Welcome to day 3 of Horrror Month! I have the wonderful Chris Priestley on my blog today with a guest post about writing creepy stories! It is so interesting and defiantly check out his books-perfect for this time of year.
Why do I write creepy stories for children? Do I want to scare them? Do I want to give them the frights?
Well, the short answer is yes - yes I do. But only those who want to be scared, of course. I’m not just creeping up behind people and randomly shouting ‘Boo!” I think if someone buys a book - or borrows it from their library - and it has ‘Tales of Terror’ in the title, then I think they are looking for - and expecting - chills and thrills.
But why? Why would anyone want to scare themselves?
Well it takes all sorts. Not everyone likes creepy stories. Which is fine - there are all kinds of stories out there. But I have always loved creepy stories - or maybe more exactly, I’ve always loved uncanny, weird and strange stories. Maybe because I’m a little weird and strange myself.
I make that distinction - between creepy stories and horror stories - because so often now, the default position on horror is guts and gore. Zombies. Demons. Knife-wielding killers. You know the kind of thing. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, I hasten to add - and there is some well-placed gore in my stories and there are, on occasion, demons. But what I am mainly trying to so is quietly unsettle the reader - not shock them.
I don’t have any idea whether we are born with a liking for the creepy and weird or just get a taste for it (or not) as we grow. Whichever it is, I sought out strange stories wherever I could as soon as I was old enough to choose my own books in the library.
I still remember staring in fascination at a school library edition of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter (Shockhaired Peter) - at the gloriously grisly images of the girl who burns to death playing with matches, the thumb sucker having his thumb lopped off by giant scissors, and the extraordinarily weird cover illustration. Strange stories invite illustration. It was a great to have David Roberts illustrating my stories and fantastic to see those pictures reinstated in the new editions.
Years later the horrible image from Struwwelpeter of the scissors snipping that thumb - and the odd cover of Peter with his long curling, twig-like, fingernails - would find a mirror in my story Old Mother Tallow, in Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror.
Although I’m only just realising that now.
That’s the odd thing with writing stories. You are not always in control, as the writer, of where those ideas are coming from and why. Because I write unsettling stories, I try and unsettle myself - looking at my own fears and phobias. But mostly the ideas just loom up out of the darkness and I don’t worry too much about how or why - just about whether they are any good or not.
But my notion of what shape a chiller should have has been formed over time by stories that I have read by masters of the art - writers like M R James, Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Robert Aickman - but also by cinematic chillers such as The Innocents and The Haunting and Don’t Look Now. Television was also a big part of the mix - watching those old films for a start - but also watching things like the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas. There’s nothing quite like a creepy story, well told.
So why do I write creepy stories for children?
Because it feels natural to me. Because I write the books I would have liked to read when I was young. Because while its important that young people see themselves and their lives reflected in fiction, that’s not what I wanted when I was young. I wanted to be transported. I wanted to see other worlds and stretch my imagination. And sometimes, I wanted to dare myself to look into the shadows.
If you feel that way too, then the Tales of Terror might be for you…
WELCOME TO DAY TWO!
Hope you are all enjoying this-today, I have the wonderful C.J. Skuse on my blog with an interview and a giveaway of her book Monster - A very creepy read about a boarding school and the Beast of Bathory - It is super creepy and perfect for this time of year.
C.J. Skuse was born in 1980 in Westonsuper- Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels, works as a freelance children’s fiction consultant and lectures in Writing for Children at Bath Spa University. C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
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1. Tell me about Monster.
It’s essentially about six girls who become trapped inside their remote boarding school during one Christmas holiday and there’s a monster outside trying to get in. I’d wanted to write a story set in a boarding school for a long time but I’d not had the opportunity to do so. Then I saw an article in a national paper about a sighting of the Beast of Bodmin Moor and my brain just started churning. I put the two ideas together, made the school a bit more snowbound and remote et voila – a Monster was born. The best review I’ve had so far described the first half of the story as “giving you a safe, Hogwartsy kind of cuddle – before the second half puts you in a chokehold.” Exactly the impression I was after!
2. Can you tell me more about The Beast of Bathory?
The Beast of Bathory is a jaglion (a quick Google image search will show you what one of those looks like) which has lived on the moors surrounding the school and its outlying villages for generations. Nobody knows if it’s a supernatural/immortal beast, or if it’s one in a long line of beasts which has existed in that area. All anybody knows about it is that it’s has killed livestock and possibly some hikers in the hills, it’s black and absolutely enormous, about the size of a small horse.
3. What are some of your favourite horror/Halloween movies?
I love Dog Soldiers, The Descent, The Silence of the Lambs, anything Hitchcock made, Shaun of the Dead, House of Wax (remake), Dawn of the Dead (remake) and The Woman in Black scared the bejeezus out of me. The first 40 minutes of Jeepers Creepers is also very good for a Halloween scare – the less said about the ending the better in my opinion.
4. What would you do if you were in that situation with the girls when they were dealing with all that craziness?
It depends on how the other girls were dealing with it. In any situation, if everyone around me is freaking out, I tend to be the calm, level-headed one who gets shit done. But if there’s even one person who takes control of the situation and has everything in hand (like Nash) I’d be a freaker outer and leave everything to them.
5. Favourite Halloween memory/costume?
I have absolutely no Halloween memories. Never celebrated it in my life. And I’ll dress up when I’m in my coffin and not before. Then they can burn the outfit with me and thus, all evidence of my dressing up.
Every girl at Bathory School has heard stories about The Beast. No one believed they were true. Until Now. 'Grisly, nail-biting fun!' - Lovereading4kids.co.uk At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she'd face. Until her brother's disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory's assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school's hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory - a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school - run wild. Yet when the girls' Matron goes missing it's clear that something altogether darker is to blame - and that they'll have to stick together if they hope to survive.
Want to win a copy of this book?! OF COURSE YOU DO! Just click on the link to enter the rafflecopter to be in with the chance to win a copy of Monster -