Writing Tool: Apps to Keep You Going

mom writing

Hello to all the spooky readers out there who are also spooky writers! Today I want to talk directly to you! Since Covid hit, I’ve been hearing two different strands of the same conversation:

Extroverts: I just need to get out of this house/apartment/yurt and see some PEOPLE.

Introverts: I’d be fine if I wasn’t trapped in my house/apartment/yurt with all these PEOPLE.

Either way, the consensus is that all of this is taking a toll on our writing. I’m in the introvert camp. And because I live in a smallish and very busy house, I usually begin my writing routine by…well…leaving. I do my best work in coffee shops, and sometimes even at the bar of a favorite restaurant. I can work in noisy public places, because nothing going on around me is:

  1. My problem
  2. Going to lead to a bigger problem later (i.e. kids putting liquid dish soap in the dishwasher)

At home, I have to find ways to create a bubble around myself so I can focus. And like most of us, since March I’m basically always at home. So today, I’d like to share a few of the apps and tools that have helped me keep writing.

Ambient Noise Apps:

One of my favorite tricks is to drown out the noises I find distracting. I can’t always do this with music, though. I sing along instead of writing, or I get picky about individual tracks and start skipping around. One app I use instead is Coffitivity, which offers me several different coffee shop background tracks. It lets me add music from another app as if it’s the overhead music in the shop (which helps me leave it alone) and offers the option to choose which sound is dominant, the music or the background noise. I also *loved* the Ambience app, but it’s discontinued (woe)! So far the best replacement I’ve found is Noise– Mix HD. Most ambient sound apps are designed to help you sleep, which is not what I’m looking for! This one has everything from a dog park to a pool at a hotel. You do have to buy individual sounds beyond the basics or purchase the app upgrade, but it’s totally worth it.

Productivity Apps:

My favorite is Focus Keeper, hands down. For those who aren’t familiar with the Pomodoro method, you work in short bursts (like twenty-five minutes) with five minute breaks in between. After a certain number of bursts you get a longer break. The ticking of the timer keeps me focused (although I confess, because I’m a spooky writer I sometimes catch myself looking around for the Bent-Necked Lady from Hill House), and the bell that signals a break is followed by ocean sounds. You can set your own sprint lengths, pause the countdown if you need to, and use it in tandem with music or the ambient noise apps above. Mac/Google Play

Genuinely Wicked Apps

If you’re a Mac user and your primary distraction is web surfing, there’s also a desktop app called Self Control that is not messing around. It will lock you out of absolutely everything until your writing burst is done.

Lastly, there’s my perennial favorite, Write or Die. Don’t Google it. I don’t know what’s going on with Version 3, but it’s a mess. V.2 works fine, though! There’s a web client, or you can purchase the desktop version. You tell it how vicious you want it to be, from getting rickrolled if you pause too long to watching your words erase themselves one by one until you start typing again. Very motivational!

Hopefully some of these apps will make you feel like you’re getting out of the house (or at least help you filter out what’s going on IN your house) so you can write. I’m also definitely here for whining and commiseration, so come find me on twitter (@Saille)! Happy writing!

–Sarah Cannon 

Interview with author Cory Putman Oakes and a Spooky Recipe!

Cory Putman Oakes, author of The Second Best Haunted Hotel On Mercer Street | Photo: Sam Bond Photography
Cory Putman Oakes, author of The Second Best Haunted Hotel On Mercer Street | Photo: Sam Bond Photography

I’ve been a fan of Cory Putman Oakes and her books for years. Afterall, she’s the author of the fabulously magical young adult novel WITCH TOWN and the fantastically fun middle-grade DINOSAUR BOY series, among others. But my excitement was ratched up a thousand when she told about the newest middle-grade book she’d sold, because it has ghosts!

THE SECOND-BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET comes out from Abrams on Aug. 18, and I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. (You can get yours here.) You can just imagine my excitement at interviewing Cory about her new book. And the best part? She’s given us a wonderfully spooky recipe to try too.

Hi, Cory! Welcome to Spooky Middle Grade! Tell us about THE SECOND-BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET.

THE SECOND-BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET is “You’ve Got Mail” meets “The Haunted Mansion,” but for a middle grade audience. The idea is that there are two competing haunted hotels on Mercer Street: The Hotel Ivan (small, quirky, family-owned), and The Hauntery (part of a big, soulless, corporate chain). There are also two main characters. There’s Willow, a living girl, whose family has owned the Hotel Ivan for 400 years. Willow’s mother has died and come back as a ghost – she and all of the other friendly ghosts who haunt the Ivan are starting to fade (along with the hotel’s business). Willow is desperate to save her beloved home and the ghosts who are like family to her. Then there’s Evie, a ghost, who works for The Hauntery where she is forced to play the role of “Spooky Little Girl.” Evie longs to play the Terrifying Phantasm, but neither hotel management or her own family will let her prove she’s terrifying enough. The two girls meet at their local library (they’re fans of the same mystery series) and hatch a daring plan to help one another, but can they pull it off before the dreaded Hotel Inspector decides, once and for all, which hotel is the “Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street”?

