The Last House on Needless Street: Q&A with Catriona Ward

18 March 2021

The Last House on Needless Street is finally out!

We know you all have many questions for Catriona Ward, author of The Last House On Needless Street. Everything from the gripping plot twists that no one sees coming, to the intricacy of the characters that readers are coming to love. Today, we’re delighted to share this Q&A our lovely editor Miranda did with Catriona. Read on to get the scoop.

1. Everyone who has read The Last House on Needless Street raves about all the many twists and turns. Did you plan them in detail, or write furiously and edit afterwards? 

I knew where the book had to end up, so I wrote my way furiously towards that. It was like spinning a vast spiderweb. Each plot thread was integral yet interconnected to a hundred others, and each change affected and reverberated through the whole. It felt impossible at times but I just had to believe it would come together. And some of the most satisfying twists were the ones I discovered as I wrote.

2. A character in The Last House on Needless Street who has become an early reader favourite is the snooty cat, Olivia. Is she a complete creation, or is she based on a real cat?  

Growing up, I had a black cat called Velvet. She was born in Kenya, and came with us when we moved to Madagascar, the US, Yemen, Morocco and finally the UK where she passed away peacefully at the age of 19. Whenever I opened a book she would appear and curl up next to me. I spent most of my childhood reading – so we spent a lot of time together. I think Olivia is very much her own cat, however. As I was planning the book she strolled in from nowhere, as cats tend to do. She was already very full of opinions.

3. The Last House on Needless Street is quite different to your two previous novels, Rawblood and Little Eve, which were more straight historical gothic. Why did you decide to write a modern gothic thriller? 

I was born in the US and lived there as a child. I wanted to mine new areas of experience for this book – my US background, my lifelong fascination with serial killers and those wild forests of Washington State. It felt like time to push my boundaries as a writer and turn my love of the gothic to something strange and altogether different.

4. Who are the writers who most inspire you, and whose work you return to again and again? 

Kelly Link makes the magical seem everyday, and vice versa. I always leave her work enriched. Shirley Jackson understands that sometimes it’s the mundane that terrifies, rather than the monstrous. Growing up, Stephen King was my gateway to horror. His writing was a huge influence and still lives in my imagination today.

5. Can you tell us something about your next book, Sundial?

A mother takes her teenage daughter on a bonding trip to her abandoned childhood home, Sundial, which sits in the great expanses of the Mojave desert in Southern California. Each thinks the other is planning to murder her out there. It sounds sinister, and it is – but it’s also about compassion, sacrifice, and the complicated love that can hold families together.

Catriona Ward was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. Her debut Rawblood won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Little Eve won the Shirley Jackson Award, was a Guardian best book of 2018 and won the Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. She lives in London and Devon.

You can follow Catriona Ward on Twitter here and Miranda Jewess on Twitter here.

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