A fascination with the darkest side of humanity is far from an uncommon curiosity. Novelist Catherine Nuza has taken it upon herself to explore the rawest and darkest of human experiences in her writing. She gets into the heads of people who commit atrocities and shines a light on the part of them that needs empathy.
Earlier on this year, she published the second novel in her trilogy, Psycho-Analysis: Revenge. It follows the story of a ruthless killer as he uncovers the mystery behind the death of his family, and the revenge he takes when he finds the answers.
We spoke to Catherine to find out how she ploughs the depths of human consciousness through her work.
Kirstie: How did you get into writing?
Catherine: I have had a love for stories from a young age and even as a child I would dream up new worlds and colourful characters that resided within the realm of my imagination and pages of books. From that point onwards, I started to discover a fascination for poetry and my passion for the power of words grew into a collection that I self-published on Lulu. My life and the experiences I went through as a teenager has been encapsulated in this collection and I named it Raw.
Just over a year ago I decided to flesh out the first book in my trilogy, Psycho-Analysis: Khedlar’s Story – The Beginning. Like wild fire, my ideas just flowed out of me into future books that flourished in the ether of my mind. I have now published my poetry book Raw, Psycho-Analysis: Khedlar’s Story – The Beginning and Psycho-Analysis: Khedlar’s Story – Revenge with many more scripts in progress.
Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?
Catherine: I have always loved Salvador Dali, Stephen King and Tim Burton. They are just a few of the people I look up to. I admire the work they have produced as they are pioneers in what they do and they have pushed the boundaries of their work to the very limits of its potential.
Being an extremely visual person, art was a major influence in my life and drove my curiosity of photography and art. I have always been drawn to the intrinsic and different, especially works that show a unique point of view or style. I think this is why I have been so determined to make my books as unique as possible with a different kind of psychological thriller. I want my readers to be able to easily fall into the world I have created for them and to enjoy the journey that my stories take them on.
Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?
Catherine: Nobody new has recently come to claim my attention in any significant way. I still love the same artists I always have. I am unique in my perspective of writing and have a visual style that lets the reader feel part of the story and makes it feel all too real at times. I love pushing the boundaries of my work to the limit and try my hardest to produce something that is special and not run of the mill.
I want my stories to be fresh and new, not some tired rehashed version of a classic. I want my books to delve deeply into the human psyche to not only show the nature and acts that violent mentally ill offenders produce, but also why they do these terrible things in the first place. I like to make the reader feel slightly out of their comfort zone in that they can empathise with very real, gritty, humanistic characters they can relate to even when they become outright monsters. My work portrays what I believe to be the true underbelly of humanity that most of us are afraid of and don’t understand very well.
Author Catherine Nuza
Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?
Catherine: The first piece of work that I was really proud of was a short story about dinosaurs that I wrote when I was six. I had come up with the idea for the story from a dream and sat down determined to write it all out so that I wouldn’t forget it. I knew that the details of the dream were what made it come to life on paper and as time progressed the small intrinsic details became easier to remember. Dreams fascinated me and were my constant muse for creating and thinking up adventures or stories. Creating that first short story made me realise that the sub-conscious mind was not bound by limits or categorised in boxes, but free flowing and forever changing. It was the start of feeling the happiness of completing a short story and being able to read it to others.
Kirstie: How have you changed as a writer since then?
Catherine: When I was a young teenager, I experimented writing with all the different genres and found myself being drawn towards the psychologically dark, thriller side of life. I thought that an author needed a certain amount of intelligence to be able to write a novel in this niche and I view it as a challenge.
Placing countless threads through a storyline in such a way that teases the reader is no easy task but in time becomes part of the author and evolves their style and abilities. My art has also come into play with my writing and has been showcased on the covers of all my books.
Kirstie: What drew you to the psychological thriller genre?
Catherine: It’s a common misconception that a thrilling aspect of fear can only be found in the unknown, but I disagree. Although what we don’t know can at times be daunting, finding out that a comfort can become your worst nightmare is by far way more traumatic. The reason being that it challenges our ability to secure and keep ourselves safe from harm and if that important part of us is taken to a darker place the balance in our sense and sensibilities can shift, causing panic, anxiety and extreme distress.
I love learning about people and what they are capable of. Writing this genre helps me explore and understand this small portion of mankind that baffles some of the best minds in the world. They call these monsters sick and seek out cures using hospitals and medicines and strive to create rehabilitation for violent inmates that more often than not fails to stop them re-offending.
In my books I get to create completely alternative realities of the possibilities of what could happen and how it could be dealt with.
Kirstie: What do you think are the most important elements in writing a good psychology thriller?
Catherine: I think there are several elements that ultimately compose a good thriller such as: a good storyline, deeply detailed characters with realistic personalities and the ability to thrill the reader though the lens of cloak and dagger circumstances and psychology.
The long and complex process of building background stories, experiences, memories and social relationships takes time and patience but is well worth it in the end as nothing is worse than a novel with flat characters. There needs to be a big bad wolf character who could turn out to be true evil or even the saviour of the story, you just never know.