SecondBestHauntedHotel_CV_1P_2-27-201-709x1024So much fun! What inspired you to write this story?

I spent an entire night walking my infant son around a decidedly not-haunted hotel. He wouldn’t sleep and he’d fuss whenever I tried to sit down so we walked around empty ballrooms, meeting rooms, down quiet hallways, and through the deserted lobby. We didn’t see any ghosts, but seeing a hotel in the dead of night like that – all that emptiness and quiet, with only echoes of all the parties and proms and weddings and life events that have happened there – was the most haunted thing I’ve ever experienced. I knew immediately I had to write a book about a haunted hotel.

You’ve written some other spooky stories. What do you like best about spooky stories?

I love to tell stories that have a spooky (or magical) element brewing right under the surface of “normal.” There’s something very fun about a world that looks a lot like ours except for one, big, spooky/magical difference. In this case – the world of Mercer Street is just like ours, except ghosts exist and are woven into the fabric of everyday life. I love having paranormal elements brush up against modern things like WiFi and Instagram and toxic corporate culture – it allows me to really play with these concepts in interesting ways.

I’ve always loved spooky stories in particular because they are so layered. On the surface, spooky stories are fun in that spine-tingling, oh-no-don’t-open-the-door, deliciously frightening way. But, especially when spooky stories deal with ghosts and hauntings, they always have a deeper layer of meaning that venture into subjects like death, moving on, living life to the fullest, and what it means to really be “alive.” These are all subjects that kids wonder about and often have a hard time discussing because adults don’t always know what to say about them. The great thing about middle grade ghost stories is that they’re safe places for kids to explore these topics – they allow kids to dip their toes in the heavier stuff while they’re still floating on that cushion of surface-level, spine-tingling fun stuff.

What are your favorite spooky stories that you’ve read?

Recently, I’ve really enjoyed GHOST SQUAD (by Claribel Ortega), GREENGLASS HOUSE (by Kate Milford), GLOOM TOWN (by Ronald L. Smith) and THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ (by Adrianna Cuevas). While I was writing this book I also re-watched a lot of old, classic scary movies like The Shining, Poltergeist, Halloween, and The Haunted Mansion – in fact, a lot of my secondary character names ended up coming from those movies!

Have you ever seen a ghost in real life?

I have never seen a ghost in real life. My Gram used to see them with some regularity and at various points in my life, I’ve worried that I might have inherited this talent of hers. But I’m turning 40 this year and it hasn’t happened yet, so I think I’m safe. Thank goodness! As much as I love literary ghosts, I know I’d be absolutely terrified if I ever encountered the real thing.

The cover for THE SECOND-BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET is so fun. Can you introduce us to the characters?

I love the cover too! This book actually has illustrations throughout – they (and the cover) are all the work of a talented artist named Jane Pica. I LOVE the way she captured the personalities of the characters.

And yes, let’s meet them! On the bottom left we have Willow – Willow’s family owns the Hotel Ivan (which everybody is standing in front of). Evie, the other point of view character, is on the bottom right, wearing her “Spooky Little Girl” outfit (which the Hauntery forces her to wear and which she hates with every fiber of her being). Above the girls are some of the Hotel Ivan’s resident ghosts. Going clockwise (starting above Willow’s head), we’ve got: Molly the Headless Horsewoman (she frequently loses her head), Alford (a WW1 veteran who wears his uniform when he’s nervous), Leonata (a drag performer who is married to Alford. When she’s not in drag, she’s Leopold, a former opera singer and the Ivan’s resident Terrifying Phantasm). Bree (the Ivan’s Social Media Coordinator, whose dream is to open her own photography studio). And right at the bottom between Willow and Evie is Cuddles, the Hotel Ivan’s resident ghost dog.

Do you have a spooky craft or recipe to share?

I do! If you’ve been anywhere near my Instagram, you probably noticed that I like to bake. I always try and find a way to sneak baked goods or other recipes into my books. In THE SECOND-BEST HAUNTED HOTEL ON MERCER STREET it was pretty easy – there are actually two other Ivan ghosts who I haven’t mentioned yet (who aren’t on the cover): Antonia, the Ivan’s Head Chef and her niece, Francesca, a Chef-in-Training. They make a number of interesting dishes throughout the story (including one, very memorable dinner party menu). But my favorite, and probably the best one to pass along, is the recipe for the chocolate chip scones they bake for the lobby. This recipe is adapted from one of my all-time favorite scones recipes in The National Trust Book of Scones (by Sarah Clelland).

THE HOTEL IVAN’S CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES

(Adapted from The National Trust Book of Scones by Sarah Clelland)

INGREDIENTS:

16 oz self-rising flour

4 oz butter, cubed

3 oz caster sugar (or granulated sugar if you don’t have caster)

4 oz chocolate chips (plus more to snack on while baking)

1 egg, beaten

200 ml whole milk

PROCEDURE:

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the flour. Rub in the cubed butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the sugar and the chocolate chips.

