Monday 26 October 2015

Red Eye Interview: Lou Morgan and Alex Bell

Thrilled to present not just my first author interview for some time on this blog, but my first TWO interviews! I normally like to talk to authors about their books, but the Red Eye books are rather too scary for me to read, which presented something of a problem. Thankfully, the wonderful Lou Morgan and Alex Bell were happy to answer some Halloween/horror themed questions.

Lou Morgan

1) What was the first scary movie you can remember watching, and what effect did it have on you?

I think that would have to be Hitchcock's The Birds. It's not... scary, exactly, but you know what? It is. It really is. The idea that for no apparent reason and with no warning, all the birds could just turn against us? That's very unsettling. Because birds are everywhere. What do you do if they decide that, actually, they don't like people that much after all? I think it was the senselessness of it that bothered me the most: horror films involving awful things happening on a completely arbitrary basis; those are the ones that really bother me. (I'm clearly very judgemental and only like bad things to happen to bad people.)

I also remember seeing a version of Dracula very young: it was Frank Langella's one, I think. I used to collect vampire anthologies I found in second-hand bookshops, and I was forever smuggling them home past my mother - who hated horror. Then I saw The Lost Boys when I was 13,and there was no way I was ever going to not love vampires after that.

2) Which YA characters would MOST scare you if they visited youtrick-or-treating?

I'd have a real problem if any of the Sickos from Charlie Higson's The Enemy series knocked on the door - probably because they'd mostly be trying to eat me. Likewise, I'd be very keen to avoid Valeri, one of the vampire brothers who turns up in Will Hill's Department 19: The Rising. The most worrying one, though, would probably be Mary from James Dawson's Say Her Name. You wouldn't even have to open the door to her, would you?

3) Which other authors would you want with you if you were exploring a haunted house?

Preferably ones who can handle weapons, and who run slower than I do. Never be the slowest runner in the pack. As well as the sacrificial bit-players who are only there to make up the numbers so the rest of us make it out alive, I feel like James Dawson knows so much about horror that he'd be able to point out every lethal horror-cliche before we became one. My fellow Slytherin Mel Salisbury would be leading the exploration party (and would hopefully be able to get us out again). Non Pratt would be generally calming and excellent all round... and Robin Stevens would be able to prove to us that the old house wasn't haunted after all: it was a trick by the creepy caretaker who was Up To No Good.

4) What's the most scared you've ever been?

Good question. I've had a lot of the boring kinds of scared, or the being in the wrong place at the wrong time kind of scared - or even the "Oh good god, I think I might have got locked in this Tube station for the night" (true story) kind of scared.

But actually, the most scared I've ever been was a little more serious than that: I spent quite a long time at the very end of my teens and start of my twenties on and off medication to control my recently-diagnosed manic depression. That was very scary: not the medication - but the moment when it had just started to work, when I looked back and realised that for some time, I hadn't quite been... for want of a better word, sane. And - worse - I couldn't remember when or how it had started. (There's actually a very good analogy for that in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, of which I'm a huge fan: if you've read the novel, you'll know it involves candles and pineapples. And if you haven't read the novel then, frankly, I don't think we can be friends any more.)

It was that fear, that idea - the idea that you can completely lose control of what's going on inside your own head *and not know it* - which partly inspired Sleepless. It's one of the things that scares me most in the world.

5) I sometimes ask authors why people should read their book - but as a variation, why SHOULDN'T people read your book late at night on Halloween if they're alone?

Sleep deprivation. Exhaustion. Hallucinations. Phantom footsteps, and the feeling that someone's behind you, reaching out to touch your shoulder in the dark.

And when the daylight eventually, finally, comes, things get even worse...

Alex Bell

1) What was the first scary movie you can remember watching, and what effect did it have on you?

It was this awful thing called The Willies that my Dad rented from the video store when my Mum was in hospital one night. I think I was about six and my brother was a year younger, and we were both terrified. The film was made up of several short horror stories but the worst one was about this monster that lived in a school toilet and kept slaughtering people that went in there. Unfortunately, when I started junior school soon afterwards, I thought that the toilets there looked exactly like the ones in the film, so I was scared to go in them. I had to race in and out as fast as possible and sing the theme tune to My Little Pony under my breath the whole time I was in there so that I wouldn’t freak out. So, yeah, thanks for that one, Dad! 

2) Which YA characters would MOST scare you if they visited you trick-or-treating?

Sebastian from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, because he’d be totally cold and ruthless. Also, the ghost of Anna from Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.

3) Which other authors would you want with you if you were exploring a haunted house?

Hmm. I think my friends Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod would do a better job of staying calm in that situation than me. And also my buddy Sarwat Chadda because I have a feeling he’d turn into some kind of ghost-banishing ninja if the need arose. 

4) What's the most scared you've ever been?

