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  • Sarah Skilton 3:00 pm on 2015/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: cat winters, , Horror, , , , the uninvited   

    The Uninvited Author Cat Winters Talks Ghosts, Romance, and All That Jazz 

    Morris Award finalist Cat Winters loves a good ghost story. Her knockout young adult debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, tackled World War I, the Spanish flu, séances, and the weight of souls. In her The Cure for Dreaming, 1900 Oregon was the backdrop for a tale of young woman freeing her suppressed independence during the rise of hypnotism.

    This year, Winters brought her exceptional blend of supernatural, romantic, historical fiction to adults with The Uninvited, a 1918-set ghost story overflowing with gin and jazz, which the San Francisco Book Review called, “eerily haunting, beautifully tragic.” It centers on Ivy Rowan, a survivor of the influenza epidemic of 1918, who has the unwanted ability to see “the uninvited”: ghosts whose presence signals death’s approach. For your Halloween delectation, we asked Winters to tell us why she’s drawn to the turn of the century, and what her favorite ghost stories are.

    While researching The Uninvited, what was some of the more shocking information you uncovered about the time period?
    What shocked me the most was discovering the mistreatment of and violence against German Americans and other immigrants during the WWI period. I set The Uninvited specifically in Illinois because of a real-life lynching of a German-born coalminer named Robert Prager in April 1918. He was killed by a mob of approximately three to four hundred men for purportedly making “disloyal utterances against the United States.” Eleven men went to trial for his murder on June 1918. All eleven were declared “not guilty” and freed. Prager’s murder wasn’t the only 1918 act of violence committed against an immigrant in the name of patriotism, unfortunately. I don’t think we hear enough about the paranoia that gripped the nation during this war, but I think we could learn a lot from it.

    Having previously written about the Spanish flu and WWI for your debut YA novel, the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was it enjoyable to revisit that era? Are there any aspects of life in that time that you wish were still in play today?
    Revisiting the Spanish flu itself was a little dark and intense, but I was approached by HarperCollins specifically to write an adult novel set during the pandemic after my editor, Lucia Macro, found a copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds in an airport bookstore. I didn’t get to incorporate all of my WWI-era research into In the Shadow of Blackbirds, namely the prejudice against German Americans, so I felt I had another 1918 book in me, and I did enjoy returning to the era. The time period is rife with conflict, which makes it a fantastic setting for a novel. I wouldn’t want too many aspects of the era to still be in play, but I will say I love the clothing and the music of 1918.

    Since you’ve written for both teen and adult markets, what was the most challenging or unexpected part of switching “voices” for your adult story? 
    I made it slightly easy on myself by making the protagonist of The Uninvited a 25-year-old woman who’s just now leaving her parents’ home and truly experiencing life for the first time. In some ways it’s still a coming-of-age novel, like my YA fiction, although Ivy has gone through a few more experiences that give her a little more maturity. It’s interesting because I struggled for 15 years to find a publisher for my adult fiction before switching to YA Back when I first started writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds I worried I wouldn’t be able to pull off a teen voice, but I quickly and comfortably slipped into a younger point of view. I’m actually having a harder time with the voice of the adult novel I’m currently writing. In that book, my protagonist is in her late twenties, and she’s been out on her own for a while. It’s been challenging to infuse her voice with experience after writing about characters still figuring out how to become adults.

    Jazz music plays a central role in The Uninvited. Were you a fan of jazz prior to writing about it, or was it a new experience for you? Do you have a favorite artist or song?
    I grew up near Disneyland and fell in love with Dixieland jazz (or “hot jazz”) when I heard musicians playing it live all the time in New Orleans Square. I’ve also been to the real New Orleans and was blown away when I heard the music played right there in the city where it all started. Many people associate the birth of jazz with the 1920s—the “Jazz Age”—but the musical style emerged much earlier. I can’t remember exactly how I decided to flood The Uninvited with WWI-era jazz, but the music quickly became an integral part of the novel. I listened to dozens of original recordings from the teens—artists such as the Original Dixieland Jass Band and Jelly Roll Morton—which I thoroughly enjoyed. I particularly love the song “Tiger Rag.”

    Although the story is very sad in some ways, the characters experience joy, and purpose, and transcendence. When you write, are you conscious of balancing their emotions (and the actions that cause them), or does this naturally occur for you as part of the narrative?
    Yes, I’m definitely aware of balancing characters’ emotions. I tend to write about horrifying moments in history, and I know I would depress readers if I didn’t include a great deal of hope and transcendence. It also comes about naturally as the book evolves. All of my novels, thus far, have involved characters who face the darkest moments of their lives and struggle to persevere and come out on the other side in one piece. I feel that humor, joy, love, and an urgent need to rise above the chaos are all integral aspects of survival stories. Otherwise, the characters, and the readers, would simply give up.

    What are some of your favorite ghost stories?
    The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters; A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb; The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill; A Curious Tale of the In-Between, by Lauren DeStefano; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving; and Affinity, also by Sarah Waters. The very first ghost novel I ever read was The Ghost Next Door, by Wylly Folk St. John. My mom ordered it for me through my school’s Scholastic book program.

    The Uninvited is a love story as well as a mystery. Did you originally write the book with a certain reveal in mind, or did that evolve later, as you got to know your characters?
    The reveal came about early. When the original, basic idea for the book first showed up in my head, I knew the character of Daniel Schendel had some secrets he wasn’t telling. Within a week of coming up with the plot, I knew what those secrets were, and it made writing the book all the easier.

    Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming YA book The Steep and Thorny Way, and also what’s next for you in adult fiction?
    Yes, definitely. The Steep and Thorny Way is a reimagining of Hamlet set in 1920s Oregon. My Hamlet is a biracial 16-year-old girl named Hanalee Denney who’s dealing with the death of her father in a region shaped by Prohibition and the rise of the KKK. The novel involves murder, intolerance, the struggles of biracial and gay teens in the 1920s, love, forgiveness, Shakespeare, and a ghost. It’s out March 8, 2016, from Amulet Books/Abrams, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

    I’m currently finishing up the first draft of my next adult novel, Yesternight, which HarperCollins acquired this year. That one is also set in the 1920s, but it involves a school psychologist who’s investigating the case of a seven-year-old girl who claims she lived a past life as a brilliant young Victorian woman. I’m waiting to hear the estimated release date of that one.

    The Uninvited is on sale now.

  • Sarah Skilton 5:00 pm on 2015/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: , Horror, lock the doors, , , vicki pettersson   

    7 Reasons Vicki Pettersson’s Swerve is a Perfect(ly Terrifying) Halloween Read 

    New York Times bestselling author Vicki Pettersson is perhaps best known for her urban fantasy books (the Signs of the Zodiac series and Celestial Blues trilogy), but that was before Swerve, her first out-and-out thriller, arrived this summer. If you missed it in July, grab a copy this month, because Swerve is a raw, dizzying, horror show of a road trip in which Las Vegas physician’s assistant Kristine Rush must fulfill a madman’s scavenger hunt to save her fiancé’s life. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, here are 7 more reasons Swerve is a perfect Halloween read.

    1. It redefines the term “page turner.” Who kidnapped Kristine’s dreamy, wealthy, jazz-loving fiancé Daniel at that creepy-as-hell rest stop? Why did they do it? And most importantly, how can Kristine save the man she loves within the impossible time span she has been given? Long after your trick-or-treaters have departed, Swerve will keep you up reading till 4 a.m., gulping back candy and coffee as you brave out one killer ending.

    2. It’s chock full of terror. During certain scenes, my eyes darted around the page, as I frantically hoped to land on a less pitiless sentence. Jump scares abound. Read it with all the lights on.

    3. The phone call might be coming from inside the house. A central tenet of the book is that the people we ought to be closest to are often the most dangerous. Kristine’s parents have proven time and again they aren’t reliable. So who can Kristine really trust?

    4. It’s shockingly fast paced. The almost nonstop action takes place over two days, perfect for experiencing in real time. If you’ve ever binge-watched a season of 24 in 24 hours, this book is for you.

    5. There are triple twists. Each time a new facet of the story is revealed, three more lie in wait for you like traps about to spring. Sure, you might figure out one or two of ’em, but odds are Pettersson is still 37 steps ahead of you.

    6. The setting will give you the shivers. During the day, the Mojave Desert is barren and deadly, home to scorpions and rattlers, but at night it’s an especially eerie, soulless place. Most of the action takes place on or near Interstate 15, the blisteringly unforgiving freeway that connects Las Vegas to Lake Arrowhead. As Pettersson describes it early on, “The sun is a heat lamp with no off switch, the blacktop road a cast-iron griddle, and any living thing caught between the two is just meat set to singe on high.”

    7. The main character is no run-of-the mill “final girl.” Kristine was raised in the “arid, barren desert,” and her teenage years were miserable, involving an underground mine and an ominous figure known only as the Coal Man. But the fact that she has survived a living nightmare once (or twice…) before means Kristine has reserves of strength that not many heroes or heroines do. In short, she and her tormentor may be evenly matched.

  • Heidi Fiedler 3:02 pm on 2015/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: are you afraid of the dark?, , Horror, , iq test, , , ,   

    Take Our Quiz to Determine Your Horror Story IQ 

    A good scary story can sink into your bones and leave you afraid of the dark for years to come. The best horror writers know exactly how much detail to leave in and what to leave out to create unforgettable moments that make you shiver. Test yourself by identifying the creepy quotes below. If you get more than 5 right, skip the tricks and go straight to the treats. Less than 5? That’s scary. Camp out in the dark with a flashlight and some boo-worthy reads to catch up with your fellow horror fans.

    1. “I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt; I fear; I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul. God keep me, if only for the sake of those dear to me!”
    2. “Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”
    3. “Is he worse than the parent who gave to society a neurotic child who became a politician? Is he worse than the manufacturer who set up belated foundations with the money he made by handing bombs and guns to suicidal nationalists? Is he worse than the distiller who gave bastardized grain juice to stultify further the brains of those who, sober, were incapable of progressive thought?”
    4. “When the Fox hears the Rabbit scream he comes a-runnin’, but not to help.”
    5. “He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.”
    6. “It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”
    7. “Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”
    8. “…to all the monsters in my nursery: May you never leave me alone.”
    9. “…nobody can protect anybody else from vileness. Or from pain. All you can do is not let it break you in half and keep on going until you get to the other side.”
    10. “The wise man knows what he does not know—and the prudent man respects what he does not control.”


    1. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
    2. The Shining, by Stephen King
    3. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
    4. Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
    5. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
    6. The Passage, by Justin Cronin
    7. Interview with a Vampire, by Anne Rice
    8. The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
    9. Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    10. The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson
  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2015/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , Horror, , , , the bazaar of bad dreams   

    Go Behind the Scenes on Stephen King’s Process in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams 

    Stephen King is famous first and foremost as the author of more than 50 published novels, many of which are considered modern horror classics, or simply classics. In recent years, he’s also become known among both aspiring and published authors as a source for writing advice; his book On Writing is frequently name-checked as a bible of sorts for those who want to do what King does so well.

    King is also famous for being a master of the short story form. His newest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, combines his fiction with his fantastic insights on writing, pairing 20 stories with commentary from author himself on the inspiration and creation of each. The book is perfect not just for anyone who enjoys a well-written short story, but for anyone seeking insight into how a modern master approaches writing. Here’s why this book is so special.

    It makes fantastical ideas seem real
    One of King’s strengths has always been his ability to marry high-concept ideas with convincing executions. With his writerly skill and gift for the telling detail, King makes even the most unbelievable concepts seem real. Take a story like “Ur,” which explores an e-reader that displays books from all possible realities, allowing you to read, say, the novels Raymond Carver would have written in his 50s and 60s. King makes the idea sing with keen observation, beautiful language, and a grasp on how a real person would react to such a discovery.

    It’s grounded in reality
    King’s evergreen appeal can be partially explained by his grounded approach to storytelling: no matter how fantastic or incredible his monsters, his scenarios, or his devices and artifacts, he anchors them in a world we know. Despite having spent several decades now as a very rich, very famous person, King hasn’t lost his touch for the everyday. The stories in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams explore the tensions and resentments inherent in modern suburban life, and the power in the bonds between a husband and wife, or a man and his dog. These simple, universal themes are what make King’s fantastic ideas so powerful—and what has allowed him to grow beyond the “horror” label.

    It shows his range
    King has long shown he’s adept at writing stories that have no fantastic elements at all, and several of them are included here. “Premium Harmony,” originally published in the New Yorker, has an oppressive and spooky atmosphere, but the story is an exploration of one man’s selfish, solipsistic interior monologue as a shopping trip between two bickering spouses turns into tragedy. In “A Death,” which also appeared in the New Yorker, King tells a 19th-century mystery tale about a man accused of murdering a young girl for a silver dollar she received for her birthday, exploring the difference between knowing someone must be guilty of a crime, and proving he did so. While there is a (powerful) twist to the story, there’s nothing supernatural about it.

    It includes masterful advice
    Each story in the collection is preceded by thoughts from King on some aspect of the story’s inspiration or execution. This means the collection doubles as a sequel of sorts to On Writing, in which King walks us through his conception of his short stories and how he writes them. His thoughts in these sections aren’t necessarily formal lessons; he discusses his personal life and the mundane details of home and work as much as he discusses writing, and his advice is often more spiritual than technical. But each authorial note offers a glimpse into one of the most famous creative minds of our time. Knowing a certain story was inspired by the language King wanted to use, or learning how he views the writerly voice as a kind of “fingerprint” that firms up over time into something consistently recognizable will inspire a whole new generation of authors to keep at it.

  • Ella Cosmo 5:13 pm on 2015/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: american horror story, Horror, ,   

    5 Scary Reads for American Horror Story Fans 

    American Horror Story: Hotel premieres tonight, and I. cannot. even. deal. Sure, I may watch the show from behind my fingers, my heart racing a mile a minute, and maybe there’s been a time or two when I’ve actually screamed aloud because I’am so spooked. But two seconds later I’m laughing, and that’s what I love about American Horror Story: its amazing blend of macabre humor, great storytelling, and legitimately terrifying spookiness. It makes you shudder, but it’s a delicious shudder. And if you, like me, are addicted to AHS, check out these books in time for the new season. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Soul Mates, by John R. Little
    Savannah and Alannah are identical twins who’ve lived a rough life. So rough, in fact, that they move all the way across the country in an effort to start over—but they just can’t shake the persistent presence of a dead boy. Meanwhile, Jeremiah, a magician with a tragic past, is struggling to deal with the guilt and anguish he still suffers. A meeting between the twins and Jeremiah is inevitable, and it won’t be a happy one.

    The Fifth House of the Heart, by Ben Tripp
    Be warned, Tripp DOES NOT shy away from gore. But his use of it is realistic to the places and times he writes about, and the carnage is tempered by his masterful exploration of human dramas. Plot-wise, The Fifth House of the Heart is a radical departure from his previous novels, taking readers on a journey into the heart of vampire horror. Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang is an antiques dealer, wildly successful and known for his ability to procure priceless objects. But Sax’s accomplishments are based on a dark secret: he steals his treasures from vampires. Unfortantely for Sax, his past is about to catch up with him and those he loves the most. A creature unlike any he’s ever faced is hunting him, and it won’t stop until he’s paid for his sins.

    The Bazaar of Bad Dreamsby Stephen King 
    This anthology collects some of King’s greatest short stories and several newly penned tales.  Trust me, these short stories are good, like, AHS good.  Stephen King is literally the master of horror, able to infuse his macabre stories with the insidious darkness that can lurk in the human psyche.  My personal favorite is “Obits,”  a tale of what happens when a newspaper columnist learns he has the ability to kill any person by writing their obituary. As a special bonus, each story is accompanied by King’s in-depth commentary on the inspiration behind it.

    Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant, Julie Dillon
    This tightly written tale of horror is about what happens when a science fiction channel sends a crew out to film a documentary (I use that word very loosely) about a possibly fake, definitely haunted ship, the Atargatis. The crew discovers mermaids are real, but not necessarily the beautiful, ethereal—these mermaids have teeth, and they aren’t particularly friendly.

    The Other Child by Joanne Fluke
    Crumbling Victorian mansion? Check. Whispers of hauntings and things that go bump in the night? Check. Naïve family convinced it’s all superstitious hogwash? Check. The Other Child has many elements of your typical story about poor schmucks who move into a creepy new home and accidentally unleash a terrifying evil. Lucky for you, that’s where the comparisons stop. Karen and Mike buy an old Victorian mansion despite the rumors, and their daughter is the first to realize they’re sharing their new home with something that goes bump in the night. But this spirit isn’t just malignant, its seductive—by turns terrifying and compelling, adding a psychological edge to the story. Fluke has a good eye for detail, building suspense slowly, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire book.

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