Add the egg and mix in almost all of the milk (saving a little bit to brush on top of the scones before baking) to make a soft dough.

Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface until it just comes together. Press the dough out with the palms of your hands until it’s about an inch thick then stamp out the scones with a small round biscuit cutter. Re-roll the scraps and stamp out more until you run out of dough. (If you prefer triangle scones, then flatten the dough into a large circle and cut the dough, pizza-style.)

Brush the top of the scones with the remaining milk and bake them for 10-15 minutes until they’ve risen and are golden brown on top.

Eat them while they’re warm and melty. Share with your favorite ghosts.

Mmmm. My mouth is already watering. Thank you, Cory, for stopping by Spooky Middle Grade. We can’t wait for your new book!

Samantha M Clark is the award-winning author of the spooky and mysterious middle-grade novel THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster). Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or her website.

Josh Roberts & THE WITCHES OF WILLOW COVE

Welcome today to Spooky MG Authors–debut MG author, Josh Roberts!

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Josh, I really enjoyed reading your modern twist on the witches of Salem, which also highlights upper MG issues like friendship and blossoming young romance. Where did the idea for The Witches of Willow Cove come from?

Growing up in New England, I was always aware of the Salem Witch Trials and how important they were to our local history and lore. But what really fascinated me was the fact that the witch trials actually occurred in what’s now an entirely different town. Salem gets all the tourists, but the real witch history happened a few miles away in another town that’s hardly ever mentioned.

As I was brainstorming ideas for this novel, I kept coming back to the concept of a town with a secret history. And as I often do when imagining a story, I started asking questions. What if there were kids growing up in that town who discovered an important personal connection to its secret history? What if that connection impacted their lives in some important way? What if the past literally came back to haunt them? What if I wrote something that was part Gooniesand part Sabrina the Teenage Witch?

Once I had the kernel of an idea, the rest of the setting began to fall into place for me. Then it was time to start thinking about who these kids would be and where the story would take them. That’s always the fun part of writing—getting to know your characters and then seeing where the ideas go from there.

Oh, I agree about how fun it is to get-to-know your characters. I’m always surprised when these invented characters start leaping from the page and surprising me with their words and actions—especially my monsters.

Why do you like to write spooky stories?

 

I lived in a three-story Victorian funeral home for most of my childhood, complete with creaky floors and drafty windows and a secret room sealed off from the rest of the house, so I suppose it was inevitable that I’d be attracted to writing spooky stories.

 

I think spooky stories have some great narrative advantages going for them, too. Atmosphere is very important to any story, but especially in something spooky, and that can be a lot of fun to write. Pacing is crucial, too. I love when I’m reading something that induces a growing sense of dread inside me—this sense that something is about to go wrong for a favorite character. I love it even more when I’m writing it.

 

I also think spooky stories lend themselves to twists and turns and surprise reveals. In many ways, spooky stories are like mysteries. There’s usually something unexplained going on, and what’s more exciting than solving a mystery?

 

That’s a great comparison of spooky stories and mysteries—twists, turns, and reveals. What other interesting things did you discover while working on your story?

 

Writing is hard work! You probably know that already, though. I think for me, the biggest discovery was to trust the process of writing, revising, and writing again. I spent a lot of years trying to get everything “right” in my first drafts, which I think most authors would agree is pretty much impossible. And also a terrible idea.

 

Now when I start a new project, I write what I call an exploratory draft: I try to explore the story and characters and see where they go without focusing too much on if it’s “good” or polished—just figuring out what I’m trying to say first and leaving room to surprise myself. There’s always time for rewriting. (Writing is rewriting. I wish I’d really taken that message to heart years ago.)

 

Excellent point about rewriting! And I love your “exploratory draft” concept. I think the less pressure a writer creates for himself, the greater opportunity to produce a fresh, vibrant story.

What are some of the key points you learned as a debut MG author?

 

For me, it’s really about staying true to the story you want to tell and the themes you want to address. The Witches of Willow Cove is somewhere between a middle grade and young adult novel. It has one foot in each category and so it’s maybe a little hard to nail down where it should go on the bookshelves, and I’m okay with that.

 

At thirteen years old, my two main characters are a little older than traditional middle grade leads and a little younger than typical young adult protagonists. As a writer sending queries to the literary slush piles, I got a lot of feedback that I should either age them up or make them younger, and I tried both approaches . . . only to realize that this story only works for me as an upper-middle grade book with characters facing the particular set of challenges and struggles that early teens face (albeit with witchcraft and deadly secrets).

 

My favorite reader feedback so far has been that the characters feel and act like real kids their age, and I think that’s so important because there just aren’t enough books for kids in that in-between group.

 

I agree with your reader feedback. The characters felt spot-on to me. As a former school librarian, I believe your book would be well-received by upper-MG and lower-YA readers.

What books are you reading now or plan to read next?