Taking part in a séance this one time in the pitch black at about 3 o clock in the morning on one of these organised ghost night things. It was at an old house in the country with a really freaky fireplace and other fittings that had been brought from another house. The medium kept calling it a “house within a house” which I found really creepy. And during the séance he claimed to be channelling a ghost called Albert. My family later pointed out to me that he was achieving a weird sounding voice by breathing in as he spoke – but at the time I was pretty much wetting myself. Unfortunately, when I get really scared, I have a nervous laughter response that I can’t stop – and this didn’t go down very well with the medium, who probably thought I was mocking him. In fact, I was just scared out of my wits!

5) I sometimes ask authors why people should read their book - but as a variation, why SHOULDN'T people read your book late at night on Halloween if they're alone?

People shouldn’t read Frozen Charlotte at night on their own because they might start hearing tiny fingernails scratching at the windows – and if there are any dolls in the house then they might start to become very suspicious of them and convince themselves that the doll moved when they weren’t looking. Definitely not a good idea if you have any kind of antique doll collection, that’s for sure.

Check Studio Reads on Monday 26th October (edit: argh - that's TODAY, because I somehow messed up scheduling this post!) to see the Red Eye authors discussing Halloween costumes.

You can find out more about the Red Eye books at the publisher's website.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Guest Post: Nick Bryan - Behold The Darkness Beneath The High Street

I'm a big fan of Nick Bryan's Hobson and Choi series and really enjoyed his blog post for me on the influences for the series around the time of the Rush Jobs release, so when awesome publicist Faye Rogers offered to arrange another great guest post from him I was hugely pleased!

Behold The Darkness Beneath The High Street! – Five Institutions To Turn Evil In Future Hobson & Choi books?

In the Hobson & Choi books, regular shops and businesses are revealed to have a terrifying evil dark side full of crime, exploitation and outright evil. There was the underworld pub in The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf, a dark recruitment agency in Rush Jobs and Trapped in the Bargain Basement’s secretive shopping centre.

That’s often the most fun part of the series, to be honest – spotting everyday businesses/organisations and making them a front for something awful. So, to mark the release of the third book, here are a few more crime-riddled high street regulars which… probably won’t be appearing in future H&C books. (Although they might.)

Cruel Charity Shop

Up and down the high streets of Britain, charity shops sell second hand items for worthy causes, letting us either feel good about handing over a bag of our junk or buy someone else's old property without the ever-present worry that we’re funding their drug-dealing.

But what if they were evil? What if charity shops were actually throwing most of your donations into a massive furnace to burn to encourage chemical reactions, whilst selling the few worthwhile items to fund ingredients and chemistry equipment for… yes, drug dealing.


Hellish Hospital

Well, hospitals are fine, of course? They make people better, they're run by the good old National Health Service (if you're in Britain), a cuddly organisation that wants to let us heal everyone else.

But what if they were awful? What if they were run by a cult devoted to destroying the planet through over-population? Just think, they could let us die when we get ill, but instead they cure us, so people just keep surviving and consuming and burning fossil fuels and throwing nappies into landfill sites and soon the planet will be an uninhabitable mudball.


Lethal Library

Of course, libraries are cuddly. You rent books, sit in reassuring quiet, the world is full of knowledge and calm. They serve the community, spread stories, another way we all pitch in to lift each other.

But what if they were nauseating? What if every library item contained a tracker, enabling them to guarantee the exact home location (none of this 'proven home address' rubbish) of each person, which the library then sells to the highest bidder – such as marketing companies, loan sharks, burglars seeking heavy media consumers and anyone who doesn't like you?


Insidious Internet Café

The internet is a life essential for many of us nowadays, but sometimes you won't have it when you need it. Maybe your smartphone is dead, the connection at home isn't ready because you've just moved, and that's when internet cafés are there to save the day!

But what if they were soul-crushing? What if every computer had a keylogger installed for identity theft purposes? And then, once they'd stolen your online identity, they had plastic surgery to steal your real self, killed and dumped you in a ditch, started posting platitudes and images of inspirational quotes on your Facebook and none of your friends even noticed the difference?


Nefarious Nursery

They look after children! They change their nappies! Keep them busy so that the parents can have some breathing room to manage their real life! Good old nurseries!

But what if they were disgusting? What if they'd realised that children, if deployed correctly, could drive anyone over the edge? What if, underneath each nursery, is a room rented out to mobsters and shady government agencies where suspects and rivals are tied to a chair, unable to move and left among screaming, pooing children until they crack?


Hopefully the above hasn't left you unable to walk down the high street without trembling. If you enjoyed this short stroll through a grim mirror town, why not pick up the Hobson & Choi series (first book free on digital!) and see how dreadful I can make the everyday over the course of a full length novel?

