MY NAME IS MARY SUTHERLAND
MY NAME IS MARY SUTHERLAND began life as a short story during a creative writing course. The course was well structured and touched on many and varied themes. One particular week’s homework involved writing a horror story for the young adult market and the brief was this: a teenager is alone in a house babysitting, hears a noise and goes to investigate. The story almost wrote itself, the tutor and the fellow students were encouraging, and it was submitted to Cooldog Publications who awarded it third place and published it online. Nice enough, but what if…? Was there enough back story? Would it be possible to chart the protagonist’s journey from content, overweight teenager to… well, you’d have to read the book to find out. Kate worked it gradually from a story of just over two thousand words to novella length. Then edited it. Then gave it to some willing readers, bless them! Then edited again, And again. And once more. Then she began submitting it to literary agents, believing that was the best route to try and find a publisher. How wrong she was. Despite many kind words and positive comments, a ’no’ is still a ‘no.’ Her mentor, Reggie Oliver suggested she approach Pete Crowther at PS Publishing. Like the man from Delmonte, he said ‘yes,’ and the rest is history.
It is the story of an overweight, bespectacled teenager whose world is turned upside down when her mother dies suddenly and her father remarries with almost indecent haste. He is besotted with the elegant and calculating Tiffany, and Mary is marginalised for the twins crimes of being fat and having bad hair. With the birth of Rosie, her half-sister, she feels further excluded. Ironically it is the baby who provides her with some form of the unconditional love that her life otherwise lacks. Her stepmother makes her views quite clear: Mary is altogether surplus to requirements. MY NAME IS MARY SUTHERLAND is a tale of parental neglect, the psychological abuse of a minor and the terrible price that is ultimately paid.
AND NOBODY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER
Kate Farrell readily admits that she is incapable of writing a happy ending. Her collection of stories called AND NOBODY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER, published by Parallel Universe Publications, proves that. She has a preference for the ‘conte cruel’, an everyday tale of domestic mayhem, wherein bad things happen to bad people. Sometimes the innocent suffer too. And why not? It is a wicked old world out there. Yes, the clue is in the title.
Several of the stories have been published previously: Charlie Black had in his Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Black Books of Horror respectively MEA CULPA, HIS FAMILY, DAD DANCING (also in Best British Horror 2014) and ALMA MATER. For Johnny Mains there was HELPING MUMMY in The Screaming Book of Horrors; Paul Finch published THE SANDS ARE MAGIC in Terror Tales of the Seaside. Continually harvesting notions, reading listening and looking, Kate has included several new stories too: HOW I GOT HERE; THE EFFICIENT USE OF REASON; NO JUNK MAIL; LAS COSAS QUE HACEMOS POR EL AMOR and more besides.
Many of the stories are on a small suburban scale but not all are contes cruels. Among the tales there is the supernatural, in the previously unpublished A MURDER OF CROWS, and also in ALMA MATER. This has been described as ‘a creepy nun instant classic’. There is humour, of a sort, in A. REEVES TALE, and a new take on a fairy story in ONCE UPON THE END. Among the dramatis personae there are to be found: nuns, psychotic teenagers, the perfect couple, helpful children, a lonely widow, a former model, an unrepentant priest, a fallen president. There is revenge, and a high body count.
Something for everybody?
This is her first venture into the small but perfectly formed world of the chapbook. WAITING began life as a short story and is featured as such in AND NOBODY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER. There was always a back story to be told, And this is it. For a change the protagonist is good and gentle, unreservedly and unashamedly and unfashionably nice. Surely not? Ah, but this is Kate Farrell, remember.