 

I’m reading Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia right now (talk about a spooky story!) and next on my list are two spooky middle grade books, The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1) by Lorien Lawrence and Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie.

 

I’ll have to add the first two to my TBR list! I have read Scritch Scratch and I loved how Lindsay combined history and don’t-turn-off-the-lights spooky intensity. It re-enforces your earlier statement about spooky stories paralleling mystery stories.

 

Who do you feel was the biggest influence on your becoming an author?

 

There are so many ways to answer this question and they would all be true. Many people in my life have encouraged me, supported me, and influenced me on my path to being a writer. My mom, for one, and my wife, and numerous teachers over the years.

 

I think the biggest influence is probably the stories I’ve read, though—worlds I’ve gotten lost in, characters I’ve loved, stories that have stayed with me all the way since childhood. It’s probably true that all writers write because we’ve been inspired to do so by someone else’s writing.

 

In my case, it began with Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles and never let up from there.

 

Oh yes, those are amazing stories. I’m so pleased to hear you recommend a modern “classic” like Alexander’s that many young readers probably aren’t reading—but they would love. And ones they should be able to check out from their local library right now, while they are stuck at home.

 

How have you adjusted your marketing/promotional plans with the pandemic?

 

Everything has gone online and I’ve done a number of virtual events and interviews and school visits, which have been great. Mostly I’ve just been trying to keep my book out there in front of people on social media and hoping it finds its audience (which, thankfully, it seems to have done).

 

Right now, I’m also in the midst of contacting a lot of independent bookstores across the country to introduce myself and my book. If there’s been any bright spot, it has been talking to a lot of booksellers who truly love discovering new books for their readers.

 

Yay! for being able to connect with young readers during this tough time and a great idea to reach out to independent bookstores as well.

 

Can you share anything about a new story you’re working on?

 

Right now, I’m working on the sequel to The Witches of Willow Cove, which is entitled The Curse of Willow Cove. It picks up about eight or nine months after the events of the first book and takes the story in, I hope, some totally unexpected directions.

 

I’ve had the idea for this second book in the series since the very beginning, and it’s been a treat to finally work on it, knowing that this time there are people actually waiting to see where the story goes next!   

 

Final question: What is your advice to aspiring authors?

 

Write something that gives you joy. That’s the secret. There will always be ups and downs and frustrations, but if you really love the process, you will stick with it because the writing process can be its own reward.

 

Josh, thanks so much for sharing your insights with us! I wish you continued success with The Witches of Willow Cove and its sequel.

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For more information about Josh Roberts and his books, check out the links below.

 

Links:

 

My website:  https://www.willowcove.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49395271-the-witches-of-willow-cove

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joshwhowrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joshwhowrites/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshrobertsbooks/

 

Stay spooky and Stay SAFE!

Interview with Tara Gilboy, Author of Rewritten

Tara Gilboy is a delightful ball of energy and her books are just as fun! When I heard her new story, REWRITTEN had a spooky theme, I knew I had to interview her.

Let’s get to it!

1. Tell us about Rewritten.

Rewritten is the sequel to Unwritten, which follows Gracie, a twelve-year-old girl who is actually a character in an unpublished fairy tale. Her parents took her out of the story, and into the real world, as a baby in order to save her life. In the first book, Gracie goes in search of her author, Gertrude Winters, to find out what happened in her story. Rewrittenpicks up where Unwritten left off. This time, Gracie ends up in another of her author’s tales, but this one is a gothic horror novel, full of all kinds of spooky story tropes: a crumbling mansion, an ancient cemetery, a beast that roams the night…. 

2. How did you come up with the idea? 

The idea for Rewritten came easier than other books I’d written in the past. I knew when I finished Unwritten that if I wrote a sequel, I’d want to have Gracie travel into other Gertrude Winters stories, so I had a general sense of what the book would be about. The hardest part of figuring out what shape the plot would take was getting a firm handle on what Gracie’s internal arc would be. She had resolved a lot of her issues in book one, and so figuring out what her character still needed took some time. Interestingly, in order to figure out what would happen in Rewritten, I had to think really hard about what the villain, Cassandra, wanted. Often when I’m plotting, I’m focusing on my protagonist’s goals, but I knew in this case, I needed to figure out what Cassandra wanted and what her next move would be because this would play a significant role in what happened to Gracie.

3. Do you base your characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans! 

I don’t base characters on real people intentionally, but I think I grab bits and pieces from people I know. I might get an idea for a certain character trait; for example, I might notice the way someone who is shy moves and interacts with the world and then use those mannerisms when I’m crafting a shy character. I think using these kinds of real-life observations can help create characters who feel authentic and lifelike, but I’m also careful not to base a character too much on a real person, both because I don’t want to offend my friends and family and also because I want the characters I create to serve the story, and I think being too married to the “real person” who serves as inspiration can sometimes inadvertently limit the story’s development.

4. How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell? 

Well, thankfully not a lot, considering how spooky Rewritten is! I wouldn’t want to have to go through what Gracie did! 