Follow Nick on Twitter and check out his website

Thursday 8 October 2015

Blog Tour: Daughters Unto Devils - Amy Lukavics's Bookplaces

While I generally avoid books that are going to give me nightmares, I occasionally make an exception in October for Halloween, and if I do so this year then top of my list will be Amy Lukavics's Daughters Unto Devils which sounds amazing! I'm really pleased to host a post on the blog tour about Amy's bookplaces. 

While some bookshelves positively shine in the sheer beauty of their organisation, my collection looks more like a book monster walked in circles around the house, vomiting up piles of random books over various tables and shelves. Series are separated; there is non-fiction nestled in between high fantasies and adult thrillers. Old yearbooks sit within easy reach of middle grade horrors and bubbly teenage romance.

The following are three of the six bookplaces I have in my home. (Calling them 'bookshelves' would imply that all my books were actually on shelves.) Some day I dream of having well-organized bookshelves that are separated by genre, but until that day comes, bookplaces it is!

My favorite shelf was actually built for books, go figure. I cover the top with toys because I'm an adult, damn it! Toy highlights include my Dark Alice figurine from the video game Alice: Madness Returns, Groot, the Queen from Alien, a Link Pez dispenser, and a few D&D figurines. There's also a wine bottle that I decorated in the theme of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides (one of my favourites.)

On the actual shelf, there is my old Goosebumps collection (the only series besides Harry Potter that is stored all in one place,) an array of YA novels, a random Arnold Schwarzenegger workout book from the seventies called Arnold's Bodyshaping for Women (a gag gift from a friend) and some yearbooks from both middle and high school.

Then comes the glorious line/pile that covers most of an entryway table. Here we can see the bad ass graphic novel Ghost World, The DUFF, a random book from the Dark Tower series, Stephen King's On Writing, The Diviners, a new Fear Street novel, and some Darwin book about the expression of emotion in man and animals. Plus a novel on surviving the first year of motherhood! (There also appears to be some randomly stowed nail polish and a candlestick in that's where those went.)

Last but not least, we have a portion of a different shelf, this one with yet another very strange array. Horror classics like The Exorcist, Pet Sematary, It, and The Silence of the Lambs can be seen, as well as a Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul trilogy and newer copy of Little Women. (There's another pile in my house where I have a much older copy that was handed down by my great grandmother. I loved that book when I was little!)

Other bookplaces in my house include: in my closet, on my nightstand, piled on my work desk, and lined up in a structure that is supposed to be for plants. 

©Chelsea Stazenski

Sunday 4 October 2015

Children's Classics: Holly Webb on Return to the Secret Garden

It's been far too long since I had anyone on here for my Classic Children's feature, so I'm really excited to have Holly Webb on the blog today talking about Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, to celebrate her new sequel to the book, Return to the Secret Garden (published by Scholastic.)

I first thought of writing a sequel to The Secret Garden years ago – after a wonderful conversation with my editor about our favourite children’s books. It’s a wonderful subject – full of “Do you remember?” and “What about this one?” and “Oh, did you ever read that?” Somehow it’s even more exciting than discussing what you’re reading right now, but it’s hard to pin down why. The glory of rediscovering something that you loved first as a child? Perhaps we do identify more fully with books and characters we first meet when we’re younger.

I read a lot growing up – there were a lot of books in the house, plus there was a fairly eclectic set of bookshelves at school. I got banned from taking books outside after leaving When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit lying around in the playground… Looking back, many of the books I read were “classics”, perhaps because my parents shared the books they’d loved too. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Arthur Ransome, The Treasure Seekers and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit, Little Women (and all the sequels!), Anne of Green Gables (likewise, and I sympathise hugely with any child who loves a series, that wonderful feeling that there’s more). The Wind in the Willows – especially the picnic basket list which I learned off by heart just because I loved it so much (I always wanted to know, what exactly was potted meat?) But I particularly loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and A Little Princess (Sara to me still looks like Margery Gill’s illustrations, thin-faced and dark-haired). For me, these books were favourites because of their heroines. Sara was almost but not quite annoyingly perfect, and Mary was so imperfect that she was gripping. But then who wouldn’t be horrible, with Mary’s loveless upbringing? 

I adored the setting of The Secret Garden too – the garden was nearly as special as the girl. The idea of a private, secret, near-magical space was enchanting. It felt like an amazing gift to write my own story about Misselthwaite, and to take another child into the garden.

It's 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house - a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden...

Information about the book
Title: Return to the Secret Garden
Author: Holly Webb
Release Date: October 1st 2015
Genre: Historical MG
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Format: Hardback and E-book

Giveaway Information
Scholastic are giving away a copy of The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett and a copy of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb to one lucky blog tour follower! [UK AND IRL ONLY]
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule
Monday 5th October

Tuesday 6th October

Wednesday 7th October

Thursday 8th October

Friday 9th October

Saturday 10th October

Sunday 11th October