, renders her fearless. She starts working for the doctor, despite the community turning against him, and is drawn into his experiments.

The inspiration for it came from reading chapter 19 of Shelley’s Frankenstein, where Victor chooses to create a second creature, a bride for the monster, in Orkney. In the original story, which has inspired scores of films, Frankenstein says: “I traversed the northern Highlands and fixed on one of the remotest, the Orkneys, as the scene.” There he “creates” the bride to satiate his monster’s demands.

In order to research the book, I made a trip to the island of Hoy in Orkney and drew much of my inspiration from the landscape there. There have been some lovely pieces on the book in The Orcadian and The Scotsman since the nomination as well as reviews in the Scottish Herald and the Saltire Society Blog. Here’s an account of how I ‘found the Bride of Frankenstein on Orkney’ in Scotland on Sunday:


And here’s a radio interview I did with Good Morning Scotland. My bit starts at 2:42 or so.



Reviews of The Monster’s Wife

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The Monster's WifeI’ve read some lovely reviews of The Monster’s Wife so far. It’s really nice to know that reviewers have enjoyed the book. Much of what they’ve said has been really insightful and thought-provoking too. Here are some extracts and links to US and UK reviews on the web:

Review by Sue Sheard: “an excellent read for the long dark nights of winter. ★★★★★”

Oona makes a magnificent protagonist for modern times; determined, feisty and dogmatic. She exemplifies the troubled teenager struggling to fit into a life where she feels she does not belong and refuses to give up her beliefs. No matter what life and the harsh Orkney weather coupled with her failing health throw at Oona, her stubbornness and sense of integrity force her to carry on seeking to find the truth despite the reactions and treatment of her fellow islanders.”



Mysterious BibliophileMysterious Bibliophile Review by Irene McKenna: “I stayed up most of the night, turning pages, so I could finish the book.”

“Horsley’s novel is an eloquent tribute to its original source, and at the same time, she has created something unique and intriguing. In keeping with Frankenstein‘s romantic roots, The Monster’s Wife is somewhat poetic in style, with language rich in imagery and metaphor, and carefully observes the natural world. I loved the vibrant descriptions of the coast of a small Scottish island…This is an impressive debut novel by this author. I expect it will be popular with readers of classics, fans of mystery and suspense novels, and lovers of general fiction. The story and characters will definitely stick with me for some time to come.”



Barda Book TalkBarda Book Talk Review by Carole Besharah: “With its vibrant imagery and meticulous details, The Monster’s Wife will have a firm grip on you from the start.”

“If I were to sum up Horsley’s style in a few words, it would be poetic, visceral, and gut-wrenching… The momentum of this story never relents, unlike that of Frankenstein that has its lulls. I will not ruin The Monster’s Wife by further discussing the plot. I will tell you this: you will not be able to put the book down. And, oh, the ending! What a fitting, unexpected ending to such an engrossing story.”



logo_turquise_LOVEWe Love this Book Review by Cara Fielder: “an absolute must read for any gothic fans”

“It is a joy to report that The Monster’s Wife should cause no such trepidation. Horsley captures the dark isolation of small community and island life with a creepy charm. Without resorting to gothic tropes she engulfs you in a claustrophobic world that may fill you with tension but will certainly keep you reading. The Monster’s Wife is an absolute must read for any gothic fans and especially for lovers of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein



Charlie StellaTemporary Knucksline Review by Charlie Stella: “a wonderfully scripted tale about love between things that go bump in the night”

“Mary Shelley gave us Frankenstein. Kate Horsley, with brilliant descriptive prose, presents his bride. The Monster’s Wife is a wonderfully scripted tale about love between things that go bump in the night. Kate Horsley’s brilliant historical novel is more than an adjunct to the Shelley classic; it is a powerful statement about strong women and their ability to hold our interest on the page as well as in life.”


Plastic Rosaries


Plastic Rosaries Review by Beth: “an absolute must for fans of Frankenstein

“Oona’s character is the best element of this novel by far, she grows with it but not to a maturity which would be unnatural for her adolescence. The second half of the novel races much faster than the first but it works perfectly as the plot thickens and Horsley has made an already classic gothic tale even more memorable. Oona’s character is far more memorable than some of those in Shelley’s original tale which is why I think it will remain with me for a long time…”



Antonio UriasReview by Antonio Urias: “Ambitious, moody, and deeply enjoyable.”

Oona is a wild, stifled young woman, doomed by the same illness that killed her mother, she lives her life in the shadow of her impending death, dreams of escape and the world beyond. May is her closest friend, the rock she clings too, but May is slipping away, and they find themselves drawn to the mysterious Dr. Frankenstein, becoming his accomplices. Their relationship takes several dark turns, as Oona fumbles her way towards understanding Frankenstein and his purpose for them. The Monster’s Wife is a lyrical and touching debut. Horsley has created a gothic world of her own out of Shelley’s novel and allows the reader’s knowledge to haunt the story, as she slowly builds towards her tragic yet hopeful climax. Ambitious, moody, and deeply enjoyable.



Summer Reading ProjectSummer Reading Project Review by Annie Smith: “read the plot summary of Frankenstein on Wikipedia, then go read The Monster’s Wife.”