I’m joking, because since I write fantasy, a lot of what takes place in my stories couldn’t happen in real life, but I do actually draw on my real-life experiences quite a bit in other ways. Usually those are related to the emotional experienceof an event, rather than the event itself. For example, if one of my characters is experiencing fear, I’ll think back to a time when I was afraid and really try to be in the moment and remember how it felt, both in my mind and body. Thoughts whirling, senses alert, muscles tensed, ready to flee… This helps me to create authentic reactions in my characters. And of course, since I write for children, I do think back to my own childhood quite a bit and remember the emotional experience of it, the things that were important to me, the way I felt about the world and about other people… Though, on a side note, I think I sometimes do use my real experiences without realizing it. I remember once after reading one of my stories, my mom called me and said “I remember when that happened to you as a kid,” and I was like “That happened to me?” I had completely forgotten the incident, but somehow it made its way into my story.

5. What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing? 

I liked to read anything and everything as a kid, but my favorite books were historical fiction. I was kind of obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie series, the American Girl books, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. But I also had a long stretch where I was reading nothing but The Babysitter’s Club books and then as I got a little older, the R.L. Stine Fear Street series. Interestingly, I didn’t read a lot of fantasy as a kid, and that’s what I mostly write now. I think the biggest way that the books I read as a kid influenced my work was that I was always very drawn to middle grade. Even now, I read mostly middle grade novels. There is something so compelling to me about the way these stories are told and how their characters view the world.

6. What are you working on now? 

Lately, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between a few different projects. I’ve been struggling to find time to write lately because of all the teaching I’m doing. I just took a sketch comedy writing class that was a lot of fun because it pushed me to try a new kind of writing. But the main thing I am working on is a spooky historical middle grade with mermaids.

7. What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?  

I write best in the morning, and I always start my writing session by reading: nothing puts me in the “writing zone” better than reading great stories by other authors. I’m really big on writing crappy rough drafts, and so I don’t edit a lot along the way, though I do workshop quite a bit with my writing group. I often get feedback from them and use their suggestions as I continue forward, but I don’t do a lot revising until I’ve reached the end of the first draft. I know a lot of writers who do revise along the way, but that’s just not a process that works for me because I’m definitely someone who can get lost in revising and then never get to the end of a manuscript. Plus, because I don’t do much outlining, I often don’t know what the heart of the story is until I get to the end of the draft. So if I revised too much along the way, I might end up with some beautifully-written scenes that end up getting cut because they don’t earn their place in the plot. I have shifted a bit and started plotting a bit more recently than I used to. I usually will make an outline now, but I rarely stick to it. I find when I hold myself too rigidly to an outline, I end up forcing my characters to do and say things that don’t feel natural simply because it’s what I had put in my outline. My characters surprise me too much for an outline to be completely effective for me, though I usually do have a general sense of where a story is headed.

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

One of my creative writing teachers once said something to me that’s always stuck with me. She said (and I’m paraphrasing): “I’ve taught a lot of amazing writers over the years, but in the end, it wasn’t the most talented ones that made it. It was the ones who worked the hardest, revised the most, and didn’t give up.” 

I return to her words again and again. There’s not much I can control about the publishing industry, but I can control how hard I work and how much I revise. So my advice is: don’t give up if you don’t succeed right away. Writing is hard! Keep writing, keep taking classes and joining writer’s groups, and most of all… revise! My books go through over 20 drafts before I send them out (and that’s a low estimate – I actually lost count at 20). Don’t put pressure on yourself to write great early drafts. I’ve seen a lot of writers give up because of that. 

9. How can readers get in touch with you?

Thanks for asking! I love to connect with my readers.

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The Truce! by Angie Smiber

I’m delighted to host Angie Smibert, whose next spooky book, THE TRUCE, is out this week, on May 26th! I’m going to dive right in…….

Please give us a brief summary of THE TRUCE.

This is probably a bit more set up than summary. (Don’t want to give away any spoilers.)

In the third book of the Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series, it’s December 1942 in the small coal mining community of Big Vein, Virginia. By now, Bone Phillips (12) is growing accustomed to her a Gift, a family Gift, as her Mamaw calls, and maybe even begun to embrace it. Bone can see the stories or ghosts inside ordinary objects. But there’s one object her beloved Uncle Ash has forbidden her to touch: his dog tags from the first World War. He came back from that war a changed man, and every year about this time, he needs to escape for a while. He packs up the truck and his dogs and asks Bone to declare a truce with her dreaded Aunt Mattie while he’s gone. Reluctantly, Bone does. However, the truce is soon threatened by a discovery in the mine:  a body—wearing Uncle Ash’s dog tags. Bone has to use her Gift to solve the mystery. And that’s all I’ll say for now…except there is a ghost dog involved.TRUCEJacket-3-FC-745x1024

I love the premise of Bone’s gift. And Bone is such an interesting character. Tell us how you think of her – is there a bit of you in there?

