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Interview with Mark Cassell, Author of ‘Hell Cat of the Holt’

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK where he often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in several anthologies and e-zines. His best-selling debut novel The Shdow Fabric is closely followed by the popular short story collection Sinister Stitches and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos of demons, devices, and deceit. The dystopian sci-fi short story collection Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill is in association with Future Chronicles Photography where he works closely with their models and cosplayers. Mark’s 2017 release, Hell Cat of the Holt, further explores the Shadow Fabric mythos with ghosts and black cat legends.

PopHorror: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Mark Cassell: Perhaps it began when I was about six or seven years old and wrote a story called The Clockwork Man. It was more about a clockwork boy to be honest, whose mother had a fault with the mechanism in her arm. The only thing the clockwork boy could do was find a piece of wire that would fix it. After hunting all through the house, he eventually found one in the family car.

PopHorror: Aw! What a sweet story! Most of your books and stories (so far, at least) have been horror related. What draws you to horror?

Mark Cassell: Whether alien horror or supernatural horror, it does it for me. I don’t go much for mankind’s horror. I’m talking about the horror that exists on the other side of our reality. I’ve never seen a ghost or anything supernatural, so I guess that’s why I write it. Perhaps one day I’ll witness something.

PopHorror: Tell me about the first horror story you ever read.

Mark Cassell: When I was about thirteen years old, my dad suggested I read James Herbert’s Magic Cottage. This novel snatched me into a world that kicked my imagination into overdrive. I remember how the atmosphere swallowed me whole and I felt like one of the characters. I’ve been hooked on horror ever since.

PopHorror: Do you have a favorite horror novel? What do you love about it?

Mark Cassell: These days, it’s getting difficult to choose one in particular. However, the one novel that always shines is Brian Lumley’s Necroscope. It’s the way he’s combined ancient evils, secret intelligence and perhaps the most gruesome shape-shifting creatures I’ve ever come across. Atop that, it’s a series where each subsequent novel builds an incredible story.

 PopHorrorHow about your favorite horror movie?

Mark Cassell: Another tricky question to answer because there have been many amazing releases over the years. But I’m going to say the 2012 movie Sinister directed by Scott Derrickson. Incidentally, he’s the man behind one of the recent Marvel Universe installments, Doctor Strange.

For me, Sinister pushed some boundaries and reenergised my excitement after having gotten sick of gratuitous gore. I’ll admit that I had begun retreating to my Hammer Horror days. I believe this movie inspired me to actually get on and write my debut novel The Shadow Fabric (2014).

 PopHorror: Hell Cat of the Holt is your most recent book. Can you tell me about the storyline?

Mark Cassell: The story follows Anne, who returns to the village of Mabley Holt to piece together her life after a family tragedy. When her cat vanishes, and a neighbour claims to speak with his dead wife, she soon learns there’s more to the village than any resident dares admit. In search of her beloved pet, she discovers not only family secrets but also revelations of a local legend. As she treads an unsteady path between folklore and fact, her confidence in where she grew up begins to crumble… Into hell.

It’s a novella set in the Shadow Fabric mythos, and isn’t just a ghost story, nor is it your typical black cat sighting. Just like any of my SFM tales, it’s dark and has a splash of blood. Who am I kidding? There’s plenty of blood. It was fun writing this one, delving into a common theme and turning it on its head. And adding that all important demon.

PopHorror: Do you ever construct your characters with specific people in mind? 

Mark Cassell: Every author will admit in taking traits from everyone they know and meet. Though I hold my hand up and say that Leo, a character who makes a regular appearance in my Shadow Fabric stories, is pretty much me. He has a few issues that are fictitious – honest! – but his characteristics mirror my own. Even down to his knee injury, although mine was caused by something less… um… dramatic.

PopHorror: Well, I hope so! (laughs) Tell me about some of your other books.

Mark Cassell: I’ve a few titles out there. The Shadow Fabric novel is about demons, devices, and deceit. We follow Leo, a man who remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day he witnesses a murder, and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it. Uncovering secrets long hidden from humankind, Leo’s memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens his existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone… including himself.

