Today I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Kate Cann, who stopped by to discuss the U.S. release of Possessed, a spine-tingling novel involving a young girl and an old manor house full of ancient secrets and creepy, supernatural appeal.
In Possessed, Rayne leaves the claustrophobia and demands of her life behind when she leaves East London to work at Morton Keep, an old beautiful residence with a long, mysterious history and shrouded in the supernatural. Are you like Rayne at all, in her desire to leave the hustle and bustle of busy city life for the peace of the countryside?
Perceptive question! A lot of the fuel for Possessed came from my longing to move from London to the countryside. Not so much for peace as for something wilder and more natural, to see the stars at night and hear the wind in the trees. We moved while I was writing the sequel to Possessed, and it really helped with research. Now I can see deer from our bedroom window; pheasants stalk into our garden, and owls hunt there at night. I love it.
Did you visit any haunted locations to help really capture the spooky, terrified feelings Rayne goes through in the Possessed? If so, did you have any experiences you can share with us?
I was able to spend the whole day - and then the night! - at an ancient manor house that a friend of my husband is the trustee of. It was wonderful; I had total freedom to roam the place, taking notes furiously. The atmosphere was charged, clotted; I really felt the weight of its history, of all that had happened there. The housekeeper told me all the ghost stories associated with the place just before bed, and the night was probably one of the scariest I’ve ever spent! The first night that Rayne spends in the Old Sty was based on what I felt then – too afraid to put out my hand to pick up a glass of water and so on. The whole visit was an absolute gift; my imagination was in overdrive.
Possessed contains a lot of interesting history, both in the architecture of Morton Keep itself and in the local customs of the town. For instance, Fire dancers perform regularly and there are mysterious ritualistic activities within the woods. Even the fireplace in Morton Keep sprouts pagan images of two-legged goat men. What type of research in these avenues did you do in preparation for writing Possessed?
The fireplace was a direct pinch from the old manor house! Apart from my time there, I did no specific research, although I was very influenced by going to the autumn fire festivals at Newick and Lewes in Sussex (check out the photos on my website). I love the idea that these old traditions continue even though most people have forgotten their origins, and found myself thinking - what if they’d been put in place as protection, and one day that protection was needed again ….?
Can you tell what inspired you to write a novel steeped in Gothic mystery, eerie presences and old, historical mansions with sordid pasts?
I love the Gothic genre, its subtlety and dark, romantic atmosphere - hints and whispers and half-understood things. I wanted to create a true Gothic heroine who has to confront her deepest fears and survive. And I loved the idea of having to burrow back into history to find the solution to a present threat.
There are numerous supernatural forces at work in Possessed, including the “green lady”, full of “fire, flood and fury”. Out of all the elements of your book, was there one aspect in particular that was the most fun or spooky to write about?
I think you’ve hit on the one that meant the most to me! I loved the idea that the green lady had dwindled down to being an old myth, old stories, but she was still there, ready to come back in force when the area was threatened. I wanted her to be half illusion – in leaves, birds, and carved in stone. I didn’t want to overwrite her – I felt she was far more powerful as just a fleeting presence in the book, remembered through old rhymes and stories.
Can you share with us a snippet of one of your favorite passages, scenes or lines from Possessed?
End of chapter 30 – the first appearance of the green lady, ‘becoming’ the palm that has broken through the greenhouse roof. That was one of the first images I had for the book – I love the idea of nature crashing through its man-made restraints.
Currently, the follow up to Possessed (or Possessing Rayne in the U.K.) has already been released for U.K. fans. Will there be more installments in this series?
I don’t think so. I see the books as two halves of a whole; when I wrote the sequel, in some ways it felt not so much a progression as going deeper into the first book – uncovering deeper, darker layers. It was almost spooky the way it all unravelled, as though I’d planned it subconsciously. It was very exciting to write. At the end of Book II, it’s like the circle is closed …but I suppose it could always break open again ….
Are you working on any other new projects at the moment?
I’m finishing off a book I’m writing for adults (as opposed to young adults!), then I really hope to be able to finish a Young Adult book I’ve started called Witch Crag. It’s set in a dystopian world where rebellious women are persecuted as witches and the only way they can protect themselves is by fleeing to a gloomy crag and then acting as witches to scare their persecutors away. It’s about how we mythologize ourselves - about image and reality and truth, and the crossings over between them. With a fair bit of gore and lust and fear thrown in …
Kate Cann lives in England with her husband, daughter, son, and dog. She worked as an editor for many years before writing several books for teens, inclduing Spanish Holiday and Grecian Holiday. For more about Kate and her novels, visit www.katecann.com.