Today I’m delighted to welcome to Unusual Fiction, fellow Irish author; Catherine Kullmann. While Catherine’s usual work is in the historical romantic fiction genre, her book of choice for our horror series; The Zombi of Caisteal Dun, falls under the genre of gothic/zombie horror which in one swoop combines two of my favourite horror genres in one and is currently at the top of my tbr list!
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She and her husband of over forty years have three adult sons and two grandchildren. Catherine has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
After taking early retirement Catherine was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write fiction. Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo.
In Perception & Illusion, published in March 2017, Lallie Grey, cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.
In her new book, A Suggestion of Scandal, governess Rosa Fancourt finds her life and future suddenly at risk when she surprises two lovers in flagrante delicto. Even if she escapes captivity, the mere suggestion of scandal is enough to ruin a lady in her situation. In Sir Julian Loring she finds an unexpected champion but will he stand by her to the end?
What draws you to horror as a genre?
To be perfectly honest, I am too squeamish to enjoy real horror. In my teens I read Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, a lot of Edgar Allan Poe, but I have never moved on from these classics. Ghost stories are different, but I’ll go into that in Question 2. So what am I doing here? I write historical fiction and wrote The Zombi of Caisteal Dun in response to a challenge to write about ‘period zombies’. When I discovered that the word Zombi was first used in 1819, I was able to build on that to write a short story in the gothick style that was so fashionable at the time.
In your opinion, what are the essential components of a great ghost story?
An element of the supernatural coupled with suspension of disbelief so that we really engage with the story. Our emotions must be involved—that shiver must run down our spine. But not all ghost stories have to be scary. One of my favourites is The Ghost and Mrs Muir by R A Dick. It is very funny, a tender, touching love story and I always cry at the end.
If you could have a celebrated horror/ghost story writer (living or dead) endorse your writing whom would you pick?
Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
What is your favourite character from one of your works and why?
I always find this so difficult to answer. It is like being asked which of your children do you love most. It is not a horror or ghost story, but I enjoyed creating Meg Overton, a malicious society lady, in A Suggestion of Scandal, and also seeing that she got her comeuppance.
Excerpt from The Zombi of Caisteal Dun.
“On she went, down, down, down into the void, her foot constantly testing the darkness below her, praying that she would not miss a step on the interminable, steep stair; on and on until she came to sudden, staggering halt as the ground rushed to meet her. She could descend no further.
Her legs trembled and, heart pounding, she collapsed onto the bottom step where she remained for some minutes. Now she was here, she wasn’t sure what to do. She had two choices—go back or go on. Cold perspiration trickled between her breasts. She shivered. Don’t be so lily-livered, she told herself fiercely. You must go on.
It was easy to draw the iron bolt that barred the only door. Too easy—it spoke of regular use, otherwise the bolt would be stiff and rusted and the door draped in cobwebs. It opened towards her and she remained in its shelter until she was sure no horror loitered on the other side. All was as silent and as dark as the grave. Lamp in hand, she ducked her head to pass through the low, arched doorway, emerging into a wider passage. She bit back a nervous laugh when she saw the row of heavy, padlocked doors set in the opposite wall. Storerooms? Had she gone through all of this only to visit the castle’s larders and cellars? Was the sally-port the major had spoken of now used to transport barrels and sacks? At the least, if she could discover it, she need not brave the turret staircase again.
Her steps faltered when she saw the small, square, barred opening in the first door. Summoning all her courage, she stood on tiptoe to peer into the depths of the space within. A dank, fetid smell rose from the sparse layer of dirty straw scattered on the floor but otherwise the room was empty, as was the next and the next. These were more prison cells than butteries and pantries, although the abysmal cubicles were barely long enough to permit a tall man to stretch out full length on the cold floor.
What was that? She raised her lamp higher. Manacles, fixed to the wall. The straw rustled when her light fell on it and a rat scurried into the deeper shadows. It was the only occupant.”
You can find out more about Catherine at her website catherinekullmann.com/ where, in her Scrap Album, she blogs about historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency or on her Facebook page fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor
Catherine’s books are available worldwide from Amazon as e-books and paperback and are free on Kindle Unlimited.