“I love retellings of classic stories (as long as they can live up to the quality of the original.) The Monster’s Wife is an epilogue to Frankenstein. Fortunately, Horsley more than lives up to the original. In fact, I liked this book a lot more than Frankenstein because there’s so much more action and suspense and the philosophizing doesn’t grind the narrative to a screeching halt.”



Lit/RantLit/Rant Review by Kel Munger: “a true literary gothic novel”

“This is a true literary gothic novel, and Horsley is respectful of Mary Shelley’s vision and original text. Her skill at developing Oona and her friend, May, as characters makes this into a tragedy of technology as destroyer of culture—which is, indeed, far closer to Shelley’s original than most adaptations and re-creations ever get.

The British-based Barbican Press is a small literary publisher; if the rest of their list matches the caliber of this fine novel, they’ll be a house to keep an eye on for American readers of literary fiction.”



What I’ve Read Review by Eamonn Griffin: “this is a fine debut and you should read it.”

What I've ReadThe Monster’s Wife is a revisiting of Mary Shelley’s tale… and is huge amounts of fun throughout, as well as dealing sensitively with a range of themes (isolation, mortality, covert relationships, nature). On top of that there’s more than a nod to the Gothic. The writing’s rich throughout, offering something for those whose tastes run to the literary as well as to the genre-friendly, be that historical fiction, SFF, queer writing (and all the more for those who like a bit of each at the same time, matron). You might guess where things may be headed story-wise from the title. You might not. I’m not going to tell you. It would spoil the surprise.”




Advance Praise from K J Wignall


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BloodI’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. endquotes


K J Wignall

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.


Advance Praise from Sara Maitland


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9781847084293I’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.endquotes


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.



The American Girl


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Kate in France

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…)

The American Girl

One summer morning, seventeen-year-old Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St Roch. Barefoot, bloodied and unable to say what has happened, her appearance creates as much of a stir as the disappearance of the Blavettes, the French family with whom she’s been staying. Cynical about the media circus that forms around the girl, yet drawn to the mystery, journalist Molly Swift arrives in St Roch. Determined to discover the truth, she lies to get close to Quinn. When a shocking discovery in the local caves turns the town against Quinn and she is arrested for the murders of the Blavette family, she finds an unlikely ally in Molly. As a trial by media ensues, Molly unravels the dark secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American Girl is as compelling a murder suspect as she is a victim.


Cover image for The Monster’s Wife


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The Monster's WifeI’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!


Novel Cover Art

image002I’m excited to learn that Jason Anscomb of Rawshock will be designing the jacket cover for my novel.  I think his collage and design work is fab, e.g. this stylish cover (left) for Patrick Süskind’s Perfume.  I’ve had a few ideas cover-wise, mainly involving the long, red hair of the main character, Oona, floating away from her in the underwater scene, quoted here:

The boat dipped low.  The oar rolled against her fingertips, slid further away.  A wave slapped her face.  Wood groaned underneath.  She fell into the water, kicked against the boat, paddling the way Toby did when they were out on the beach.  But she couldn’t move well for the band round her chest.  She scrabbled.  Her breath hurt.  The boat slipped away.  Her head went down.  She bobbed up, mouth full, eyes burning.  The man stepped out of the boat.

She went under.  The water was so blue.  Sunshine, silver-white, above her.  The kind of day when women take their time.  The sun soft as a kiss.  Her chest on ice.  Swallowing salt.  Granny said don’t paddle past your knees – a trow will catch you!  May held her hand, screaming at the waves.

Her chest sings.  The sea is sapphires and silver.  A selkie swims up to her with green weed snarled in her hair.  Under the sea, girls become selkie wives, soft skin roughening to fins and scales.  They can never return to the human world, for their kind don’t know them again.  When the selkie comes close, she smiles and Oona knows everything will be alright, because it’s Ma and her arms are open wide.

I don’t know whether there’s some way of working all that into it (!) Maybe not…

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First Novel due out 2014


I’m delighted to announce that my first novel, The Monster’s Wife, will be published by Barbican Press in June 2014 as both a paperback and an eBook.  Martin Goodman, editor at Barbican describes the tagline for their fiction as ‘Writing from the Discomfort Zone’ and The Monster’s Wife certainly fits that!

Following in the tradition of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Seaand Valerie Martin’s Mary ReillyThe Monster’s Wife is a literary gothic that re-envisions Mary Shelley’s classic novelFrankenstein from the perspective of the girl Victor Frankenstein transformed into a Bride for his monster.  Oona Scollay is a sixteen-year-old scullery maid living on Hoy, a tiny island in Orkney in 1798.  When her best friend May disappears, Oona starts asking questions, but her search is thwarted by the conflicted loyalties within her close-knit community.  When she turns up shocking evidence, Oona becomes the next victim.  A prisoner in a dark room, living a hellish distortion of life, Oona must find a way to escape before her captor completes his plans for revenge.

I am currently working on a final edit and  the cover art is under discussion.  It all feels very exciting to think of the book emerging into print and I suddenly have a lot of new writing ideas…although I keep reminding myself I have to get this finished off first!

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