Kirstie: You recently released Psycho-Analysis: Khedlar’s Story – Revenge, the second book in a trilogy. Tell us about Revenge.
Catherine: Revenge is a follow on story of Khedlar’s journey into the world of sanity which he is finding to his disgust, can be worse than being locked up in an asylum. He discovers the truth behind the death of his daughter and wife after years of brainwashing. People are telling him he is a monster, a cold-blooded killer who is responsible for their deaths. He snaps and his true nature comes to fruition with a lifetime of nature and nurture moulding this relentless, calculating killer who will stop at nothing to avenge his family.
Khedlar starts out with the false confidence of an amateur and makes a colossal mess out of killing his brother Dariouse, which sets the pace for a breakneck fast story.
There is never danger far from his life and mostly he is being pursued by it or creating it. Either way he is determined no matter the cost to destroy the true monsters as he sees it. His fragmented reality and world warps in and out of sanity and is embedded in familial lies that run so deep that the truth can only be found in the dirtiest, darkest rabbit holes of our souls.
We all know the possibilities of what man can be driven to do but is it ever justified? Are there other solutions to those souls so rotten and broken they can’t even see that what they’re doing is wrong? His revenge is absolute with no turning back no matter where his delusional life will take him and he finds help in the strangest of bedfellows.
Kirstie: Where did you get the idea for the trilogy?
Catherine: I wanted to do a trilogy because the word count expected for a thriller novel wouldn’t do justice to the story that I had to tell. So much of the background, history, complex detail and characters would have been sacrificed if I had to stick to such a limited amount of words. It simply wasn’t enough to create the world I wanted with the depth and complexity that feels bottomless.
The world I’ve created has been complete and the characters well rounded and given time to grow and evolve. I didn’t want to write another book about a psychopathic killer going on a spree with a profile we could all rattle off in our sleep. I wanted to take the reader on a journey and for them to see how he got to be that terrible monster, for them to truly understand him in a way they could relate to. I wanted to show that society has to a degree got a part to play in the making of these terrible horror stories and it could happen to just about anyone, even the boy next door.
Kirstie: Can you give us some clues about where the next book will take the story?
Catherine: Nothing is as it seems in Dawn Vines and the sickness that it infests into the residents cannot be denied. Each one of my books in this trilogy will take you deeper down the rabbit hole. In The Shadows exposes the human depravity and underbelly of Dawn Vines, with Hags Cliff becoming a part of this ever expanding world.
All the pieces of the puzzle finally click into place and the unanswered questions become apparent. Someone steps out of the Shadows to take in hand a sick problem that has been allowed to thrive and fester with pus at the central fabric of their domain. It is time for some cleaning up to be done as only in a place like Dawn Vines. Their breeding ground of monsters will create the birth and absolute destruction of an iconic family that has grown too fat on the land and need to be cut back down to size. There can only be one man left standing!
Kirstie: Do you have any plans for what you’ll be working on when the trilogy is finished?
Catherine: I have already started writing a single Dawn Vines novel that will be a standalone story and focuses on a portion of the community which crosses over into Hag’s Cliff too.
The protagonist is a teenage girl and she is thrust into a sick game constructed from the delusional wreckage of a dead paranoid schizophrenic mind. This woman is not blood but claims the young teenager as a surrogate grand-daughter which thrusts her deeply into a world crazier than a bag of frogs and threatens her survival. She has to play along if she wants to survive and there is no rhyme nor reason to the lack of logic in the ultimate cat and mouse trap, that once set cannot be stopped.
The paranoid, deluded mind can create feats of sheer brilliance and new terrors wait to test this new young shaman to her very limits and will mould the future of her life, if she gets to tell the tale of her experiences.
Remember Me is a poignant coming of age tale with one huge twist that will have readers reeling in shock and sitting on the edge of their seats to find out what is going to happen next.
Kirstie: What do you hope people take away from your work?
Catherine: I hope my books make people stop and think, what if that happened to me? How would I handle that situation? Would I or could I simply walk away?
People shouldn’t be so fast to judge, every situation and person’s life is unique. It challenges stereotypical family dynamics and so-called norms in society and turns it on its head. I want people to realise there is a person behind the mask of a monster, living and breathing and that these people don’t just suddenly appear out of the ether.
It takes years for a killer to evolve and that the human mind is truly amazing in all its glory. The mind can make or break a person if we are not careful in this life. When you boil it down, telling a tale about a killer is too simplistic and has been glorified in the media through newspapers, films, etc. It always makes headlines to scare us and yet we are drawn to it because we have an innate macabre fascination.
When a person cuts their finger we always ask how did you do that instead of are you okay?
I like to explain what makes the mind so convoluted that anything becomes acceptable in our twisted realities. We are all the same deep down but some of us have lives which are more likely to drive us to extremes than others.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Catherine: Don’t give up on writing your book, see it through to the end. Every person has a unique story to tell. Try, try and try again, persistence is the key to success. Believe in yourself even when others don’t and prepare yourself mentally for potential rejection or criticism. Keep an open mind and absorb as much information as you can. Do your homework, research the industry and get to know how it works. Make sure you are dedicated and motivated to write what you love and then have the determination to see it through.