My Greatest Influence BY Catherine Cavendish
Since I’ve been fortunate enough to be a published writer, I have met many others and once of the first things I discovered is that I wasn’t alone in having been the nerdy schoolgirl who used to inwardly cheer when our English teacher would set us an essay to write for homework. I especially hugged my inner creative embryo when we were given no clear parameters as to what that essay would centre on. Sometimes it would be a line from a poem which could be interpreted in a myriad of ways. On other occasions it would be an emotion we had to express – be it joy, sorrow or whatever. All around me, my fellow students would groan while I wanted to do that Mary Tyler Moore thing with my (ridiculously old fashioned) school hat.
For decades I believed I was the only one who ever felt like that. What a relief to discover I wasn’t.
I should have realised it really though because while there have been and still are a host of people I count as influences on me and on my writing, there is one who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Her name was Doris May Buttery. She was born on 23rd October 1920 and passed away on 13th March 2018 – and Doris was my Mum. She loved to write.
When I was a little girl and, okay, I’ll say it first, that was a long time ago, one of my enduring memories is of Mum sitting at the dining room table, her pencil sharpened, lost in her own world as she busily transcribed memories of her childhood, growing up in a small Staffordshire village between the two world wars, onto sheets of lined foolscap paper.
While Mum wrote, I would play with my dolls or my cat, Penny. I would make up stories, read, let my imagination run free…
And day after day, once her chores were done, Mum would write. She had a small win on the Football Pools and used to it to pay for a creative writing course where she learned the art of short story writing. I still have at least some of those stories. They were fiction but always, somewhere, there lurked a grain of truth. Invariably set in the 1920s or 1930s there would be a character in there that I would later come to identify in her memoirs. Sometimes she would write about a scandal that I would later discover had actually taken place – although the names and some identifying details had all been changed.
I can’t remember exactly when she stopped writing. But for years, maybe a decade or more, the pencils and foolscap were put aside only for her to return one day and pick up where she left off. This became a pattern. Days and weeks of daily writing followed by months and years of none. From her childhood she moved onto recollections of the war years 1939-1945 when she served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) – the British women’s army of the time. Sadly, she didn’t get too far with these but the account of being a naive eighteen-year-old office girl joining up (against her father’s wishes) immediately casts the reader back to those far off years. Mum could certainly create atmosphere and a sense of time and place in her writing.
Meanwhile, I had caught the writing bug. Watching her may have been the catalyst, or perhaps it was simply because she enjoyed it. Some of those school essays of mine grew into short stories; one eventually morphed into a novel. Mum encouraged me while my father considered my desire – at around eight or nine years old – to purchase a portable typewriter as a complete waste of time and money. I bought my typewriter, selling a number of toys in order to do so. The rest, as they say, is history.
After Mum passed away, I found the folder I knew existed and opened it. There were Mum’s childhood memories. These eventually became a published book An Elford Childhood .
Mum never ventured down the path of supernatural, ghostly or scary stories. Nor did she attempt a crime story – although in her later years especially, crime fiction was by far her preferred genre. She did, however, tell me that she had always enjoyed a good spooky book when she was younger so maybe that’s where I get it from. I also enjoy crime – real or fictional and Agatha Christie was a shared passion of ours.
Mum left me a legacy of a love of reading and writing, history and cats. Wherever she is now, I hope she is enjoying a good book, with a cat purring on her lap, a notebook and pencil by her side and a nice cup of tea.
As for my latest? Well, I hope Mum would approve. There is an awful lot of her in one of my main characters – Vi – and then of course there’s her hero,Winston Churchill, those secret underground war rooms and…
Eligos is waiting…fulfil your destiny
1941. In the dark days of war-torn London, Violet works in Churchill’s subterranean top secret Cabinet War Rooms, where key decisions that will dictate Britain’s conduct of the war are made. Above, the people of London go about their daily business as best they can, unaware of the life that teems beneath their feet.
Night after night the bombs rain down, yet Violet has far more to fear than air raids. A mysterious man, a room only she can see, memories she can no longer trust, and a best friend who denies their shared past… Something or someone – is targeting her.
Dark Observation is available here:
Bookshop.org (where you can support your favourite local bookshop)
and at good bookshops everywhere (on the shelf or to order)
About The Author
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels and novellas.
Her novels include: Dark Observation, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe, The Garden of Bewitchment. The Haunting of Henderson Close, The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse an Saving Grace Devine.
Her novellas include: The Darkest Veil, Linden Manor, Cold Revenge, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, Dark Avenging Angel, The Devil Inside Her, and The Second Wife
She lives by the sea in Southport, England with her long-suffering husband, and a black cat called Serafina who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshipped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue.
You can connect with Cat here:
Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio