My YA Southern Gothic novel, Koush Hollow, is set in a fictional town outside New Orleans. The title was inspired by the word cauchemar and its Southern meaning.
Koush is a derivative of cauche, which means a terror that comes in the night. The French translation is to press or trample. Mare comes from Old English and means an incubus or night-goblin. In southwest Louisiana cauchemar has another meaning. It refers to a witch-riding, a supernatural attack while one sleeps.
Various cultures in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas have different names for this phenomenon that has been experienced over the centuries. In seventeenth century North America, victims of accused Salem witches suffered from these witch-riding nightmares. The same kind of attacks are mentioned in present-day Southern folklore. The terrifying supernatural event occurs in the moments before waking up when one tries to move, but cannot. The paralysis is blamed on the supernatural and described as a feeling of pressure on one’s chest as if a demon were sitting on it or as if a witch were riding the person.
The Nightmare, 1781 Johann Heinrich Fusilli
As Koush Hollow is set outside of New Orleans in a place where bayou magic abounds, dreams are frightening, and beauty masks the real monsters, it’s a well-suited title. Here's a little to intrigue you.
Where bayou magic abounds and all that glitters…is deadly.
After her father’s untimely death, Jenna Ashby moves to Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans, dreading life with her wealthy mother.
As the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow.
How do the Diamonds & Pearls look so young, where does their money come from, and why is life along the bayou disappearing?
As Jenna is drawn into their seductive world, her curiosity and concerns beg her to uncover the truth. However, in this town where mysticism abounds and secrets are deadly, the truth is not what Jenna could have ever imagined.
This excerpt is from Chapter 1 of Koush Hollow. The sixteen-year-old main character, Jenna, seems to have a waking nightmare where an interesting creature appears, but only to her. Is it real or is it a dream?
My eyes flashed wide. A curvy, gray-haired lady tapped on my passenger side window. Jenna, snap out of it, I thought to myself. I breathed and remembered how to roll the window down.
“You okay, hon’?” She stared at my hands. “You’re shaking like you drank ten café lattes.”
“I’m j-just a little on edge. I mean, I thought I hit that…that woman.”
She jolted upright and looked around. “What are you talking about?”
My gaze flitted all around her. “She w-was r-right there—the painted woman,” I stuttered and pointed. “Where did she go?” My knees finally stopped knocking, allowing me to slide out of the car.
“You didn’t hit anyone. Are you on something?”
I stumbled to the front and bent over searching underneath the car. Nothing. No one. I stood up and scanned the sidewalks, but I didn’t see the mysterious woman anywhere.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be driving, hon’.”
Maybe I shouldn’t be.
“Is there someone I can call?” she asked.
I wiped my sopping wet forehead with the back of my hand. It had to be stress affecting me. It had been a tough few months and maybe it was catching up with me. I turned to the kind woman. “I’m only a few minutes from my mother’s house.” I’d get the Diet Cokes and vitamins later. “I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
We both returned to our cars. She waited for me to move. With trembling fingers, I managed to shift into drive. I pumped the brakes to see if they worked. They worked fine. The rattling sound in the engine was gone, too. I could hardly think straight. Was that Voodoo woman real or a figment of my imagination? I shoved aside the bad feeling, inhaled a calming breath, and decided to apply logic, which suggested the whole thing was a brain-glitch from stress. However, no matter how logical I tried to be, the uneasy feeling remained.
Leigh Goff writes young adult fiction. She is a graduate from the University of Maryland and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).
Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.
Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.