The story started with a sense memory of swimming in the New River as a kid, much like Bone does in the beginning of Bone’s Gift, the first book in the series. I remembered the feeling of being that kid who didn’t want summer to end or to particularly grow up and be the ‘little lady’ that other people expected. Bone was born out of that feeling.

This is the third novel in the series. Will there be more?

That’s it for now! I’m playing around with a short story, though.

These three novels are set in rural Virginia, where you live. How do you feel about the connection to place in your writing?

Actually, I live in a city—Roanoke—in Southwest, Virginia. However, I grew up in Blacksburg, a small college town west of here. And my mother’s family is from McCoy, a rural area outside Blacksburg along the New River, where there were coal mines until the 1950s. One of them was called Big Vein. My grandfather and his brothers were miners there—until he got hurt. Then he took over his father’s store. In fact, I kept that store in the books. In many ways, writing these stories has been an exploration of this place that I came from. And as Eudora Welty wrote, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.”

You weave folklore into the story. Talk a bit about that.

Appalachian folklore is part of the place, the characters, and even the plots of the books. Bone loves stories, from folktales and legends to movies and books. However, she doesn’t like real-life stories—so, of course, that’s why I gave her the Gift of being able to see those.smibert_angie_pic

In each of the books, Bone or one of the other characters—like Uncle Ash—is always telling a folktale or ghost story from the region. Plus I also used a particular story as the “spine” (for lack of a better word) of the plot. For instance, in Bone’s Gift, Bone’s life mirrors a story she’s telling called “Ashpet”—the Appalachian version of Cinderella. In Lingering Echoes—which is set at Halloween—the ‘spine’ tale is Stingy Jack, the origin story of Jack O’Lanterns. At the heart of The Truce, there’s a ghost dog story.

Ghost or spirit dog stories are popular in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. (And also found in many other folklores.) A ghost dog might come to warn someone about an impending death. Or the big black dog might actually be there to claim a wicked person’s soul. However, in a few stories, the dog is protecting someone or some thing, such as a fabled silver mine. And as I said, in the Truce, there is a ghost dog and he/she might be near a mine.

The Truce is set at Christmas, which might not seem like a time for ghost stories. But it is! (Think A Christmas Carol!) An old Appalachian custom (as well as old Celtic/British one) was to tell ghost stories, particularly on Christmas Eve. (I won’t get into the whole Old Christmas day thing here!) This is probably a holdover from pagan Winter solstice practices of telling scary stories and making noise to drive away the spirits. So, of course, Bone is excited to tell some spooky tales for Christmas, but she also gets to live one involving a ghost dog.

For more on folklore and history in the series, please see my resource page: https://www.angiesmibert.com/blog/?page_id=1861#ghostsresources

What’s up next for you?

I’m working (slowly) on a spooky magical realism-type story set in the early 1970s in Appalachia that involves (so far) an old resort turned into an artist commune and a ghost or two. I’m also still teaching writing. That takes up a lot of my time lately. 😉

Thanks, Angie!

Writing Tool: The Pandemic Attic Notebook

Anyone else having a little trouble concentrating these days?

Ugh.

In all honesty, I was having a bit of trouble concentrating on writing even before this global pandemic began. After turning in the draft of my next MG novel (a creepy book-within-a-book about sisters and stories and a haunted library, tentatively titled LONG LOST and coming out sometime in 2021—woohoo!), I found myself wavering between four other gestating projects, with a new baby and a just-turned-five-year-old occupying most of my attention, and then…

…Well, you know.

Suddenly, with no preschool or family help, most of my writing time was gone. But not writing at all was making me feel immeasurably worse, like it always does.

So I started something new. (I suppose I officially started it just over a year ago, during a between-books patch, and dropped it when my schedule got crazy again. But we don’t need to talk about that.) It’s called the Attic Notebook. I first heard about it from Laini Taylor, but many writer friends have pointed out similar exercises, like the “morning pages” in The Artist’s Way.

Here are the basics:

– Write in a designated notebook for 10 – 15 minutes each day, using simple prompts to get started, never stopping to revise or look back.

– Write in any form or style: poetry, essays, short or long fiction, whatever comes.

– Once you’ve filled the notebook, hide it away for at least six weeks.

– When you take it out again, imagine that you found the notebook at the bottom of an old trunk in someone else’s attic. Not only will you see the writing with fresh eyes, but it should feel a little like buried treasure.

lamp Attic Notebook

Each morning, before anyone else in my house gets up, I’ve been creeping downstairs to scribble in my Attic Notebook. I try not to think about why I’m writing, about what each  piece is for, about if it will ever turn into anything publishable or finish-able or worthwhile at all. I just pick a prompt and write. I’ve filled one notebook already, and I’m putting off the reading part for as long as I can stand it. Maybe I’ll run out of patience soon and sit down and dive in. But it’s been a great reminder that process matters more than product. And it’s helping me step outside of my anxieties for a little while each day, and that’s been sanity-saving.

