Kate Horsley Menu

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Puppets and Portraits

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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 the youngest member of our family, Violet (age 5), 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 Doll

‘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.


Wet Plate Portrait Event

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Wet_Plate_Event_PosterJohn 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!


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 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!


The Mask Series

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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.


Wetplate Photography Event at Lancaster

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Wetplate Event21st 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.


pdf-iconDownload PDF poster.

This event has been organised in collaboration with the Lancaster Department of English & Creative Writing and the Lancaster University Photographic Society.


Moving Worlds: Crime Across Cultures

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Crime Across Cultures 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/


Results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Competition

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Sentinel Literary QuarterlyI recently judged a short story competition for Sentinel Literary Quarterly and they have just announced the results.  A lot of fantastic stories were submitted.  I enjoyed the variety of literary styles and genres represented, ranging from crime fiction to sci-fi to comedy.  The six winning stories are very different in style, but they all take a courageous approach to their subject matter and in each, the quality of writing as well as structure and characterization, is strong. The First Prize Winner, Sarah Evans’s ‘Glittering Girls’, tells the story of Sofiya, a young girl caught in impoverished circumstances who dreams of the city, where ‘fluorescent lights turn night to tinted day’.  The story combines a dystopian setting with telling details of Sofiya’s worlds – real and imagined – and has the timeless atmosphere of a fable.  The narration is stark, pulling us into the fluctuating current of Sofiya’s emotions as she leaves her drab home behind, not knowing what her ambition might cost her.

The Second Prize-winner, ‘Memory’, by Paxton Avenue, explores a father-son relationship through the lens of reverie.  Building up layers of careful detail to create a darkly nostalgic mood, this story is readable and compelling.  The writer uses the five senses to lead us between the past and the present, shifting between seasons and years, between childish and adult impressions: ‘As a child, barely taller than the door handle, the boy woke into a high-mooned summer night’.  The story ends on a bitter-sweet moment, beautifully evoking the narrator’s sense of loss. The Third Prize goes to a piece of historical fiction by  Jim Kroepfl, ‘Spirit of the Pike’, which excels at natural description and skillfully conjures a far-off time and place. The main character, Kannihut, hunts a pike, his thoughts and movements echoing that of the elusive fish.  The story is built up moment by moment to create a vivid sense of Kannihut’s experience and the writing throughout is taut and captivating.

The three Highly Commended stories,  Julie Swan’s ‘Mind How You Go’, Joan Dowling’s ‘Cold Comfort’ and Andrew Campbell-Kearsey’s ‘Dying to Speak’ are all engaging tales that share a darkly ironic vision of life.  ‘Mind How You Go’ creates a futuristic world in which a tour-guide hosts a journey through the mind of a killer.  ‘Cold Comfort’ fuses the narrator’s wrenching grief to melancholy visions of her lost child returned to her, cleverly leaving the reader uncertain of whether or not this it a ghost story. ‘Dying to Speak’ is a darkly comic tale of illness, paranoia and eventual epiphany about the narrator’s tragic condition.


Sentinel Literary Quarterly Competitions 2013

sentinel champions 10 cover

Look out for New Short Story competitions at Sentinel Literary Quarterly, including the African Prisons Project competition judged by Alison Lock and the Quarterly Short Story competition judged by me.


Closing Date: 28-Feb-2013

Theme: Open

Length: 1500 words maximum (Excluding title)

Prizes: N35,000 (1st), N20,000 (2nd), N10,000 (3rd), N4000 x 3 (High Commendation).

Fees: N450 / £2.50 per story

Publication: Yes. In Sentinel Nigeria Magazine

Judge: Judge Dibia

Enter online or by post here.



Closing March 31, 2013

Prizes: £150, £75, £50, and 3 x £10

Publication: In Sentinel Literary Quarterly Magazine.

Fees: £5 per story, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4

Enter Competition here


Closing Date: 20th March 2013
Prizes: £100, £50, £30, £10 x 2 + publication in Excel for Charity News Blog
Entry Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4 (Enter as many stories as you wish)

Enter online or by post

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Seventh Quarry Magazine

Seventh_Quarry_2Two of my poems, ‘On Mending a Lost Letter’ and ‘Blue Plums’ have just appeared in Seventh Quarry Magazine and it was lovely to get my copy of it in the post and read some of the fantastic writing featured in there.  Here’s one of the poems of mine that was published in Issue 17, Winter 2013:

On Mending a Lost Letter

The paper’s yellowed, but the watermark’s

still plain, hand-made, sheer as a stocking.


Some perfume – Blue Waltz maybe – mingles

with ink that has turned grey from time.


He lines the pieces on linoleum,

tallies shred with shred, matches threadbare


ribbons of words, mends a g’s curve

an n’s bend, holds up the whole, reads her


round hand, lays his face against her

old address and hears the paper sing.

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