A big welcome to Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead as part of their release of How To Make The Perfect Man from Pride Publishing.
Tell us about your Halloween story and the inspiration behind it.
EH: Our Halloween novella is romcom “How to Make the Perfect Man”. The inspiration came from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Our scientist, Aubrey Waldergrave, has decided to make some arm candy so that when he goes to the Chief Wizard’s Halloween Ball, he won’t look like the eternal singleton! But it doesn’t quite go to plan when his “perfect man” comes alive after having a jolt of lightning run through him and he turns out to be a surfer dude. And Aubrey starts to realise that actually, his perfect man already exists in the shape of alchemist Trismegistus Nimlet. But does Tris view him as anything more than a friend?
What’s your favourite Halloween or paranormal book or film? Do you like things to be creepy like an MR James ghost story, or are you a fan of horror?
CC – I don’t really have a favourite but I have lots of go-to films and books that I can return to again and again. From Hammer’s Dracula to Drag Me to Hell via Night of the Living Dead and What We Do in the Shadows, there’s something comforting about settling down with a good horror film, especially if it serves up some laughs along the way. My Master’s dissertation was on Hammer Karnstein trilogy and one of my earliest memories is seeing Peter Cushing in The Mummy on TV with my grandad, so my relationship with horror movies goes back a long way. The first modern horror I saw was Hellraiser, when I was 14, and it terrified me. After that, I was hooked on the genre! I don’t like a lot of gore these days though, which anyone who has known me a long time still finds hard to believe. It used to be the gorier the better for me but I woke up from a lifesaving 14-hour operation with no taste for the nasties anymore. There are honourable exceptions of course, for something like the marvellously batty Ash Vs Evil Dead, in which the splatter is so far over the top that it crosses the line into comedy.
When it comes to literature, however, I don’t read modern horror at all. For me, the master of the genre is MR James. There’s been nobody to touch him before or since. His understanding of terror is masterful and the last scenes of Count Magnus still send a chill down my spine – that creeping, horrible inevitability that something is waiting,…
EH – I’m still fond of the film The Lost Boys, which I absolutely loved when I was a teenager. Some years ago, I bought the Hammer Horror box set, which has some corkers on it. Like Catherine, I’m not particularly into gore — unsettling films like The Nanny, starring a terrifying Bette Davis, are more my thing!
That said, I love the BBC’s Ghost Stories for Christmas, which were made in the 1970s and began life based on MR James’ ghost stories. Once you’ve watched Lost Hearts, you’ll never be able to listen to a hurdy-gurdy again without your blood turning to ice in your veins. Ghost Stories for Christmas included an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ spine-tingling short story The Signalman, with a fantastic performance by the late, great Denholm Elliott. When I was a child, the first books I read by myself and loved were Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch stories, but nowadays, like Catherine, it’s MR James for me. That said… I recently read Rhiannon Ward’s The Quickening, a very creepy, atmospheric gothic mystery set in the 1920s.
Do you have any Halloween traditions?
CC – Definitely. We trim up the house, get piles of trick or treat goodies in and watch an evening of horror whilst eating some food that wouldn’t be out of place around a Crystal Lake campfire. Our wee dog Pippa gets into one of her Halloween knits – this year she has a sequined skull on her sweater – and always helps when we answer the door, sometimes in her teeny-tiny witch hat!
EH – My partner collects skull ornaments so our house looks like it’s perpetually ready for Halloween!
What would you rather be: a ghost, a witch, a wizard, a vampire, a werewolf… or something else? What would you get up to?
CC – A banshee would be pretty cool because I do like a good old sing. Otherwise I’ll go for phantom, so I can float about nosying at what people get up to when they think nobody is watching.
EH – Being a vampire would be rather good because it’d mean I could fly, but I wouldn’t enjoy not being able to go out in daylight, and having to find all that blood to keep myself going would be a bit exhausting! Being a witch would be fun, what with casting spells and flying on broomsticks, although I’d have to keep quiet the fact that my great-several-times uncle helped The Witchfinder General prosecute witches. Awkward.
Where do you write and when? Do you have any writing routines?
CC – When I’m writing fiction, wherever and whenever I can. God bless smart phones and public wifi! I also have a snazzy little office at home where I can write at my desk surrounded by Ghostbusters memorabilia. Rather aptly, I share my office with my husband’s enormous movie collection. It’s over 3,000 films and a good deal of them are horror, from the silent era right up to today. He has a much stronger stomach th
an me though!
EH – As Catherine says, writing on a phone makes life a lot easier. I’ve written while sitting at the hairdresser’s waiting for my dye to take, on the bus, in the garden, in the park… all over the place, really! And at my desk, too. It’s extremely untidy, but then it’s nice to have everything to hand. Although I’m not sure I really need a rubber heart in a jar within easy reach, unless I’m actually turning into Aubrey Waldergrave! I don’t have a Hammer Horror-esque laboratory within easy reach, though, so I won’t be using the rubber heart to make a man, perfect or otherwise, anytime soon!
How To Make the Perfect Man is published on 27th October by Pride and is available in ebook.
Love isn’t science. It’s alchemy.
Needing a date for the hottest Hallowe’en party in town, scientist Aubrey Waldegrave sets to work creating his perfect man. Unfortunately, the Adonis who emerges from his laboratory is a free spirit who has no time for Aubrey’s brogues and tweeds.
Alchemist Trismegistus Nimlet can turn anything into gold, but when his apocathery’s alligator starts talking back and his werewolf allergy leaves him sneezing, it looks like Halloween might be a washout. Worse still, is Tris really about to lose the chap he secretly loves to a manmade surfer dude who’s more flash than Frankenstein?
With werewolves leaving fur in the ornamental fountains and a banshee making enough noise to wake the dead, Aubrey’s Halloween is going from bad to worse. All he wanted was to make his perfect man, but what if he was right there all along?
About the authors:
Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead began writing together in the spring of 2017 and swiftly discovered a shared love of sauce, well-dressed gents and a uniquely British sort of romance. They drink gallons of tea, spend hours discussing the importance of good tailoring and are never at a loss for a double entendre.
They are the authors of numerous short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride. Their novel The Ghost Garden was shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards.
Find out more at their website.
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