 

(Voila: My Pand-Attic Notebooks! If you want to keep one with me during this era, I suppose you could call it a “Shelter-in-the-Attic Notebook,” or a “Quarantine Notebook,” especially if you want to get literal and let yourself read it after exactly 40 days…)

Here are some of the prompts I’ve come up with. Feel free to use them, to add your own, to find others–whatever works for you. And if you want to share any of your process, you can tag me on FB or Instagram (jacqueline.west.writes). It’s nice to remember that we aren’t really alone these days — even while we’re scribbling in the dark all by ourselves.

Prompts:
– Come in from the cold
– Capture the flag
– Paw print
– Lost button
– Shadow caster
– Last rites
– Switched at birth
– Freak show
– Winding road
– To be honest
– Since when
– Hour of beasts
– Hide and seek
– Choked with vines
– Paralyzed
– Survival of the fairest
– Beware
– Monarch
– Pomegranate seeds
– Poison field
– Pan pipes
– Courage
– Locked drawer
– Morning glory
– Sea of storms

 

 

SCARY TIMES

Spooky Middle Grade Authors Talk About Writing During the Pandemic

man wearing a black face mask
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

During these difficult days, I reached out to the Spooky MG Authors to see how they were coping and if they had an advice for other writers. Here’s their responses:

 

Sarah Cannon

I’m honestly writing more, because my kids’ schedules and working outside the home add logistics that steal a lot of hours from my day. Being quarantined removes all of those things. My day job is a s busy as ever, but I’m back to my old writing routine of settling in around 8 or 9 pm, having a bit of downtime, then writing until I’m too sleepy to keep going.

My main recs, especially for those who typically leave the house to write or write when the kids are gone, are: Use cancelling headphones and music. Any day it’s warm enough, write outside, or kick everyone else outside. Wait ‘til they’re all on tech (or withhold tech until you’re ready to write) then write like the wind. If you’re on Zoom all the time and are sick of screens, go analog and use a notebook.

 

Kim Ventrella

The hard part for me is focus. I’ve done a ton of book promotion and graphic design tasks since quarantine started, i.e. stuff that I can easily do while my brain is somewhere else. The hard part has been conjuring the kind of deep emotional focus I need to write a novel. I’m getting better at it, but it’s taken a while to regain that ability to turn off the real world.

 

Lisa Schmid

I have started a new chapter book series, kind of a Dr. Dolittle Jr. meets bugs with a STEM twist. I have been kind of stuck, so I ordered some books on bees and bus and a few chapter books to get me inspired.

 

Tania Hackett

I’m struggling to write despite currently working from home, which means I have two extra hours in the day that I would normally spend commuting. The only way I’ve been able to write is through Zoom writing sprints or write-ins. Something about hear hearing other people clacking away keeps me motivated. Otherwise I have no focus to sit and write. I feel so anxious all the time.

 

Sheri Larsen

When the Covid-19 scare began, I was mapping out an altered view of an old idea I had for an MG story. I didn’t think the outside world would creep in. But it has. Even turning to my go-to inspiration of research hasn’t helped. Cyberspace is corroded with all the negative, making it hard to research online. I find myself dazing off thinking about all the possibilities. It’s not all tear drops and woes, though. I’ve spent precious time with my husband and kids, and I’ve also had extra time to guide our German Shepherd in her training, which is almost as tough a feat as writing this next MG. I’ve also cut out most of my news watching over the past week or so and turned to prayer, which has cleared my mind. I’ve been able to point some meat on my story ideas, so I’m headed in the right direction.

 

Samantha Clark
I have been writing during the pandemic, but it has been difficult. My motivation is that I’ve been on deadline for my next book, ARROW, so I’ve been forced to get to the page. But it has still been hard to focus. My better days are ones when I don’t look at the news and what’s going on with the outside world. I still want to know what’s going on, but I’ve been trying to limit it to afternoons and only a couple times a week.
When I can focus on my writing, I’m finding it wonderful to be in the story’s world and outside of my own for a short period. To stay focused, I’ve also been trying to find the beauty in my own life, the trees, flowers, birds out the window.

 

Janet Fox

I’ve been able to work on a new book. That’s the good news. But I have a book out late this summer and who knows how that will come together? And another out next summer.

Mostly however, I’m anxious. Both my husband and I are in the compromised group. Our son lives in Seattle. I do not want to get this virus. And I’m worried for the world.

But we have a cabin in the mountains, and that has been such a safe place in the midst of this – it’s remote but has (poor) internet and no television, so we can truly get away. That’s why I’ve been able to write. Being able to walk, to breathe clean air, to feel safe at a distance – that’s a true gift I wish I could share.

 

Angie Smibert

I’ve gotten very little writing done. Part of that is because I’ve had a ton of teaching work to focus. I’ve tried to write but grading other people’s writing has been easier. One thing I’ve done, though, is set up a Zoom write-in with my local writers’ group—plus one or two others. One of my crit partners and I had been meeting in person every Friday afternoon for a couple hours at a coffee shop—pre-pandemic—and it really helped to focus us. (I’d even started something new.) So now we’re meeting via Zoom. Usually 3-5 of us at a time. We chitchat a bit, but mostly we just write (or work). One week we did a table read of my friend’s sitcom for him. That was blast. We’ve also done our monthly manuscript critiques this way.

