Catherine Burns' debut novel, THE VISITORS, will be launched this October by Legend press in the UK, Scout Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in the US and Hachette in Australia.
Born in Manchester, England, Catherine graduated from Trinity College Cambridge and worked as a bond trader in London, then went to study for an MA at the Moscow institute of film. She returned to Manchester and taught film theory at Salford University before devoting herself to writing full time in 2016.
As a child, she had a taste for the gothic, particularly Wilkie Collies and Edgar Allan Poe. She is inspired by Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, writers who find the dark and sinister side in mundane domestic situations and seemingly ordinary characters. The novel will appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers and literary fiction with a darker twist such as Hilary Mantel and Joyce Carol Oates.
Here she talks about her inspiration for the book.
This sinister thriller is inspired by several highly publicised crimes such as the case of Josef Fritzl in Austria and the imprisonment of Natacha Kampusch.
When stories of serial killers or sex offenders hit the news, we are not only intrigued by the perpetrators of the crime but also the other people in their lives who may or may not have known about these horrendous activities while they were taking place. It’s usually female family members who find themselves under the greatest public scrutiny; Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of the Yorkshire Ripper was involved in a famous defamation case.
And when women come under media scrutiny they are judged not only by what they may or may not have done, but also on their appearance. Who can forget unflattering images of Primrose Shipman covering the front pages? The women, even if guilty only by association, are in some way made out to be more culpable than the men – we expect women to be caring, compassionate, decent. This is why the character of Marion, and the reader’s reaction to her, was particularly interesting to me. I also wanted to raise the question of how far someone would go to protect a loved one, even if they’d done something terrible.
British seaside towns have a peculiarly sinister air: rickety fairground rides threaten dismemberment or even death, children splash on the beach while parents worry about them being swept out to sea, stacks of garish toys tempt you to throw away your money on rigged fairground games. Many northern seaside resorts grew prosperous as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Victorian patriarchs paraded their families along the promenade and gasped at freak shows, spending money earned from the misery of mill workers and slavery. The theme of pleasure being obtained from the suffering of others is clearly present in the novel.
IMMIGRATION; THE OTHER
The women that John victimises are all ‘foreign.’ To some extent Marion manages to distance herself from their suffering because of this. There is a sense that if he didn’t imprison them, they would become criminals or ‘benefit scroungers.’ I think many people in affluent Western cultures tend to treat the suffering of people from certain foreign cultures as less valid. Perhaps this tendency is an inevitable reaction to the media bombardment of depictions of human suffering in far flung locations and a feeling of helplessness to do anything about it.