In addition to this, there’s Sinister Stitches (2015), a collection of short stories in the Shadow Fabric mythos, and Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill (2016)which contains the first episodes of a speculative fiction series originally published in the Future Chronicles e-zine. Of course, there’s also my latest release, Hell Cat of the Holt. 

PopHorror: If you could see any of your stories turned into a film, which one would it be and why?

Mark Cassell: Taking a story that once began as a scribble in a notebook and then seeing it on film is a mind-blowing concept. But, of course, is something I’d love to happen. Of all my mythos stories, I’d say Ten Minutes Till Deadtime because I believe it juggles several topics that are rarely combined in horror films. The extreme circumstances the main character endures is coupled with a severe bout of sleep deprivation. Already struggling to balance work and home life, the supernatural occurrences and the stress of the situation affect him and his wife on an intimate level. This is one of my favourite Shadow Fabric mythos stories, and was in fact one of the first I wrote. Even though The Shadow Fabric novel would be awesome to see onscreen, I think it’s too big a concept to be delivered in one hit. So perhaps that would work well as a TV series. Maybe one day, huh?

PopHorror: You never know! What is your favorite subject to write about?

Mark Cassell: I’ll always continue to write about what’s beyond the veil of our everyday lives. That’s most likely why my stories tend to be about normal people thrown into unusual situations, taking them into a darkness both inside themselves as well as out of their comfort boundaries.

PopHorror: Do you have anything you’re working on now that you can talk about?

Mark Cassell: I have three editors on my back about upcoming anthologies, so once I have written those, I’ll get back to my next personal project: a novella based on the troubled history of some key characters from The Shadow Fabric novel. Also, I am gradually weaving a sequel. And that seems to be taking some time, much to my readers’ dismay.

PopHorror: Are you inspired by anyone in the business?

Mark Cassell: No one in particular. We all have our own paths to follow. Over the years, I’ve of course been inspired by the big names, but now? Well, I guess I’m simply inspired by everyone whose voice shouts into the same crowd as my own.

PopHorror: If you could collaborate with any author on any kind of project, who would they be and why?

Mark Cassell: A collaboration with one of my literary heroes would be quite nice. Brian Lumley or Clive Barker, to name only two. Of course, the late James Herbert would have been on the list. His work was so British, and I like to think we would’ve worked well together.

PopHorror: What scares you?

Mark Cassell: It’s a rational fear: heights. I’m fine on roller coasters where velocity snatches away the fear to replace it with adrenaline. As I’ve gotten older, I too often experience stomach-tugging moments whether high up a mountain or walking along a regular overpass.

Totally rational, as I said. I would die if I fell!

PopHorror: It’s not the height that will kill you… (laughs) Now’s the time where you tell me about anything you want to get out there and answer any questions you wish I’d asked. You must get sick of answering the same questions over and over. There must be something else you’d like people to know about you. Go into as much detail as you want!

Mark Cassell: When I first scribbled ideas for the Shadow Fabric concept, I never intended it to be anything beyond a stand alone novel. However, I did set about creating a novel that I wanted to read, having been bored to death of vampires and werewolves, of zombies and goblins.

I needed to strip naked the old tropes of witchcraft and demonology, to recreate my own foundations. It was a slow process, and still is given that the mythos is evolving. Every story, no matter the length, hides a dark core. Whether it’s the evil within us as a species or the evils beyond the wall of our reality.

PopHorror: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Mark!

Hell Cat of the Holt is a novella in the Shadow Fabric mythos and is available from Amazon in the UK and the US 

For one of Mark’s FREE stories go to: www.markcassell.com

Or visit the website: www.theshadowfabric.co.uk

 

About Tracy Allen

Hiding out in the lonely Quiet Corner in Northeastern Connecticut, Tracy Allen has been an avid horror movie since she was a young girl. Growing up in the ’80s, Tracy has lived through many a change in musical stylings and movie trends, and uses that history to come up with as many colorful, well-rounded reviews as possible.

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