Spooky is as spooky does, and let me tell you . . . Spooky has been brimstone busy here in the Crypt!
Join me as I explore some of our spooky crew’s latest book releases! So arm yourself with some ghoulish gel, an illuminating lantern, and a protective shield (a couch throw pillow will do), and let’s begin . . .
ONLY IF YOU DARE is a collection of 13 short stories in which danger lurks around every doorway, but not always where you’d expect! Think of a mysterious microwave. A threatening board game. A snowman that refuses to melt. And more!
*A snowman that refuses to melt . . . ooh, how creepy?!!
GHOST GIRL is the story of Zee, her best friend Elijah and her bully turned buddy Nellie who have to team up to save their town. Zee always loved ghost stories, she just never expected to be living one.
*Living in a ghost story . . . how exciting!
A TOUCH OF RUCKUS – Tennie can detect memories in objects, keeping the peace in her chaotic family. But when her new friend Fox hands her an antique watch, Tennie’s touch releases an angry spirit. It knows secrets about her family, but Tennie must be brave enough to listen and speak up for herself.
*An angry spirit that knows secrets about your family . . . whoa . . .
ARROW, a 12-year-old boy with a limb difference, is the only human living inside a magically hidden rainforest. When the forest is threatened by humans in the arid world outside, Arrow must learn who to trust so he can save his home.
Author Samantha M. Clark – Website | Twitter | Instagram
*Who doesn’t love a magical rainforest?!
CHARACTER BRAINS 🧠
Why will middle grade readers relate to your main character(s)?
Josh Allen – Because my main characters are ordinary kids in ordinary situations who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves having to deal with horror, maybe on the walk home from school or in a substitute teacher’s life science class or even in their own living room. What kid hasn’t had a day like that? ONLY IF YOU DARE
*Ordinary kiddos can experience situations of horror while in class. I’m sure they will relate!
Ally Malinenko – Zee is courageous and loyal and brave. But she is also impulsive and that gets her in trouble sometimes. But most of all she’s not afraid to speak her mind. That’s my favorite thing about her. GHOST GIRL
*She sounds like a wonderful character.
Ash Van Otterloo – If you’ve ever felt invisible in your family or at school, or like you’ll never be brave enough to speak up for yourself, you and Tennie have so much in common! A TOUCH OF RUCKUS
*Oh, this is a great relatable characteristic.
Janet Fox – Lulu tries so hard to keep herself and her sister safe when their dad disappears – Lulu is a smart, determined kid – but it’s rough going when you live in a car. CARRY ME HOME
*Lulu’s situation will move young hearts . . . and older ones, too.
Jacqueline West – My main character, eleven-year-old Fiona Crane, is planning to become an archeologist or historian someday – whichever turns out to be more interesting. She’s curious and clever and stubborn and shy, and she has just been forced to leave all her friends behind and move to the tiny town of Lost Lake, so that her big sister Arden can be closer to her figure skating coach in the Boston suburbs. Thanks to Arden’s skating and her parents’ demanding jobs, Fiona’s wishes often come last. Anyone who has ever moved to a new home, or who has felt overlooked or odd or out-of-place, will connect with her, I hope. LONG LOST
*You had me at archeologist or historian. I’m sure you’ll have many young readers at that point, too.
Lorien Lawrence – The main character, Quinn, is curious and determined, and even though she’s smart, she makes a LOT of mistakes along the way. Hopefully MG readers can relate to some of her strengths AND flaws! FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS
*Sounds like a great balance that readers can see themselves in.
Samantha M. Clark – Arrow might have grown up the only human in the rainforest, but he has a best friend (a monkey called Curly) and likes to play games, just like middle grade readers. But also, Arrow has to learn who to trust, and that can be hard for anyone. Sometimes people act like your friend but then they do something bad and it’s hurtful. When Arrow first meets the humans from the outside world, it’s like when a middle grade reader is starting a new school or just moved to a new neighborhood. Arrow wants to be friends with all the humans he meets, but some people have bad intentions. He has to learn who his true friends are. ARROW
*Arrow is a wonderful character. (Psst…I read the book!)
WRITER’S ALLEY 🖊️
What is the most intriguing and/or challenging part of your story or, for Josh, collection of stories?
Josh Allen – The most challenging part, for me as a writer, was writing thirteen different stories that were distinct. Like, you can only write so many stories about monsters that want to kill you or eat you. At some point, you’ve got to mix it up. ONLY IF YOU DARE
*Thirteen stories in one book that are all different. Sounds challenging to me.
Ally Malinenko – The most intriguing part of writing Ghost Girl was getting a steady build of dread and fear in the narrative. I wanted things to slowly get worse until everything was then really bad. The most challenging was the emotional scene at the end between Elijah and Zee when she thinks she’s lost him. GHOST GIRL
Aw, getting to the character’s emotional innards is always tough.
Ash Van Otterloo – I really like how both Tennie and Fox have fascinating secrets they’re afraid to share with anyone, and how trust builds between them while they’re chasing ghosts! They’re tender enough to challenge each other, and I love that vibe. A TOUCH OF RUCKUS
Janet Fox – It wasn’t hard to keep the tension up in a story about living without proper clothing, shelter, food, money. The hard part was making the story positive and hopeful, and I think it is. CARRY ME HOME
*Oh, I’m sure that was difficult.
Jacqueline West – In the strange old library in her new town, Fiona discovers a mystery novel called THE LOST ONE. The more she reads, the more she notices that the settings within the book seem to match specific places in her town…and soon she starts to wonder if the story within THE LOST ONE might be true. Writing that story-within-a-story, and interweaving it with Fiona’s own life, was one of the biggest challenges for me as a writer (and one of the most fun parts, too). LONG LOST
*This story-within-a-story is fascinating to me! I’m sure readers will love it.
Lorien Lawrence – Most intriguing part? The Ladies in White of course! 😉 What ARE they? And what do they want stuff Lex? Readers will have to solve the mystery along with Quinn and Mike. FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS
*The Ladies in White sounds so creepy!
Samantha M. Clark – I had to do a lot of research for this book, about rainforests all over the world and soil, and trees, and plants, and the relationships between animals and trees as well as humans and trees, plus about what it’s like to live with a limb difference. It was challenging to know what to put into the story, but it was so much fun to learn. ARROW
*Learning about the relationship between animals and trees sounds so interesting!
SEEKING PREY 🐺
If (your book) was in a grocery store, what three items would top its list to buy?
Josh Allen – Hmm. Definitely not oatmeal or ice cream or hot chocolate, and if you want to know why, you’ll have to read the book. ONLY IF YOU DARE
*Ah . . . I see what you’re doing here. Sneaky . . .
Ally Malinenko – A flashlight for sure, snacks for when you’re lost in the woods, and a compass, if they have those in grocery stores! GHOST GIRL
Ash Van Otterloo – Pizza spices, marshmallows, and hot chocolate! A TOUCH OF RUCKUS
*That’s a very intriguing trio!
Janet Fox – Shampoo (Lulu can’t afford it, so she has to use hand soap), bread (because you can get by with it if you’ve got nothing else), a newspaper (because that’s how Lulu figures out what happened.) CARRY ME HOME
Jacqueline West – Ice cream, strawberries, and batteries for a nightlight. LONG LOST
Lorien Lawrence – If The Collectors was in the grocery store, it would buy the biggest bag of gummy bears, a flashlight, extra batteries, and shoelaces. FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS
*YES! Gummy bears.🧸
Samantha M. Clark – Organic soil, dye-free mulch and any old, rotting vegetables they might be planning to throw out (they make good compost to feed trees and plants). ARROW
*This is a great survival fact!
BOOK GUTS 🕮
Why do you enjoy writing stories with spooky elements?
Josh Allen – Spooky stories are good for us! They teach us to be brave and to navigate our fears in healthy ways so that when we encounter scary things in real life, we’re ready to deal with them. Spooky stories are like “Bravery Practice.” Also, spooky stories are fun! ONLY IF YOU DARE
*Teaching us to be brave . . . Yes!
Ally Malinenko – They were my favorite stories growing up. Also, kids need scary books. They already know the world is scary. These books help them navigate their fears in a safe way. We need to trust kids more. GHOST GIRL
*Finding help to navigate scary stuff of the real world in spooky books is a comforting thought.
Ash Van Otterloo – Fear is something everyone relates to, and it can be a really powerful motivator! People who love their comfort zone are suddenly ready to try new things when they’re chased by zombies or werewolves. A TOUCH OF RUCKUS
*Fear as a motivator definitely can work, especially while being chased by zombies.
Janet Fox – As a kid, I was terrified of the dark and of monsters. I want to conquer that fear, and writing about what scares you is a great way of lifting the curtain and letting in the light. CARRY ME HOME
*Yes! Letting the light in is the way to strike out the darkness and see it with clarity.
Jacqueline West – Two reasons: Because I’ve always been drawn to dark, mysterious, and creepy things (I think they’re fascinating), and because I’m a total chicken. Writing scary stories lets me play with all of my many fears. LONG LOST
*Writing spooky stories to explore your own fears is pretty cool. And brave!
Lorien Lawrence – Spooky stories have the BEST energy – they’re electric! They can teach us to be brave in the face of monsters. What’s cooler than that?? FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS
*Not much, in my opinion.😊
Samantha M. Clark – I love writing scenes with lots of tension, and spooky stories have LOTS of tension. My first novel for middle-grade readers, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, has more spooky elements than ARROW does, but ARROW has lots of tension, and those scenes were great fun to write. ARROW
*The more spooky tension the better.
Young, inquiring student minds want to know – What are you afraid of?
Josh Allen – Honestly, I’m afraid that something bad will happen to people I love and I won’t be able to stop it.
*Aw . . . 💘
That’s pretty heavy, I know, so on a lighter note, I’ll say this: I’m not too fond of snakes. ONLY IF YOU DARE
Ally Malinenko – Loads of things. But my top two are someone breaking into my home and the ocean. It’s full of monsters and their poop. No thank you. GHOST GIRL
Ash Van Otterloo – Clowns, especially very cheerful ones! Also heights. Even steep hills without trees are enough to make my knees wobble! A TOUCH OF RUCKUS
*So there with you! 🤡
Janet Fox – Heights. I have absolutely awful acrophobia. I go completely numb, which is not good when driving over a mountain pass and you lose all sensation in your arms and legs. (Maybe I should write about it…) CARRY ME HOME
*Good one. So don’t do heights. We don’t want you going completely numb. That would be bad.🚫
Jacqueline West – SO MANY THINGS. The dark. Deep water. Being alone in the woods at night. Windowless basements. Having to talk on the phone. Driving in strange cities. Any fish larger than a hotdog bun. I could go on. LONG LOST
*Windowless basements . . . Ooh, this is a good one. All sorts of creepy possibilities. 🪟
Lorien Lawrence – After years of teasing my brother about his fear of alligators, I realized that he’s right: alligators are TERRIFYING!! I mean, they are huge, yet they can go really fast and hide really well. That’s the scariest type of villain! FRIGHT WATCH: THE COLLECTORS
*Ooh . . . gators. #Chomp 🐊
Samantha M. Clark – I’m actually afraid of lots of things, and sometimes I put them in my books so I can pretend I’m not afraid of them. I’m afraid of spiders (although I’m getting less afraid of the little teeny tiny ones), frogs jumping on me, heights, cramped spaces, drowning. I try to stay on the ground, in the shallows and away from jumping insects. ARROW
*‘K, creepy thingys with eight legs . . . I’m racing you to the door!🚪
Well, there you have it, folks! A few new #spookymg releases to add to your book list. Thank you for joining us, and please leave a comment below. Ask questions about the author’s answers, share with us spooky books you’ve read that have helped you, or simply share you thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!
Until next time . . . Spooky On!