Blending Aww and Boo

BY CATE CULPEPPER

The most frightening room in the universe was the tiny bathroom in my parents’ house.

The terror it evoked had nothing to do with kidhood illnesses or humiliating accidents.  Our bathroom didn’t inspire visceral horror because of the stabby-shower scene in Psycho, or the corpse-in-the-bathtub chapter of The Shining.

The Culpeppers’ windowless bathroom was the only space in the neighborhood, perhaps in all of New Mexico, capable of complete, impenetrable darkness.  Our bathroom was as natural a habitat for pre-adolescent ghost stories as the sea was for the Kraken.

We’d all end up crammed in there eventually, huddled on the cold tile floor—me and a half dozen of my nearest and dearest amigas, brought together by that ancient challenge, the crafting of the perfectly calibrated horror tale.

The highest honor I’ve ever received for creativity was my reputation as the hands-down best ghost storyteller in the eighth grade.  Part of my gratification was the no-doubt unseemly pleasure I took in making six other girls scream and grope each other at will.  I emitted blood-chilling howls in that echoing little room that sent them lurching into each other’s laps.

I preferred burning a single candle when I told my stories.  The lovely faces of my listeners glowed in that small, flickering light.  Their parted lips and shining eyes were my first taste of the spooky connection writers hope to forge with readers.  Today I remember the glint in their eyes, and I hope for it still.

This serves as my long-winded explanation as to why I write about ghosts.

I’ve incorporated the supernatural in all of my books—from the Tristaine novels to my latest, Windigo ThrallWindigo Thrall 300 DPIThere are certain drawbacks to this.  Some folks just won’t read horror stories, in any form.  Those who love the genre can find more shriek-inducing writers than Cate.  There isn’t much gruesome imagery in my books, and very little blood-letting.  There’s always a potentially lethal supernatural threat, but it’s vanquished with a minimum of exploding heads or grisliness.

I’ve always considered my stories more romantic than sinister.  Creepiness is much enhanced if you genuinely care for the women being creeped upon.  If they don’t vanish forever into some spectral hell, you want them to end up together.  I focus a lot on the anxieties and joys of first love and growing passion—I just have one of the women trying to eat the other, is all.

Not the fun eat.  Eat as in bite, chew, chew, swallow, burp, bite some more.  In Windigo Thrall, Jo Call chases her beloved, Becca Healy, all over Mount Rainier, trying to eat her up.  Yep, bet I lost a few romance readers right there.

Jo and Becca are the couple introduced in my last novel, A Question of Ghosts.  Windigo Thrall also features Grady and Elena, from River Walker.  I grew fond of both couples as I wrote their first stories, and they mesh together well as a quartet.  It makes sense to me that Jo and Grady would be teeth-gnashing adversaries, and Becca and Elena fast friends.  I’ve also enjoyed my new couple, Pat and Maggie, who add some sexual spice to the spookiness.

A word about the cover.  My friend, artist Richard Gerhard, created this  witchy Windigo for me.  It’s not a typical cover image for our books—there’s nothing alluring or seductive about it. In fact, it’s rather off-putting.  But I love the ominous silence in Richard’s portrayal of this ancient monster.  The history of the Cannibal Beast in Algonquin lore is harrowing indeed, and I thank Richard and BSB artist Sheri Dragon for the unique flavor of this design.

I hope you enjoy Windigo Thrall.  Hauling you into my parents’ bathroom seems unlikely at this point; but I’ll trust you to read my story in a dark space, lit by a single candle.

10 Responses to “Blending Aww and Boo”


  1. 1 S.A. January 7, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    Thanks for the fun blog, Cate! I enjoyed River Walker, and as a WA State resident, am looking forward to Windigo Thrall. (How could a story with Mt Rainier in it not be great, right?) Can’t promise that I’ll curl up with a candle in the dark to read it, though…😉

    Like

  2. 2 Daniel W Kelly January 7, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    If you’ve been telling spooky stories since you were young and you love doing it, keep telling them!

    Like

  3. 3 Connie January 7, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    The story and characters are wonderful in this book–keeps a little chill going up and down the spine. And, do leave the lights on. 🙂

    Like

  4. 4 Erin Saluta January 7, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I so want to read more about Jo and Becca but (shivering right now) I’m such a wimp! Love your writing style though Cate!

    Like

  5. 5 Lee Lynch January 7, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    It’s a sheer delight to read your words in any form, Cate. Please keep ’em coming. And, btw, the bathroom in my parents apartment in Queens might have suited your purposes as well. Especially when the radiator clanged in the night and the roar of the toilet drowned out any warning sounds from what lived and fed behind the shower curtain.

    Like

  6. 6 Cate Culpepper January 7, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    I salute Lee Lynch for her courage in finally coming out as being a-skeered of her childhood toilet! And many thanks to Erin, S.A., Daniel, and Connie for your kind words.

    Like

  7. 8 capopovichfiction January 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    I’ve never been a big reader of horror or spooky stories, but your blog has intrigued this romance reader. I’ll probably leave the lights on when I read Windigo Thrall. At least the first time through.

    Carol

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  8. 10 Devlyn January 8, 2014 at 4:13 AM

    Thanks for the fun Blog Cate. I am the biggest ‘scaredy cat’ when it comes to Ghost stories but if you tell me it isnt too bad then I will go with that.

    Like


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