Books Magazine

Author Interview with Cat Winters, Author of “In the Shadow of Blackbirds”

By Appraisingpages @appraisjngpages

Today I have the pleasure of introducing to our readers Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds.  You may have seen her name around her recently as her book is one of the giveaway prizes for our Ghost Week giveaway!  I also listed her book on my Top 10 Books on my Fall To-Read List.


Not only did she offer her book in our giveaway but she also let me interview her which was so fun!  It was on a whim that I bought her book at comic con and now it’s turned into a friendship with an author; this is what I LOVE about blogging!

You can read our interview below, and make sure to check out my review of her book posting tomorrow!

1.)  What are your favorite Halloween traditions from growing up?

I love watching the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the old Disney cartoon version), listening to Halloween music, trips to pumpkin patches in the countryside, and decorating the house in a major way.

2.)  What was the book and/or movie that scared you the most?

I read Sarah Waters’s creepy ghost novel, The Little Stranger, when I was falling asleep on an airplane one time, and I was so scared and ridiculously tired that I thought I saw dark phantom shapes moving in the aisle. As far as the movie that scared me the most, I’d say The Silence of the Lambs. I find real-life monsters, such as serial killers, to be far more horrifying than pretend ones.

3.)  What’s your favorite Halloween treat?

My mom made Reese’s Chewy Chocolate Cookies for my sister and me every October, and now I do the same thing for my two kids. Those delicious peanut butter/chocolate cookies will forever remind me of the Halloween season.

4.)  Quick: Apple Cider or Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Apple cider (but my teenage daughter adores PSLs)

5.)  What inspired you to write in the horror genre?

I’ve loved ghost stories ever since I was kid. My earliest ghostly reads came from my elementary school’s Scholastic Book orders: 13 Ghostly Tales, edited by Freya Littledale, and The Ghost Next Door, by Wylly Folk St. John. As a teen I devoured classic Gothic literature, especially Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. 

6.)  Do you ever scare yourself writing your books?

The research usually scares me more than the writing. I read The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences, by P.M.H. Atwater, when I was working on In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and I came across some real-life near-death stories that had me looking over my shoulder late at night. I think I had one WWI-related nightmare when I was writing the novel, and after tackling a difficult scene involving the Spanish influenza, I convinced myself I was sick and feverish.

7.)  Your book takes place in 20th Century America, what challenges did you find writing in an era you’ve never personally experienced yourself and can you tell us about any research you did?  (I saw that your book includes some creepy photographs so I thought this would be a fun one!)

The most challenging part was making sure every word and phrase I wrote would have existed in 1918. My editor, copy editor, proofreader, and I did our best to make the novel as historically accurate as possible, but there’s a little voice at the back of my head that always asks, “Did you catch everything?”

At the book’s website,, I’ve shared some of my favorite reference books, history-related websites, historical images, and 1918 movies, all of which helped me with my research. I also pored over WWI letters, personal accounts of the Spanish influenza, and literature from the time period. 

The book is illustrated with archival images from WWI, the Spanish influenza, and the early-twentieth-century spirit photo craze. Photography plays an enormous role in the plot, so I felt it would be fun to intersperse historical images throughout the pages as an extra doorway into this sad, bizarre moment in America’s past.

8.) Have you ever had any supernatural experiences?

I convinced myself that my room was haunted when I was a kid, but as I said above, I got into ghost stories at an early age. I’m sure most of the strange tapping sounds and other ghostly activity were merely the products of an overactive imagination. I’ve walked through several historic haunted homes and taken ghost tours in a few major cities, including New Orleans, and I’ve found there are some places that just feel haunted—you can sense someone there, even when you’re not seeing anything. Maybe it’s because you’re standing in a place that’s already been deemed “haunted,” but I think everyone has experienced that flesh-chilling sensation of a cold spot in an atmospheric old room, the weight of a pair of unseen eyes upon you…

9.)  What advice do you have to other writers and aspiring writers?

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. We’re each on our own publication paths, and the most important thing for you to do is to focus on your own work and to make it as strong as it can possibly be. Read books by ridiculously talented authors so you’ll feel challenged to set the bar higher for yourself. Accept feedback from others. Attend writing conferences. Don’t rush to send off a project when you know in your gut it needs more work. It’s a competitive world out there, and you need to take good care of your writing babies before you send them on their way.    

10.)  What do you have on your writing and publishing horizon?

My second gothic YA historical novel, The Cure for Dreaming, is coming Fall 2014 from Amulet Books, and I’m really excited to share more about the book once the cover and synopsis are revealed next spring. I’ve started writing a third novel, which I hope to finish in early 2014, and I have a top-secret collaborative project in the works. Hopefully, you’ll hear more about all of these endeavors in the next year or two.

I for one cannot WAIT for her next book, I love the idea of “gothic history”, I had never really heard that genre coined until now and it’s the kind of pseudo-steampunk with a horror twist that I really enjoy.  Oh, and the cover and synopsis reveal?  Pick me!  Pick me!

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for my review of her novel.  Which of her answers surprised you the most?

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