 

Jacqueline West

I had a baby in winter, and then, you know, the world turned upside down, and now I barely know where I am. Writing-wise, I’m pretty much unmoored. I’m alone all day with one five-year-old and one four-month-old and no childcare (my parents were helping with the baby, but we haven’t seen them or anyone else in over a month and a half). If I get up around 5 am, before anyone else is awake, I can sometimes squeeze in a tiny bit of writing, and that is saving my sanity. But by the end of each day, I am mentally and emotionally DONE. The strange thing is: I am overflowing with story stuff right now. I have four big projects bubbling, and poems and short stories popping up, and all I want to do is sit down somewhere quiet with a giant cup of coffee and lose myself in other worlds, maybe for a very, very long time. But I can’t. And I have no idea how long it will be before I will get to focus that way again, which is a question so big that I try not to think about it at all.

 

Cynthia Reeg

For the first few weeks of the shelter-at-home, as the true impact of the pandemic descended, I couldn’t write at all. I had started a new MG story prior to the chaos, but as the magnitude of the pandemic took hold, I went totally blank. I had to start doing practical stuff like housework, cooking, baking—I’ve learned how to make a sourdough starter and fresh breads! I guess I needed to see something positive accomplished—if only for a short period with the housecleaning anyway. Then with the encouragement of my writers’ group through our weekly Zoom sessions, I made myself start working on my story again. Writing became a way to filter out the real world and retreat to another world, if only for a little while. Although at our last writers’ meeting, we discussed how much our WIP will need to reflect our current changed world—virtual learning, masks, no crowds. It is indeed a challenging time, but I find great comfort in our efforts to stay connected and supportive through it all.

 

A few final tips to help keep your writing on track:

  • Make a Progress/Accountability Chart
  • Set goals—daily, weekly, monthly
  • Carve out a specific writing time/schedule
  • Challenge yourself to generate new ideas
  • Finish a project you’ve already started
  • Or if you just can’t write, participate in webinars or other learning tools on improving your craft

 

The plus side of this crisis—extra reading time. We hope you’ve jumped into some great stories. We will do our best to continue writing them for you!

SkeletonType

Interview with Tania del Rio, Author of The Thirteen-Year Curse

Today I’m thrilled to chat with Tania del Rio, author of the Warren the 13th series! Her latest book, The Thirteen-Year Curse, releases today!!! You can also check out an interview with Tania on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/spookymiddlegrade/. Watch it live 3.24.2020 at 1 PDT or visit our page to view the recording.

Let’s dive right in. What should new readers know about the world of Warren the 13th?

The Warren the 13th series is about a hardworking boy who is the lone bellhop, fixer-upper, concierge, maid service, and manager of his family’s ancient hotel. He does it all, with no thanks to his lazy uncle and evil aunt, who may or may not be a witch. Warren starts off the series as a lonely boy who is trying to honor the memory of his dead father but through the course of his adventures he gains new friends—and enemies—and unlocks some surprising mysteries about his beloved hotel!

What should readers expect in this latest volume? Can you give us any scintillating details w/out spoilers?

It’s tough to say too much without spoiling anything, but I can say Warren’s adventures take him to uncharted territory upon the open seas. His beloved pet and best pal, Sketchy, is kidnapped and Warren must solve riddles and clues if he has any hope of rescuing his friend. Along the way he’ll contend with ornery pirates, sea witches, and circus clowns—not to mention an enormous beast known as The Great Eight!

What has been the best part of working on Warren the 13th?

I love the zany cast of characters and seeing where Warren’s adventures take him. Even though I work from a detailed outline, as I write new surprises often pop up and I find myself adding things in I’d never expect. Also, collaborating with Will Staehle, the designer and illustrator of the book, is a lot of fun.

Tell me more about the illustrator. You’re also known for your amazing illustrations, so how did that partnership work?

Will and I have known each other since we were freshmen in art school, many years ago! We’ve had a lot of creative collaborations over the years, including creating a small press comic company, and editing a tutorial book on manga style art. Will originally conceived of the character of Warren in art school and shared the concept with me. I actually wrote the earliest draft of Warren’s story back in 2004! So it’s been a very long process bringing it to shelves. Even though I am also an illustrator, Will’s incredible design sense and his unique style is the only way Warren could ever be brought to life. My own art style just wouldn’t work for this project.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a new middle grade adventure that is best described as Latinx Sailor Moon meets Coco. It’s about three friends who end up in a darkened world populated by alebrijes, colorful and folkloric animals. The girls must band together to restore the sun and find their way home, before all is lost.

How can readers get in touch?

I can be reached on Twitter, @taniadelrio and Instagram, @taniadelrioauthor. I absolutely love hearing from my readers, so please visit me online!

Tania Del Rio is a professional comic book writer and artist who has spent the past 10 years writing and illustrating, primarily for a young audience. Her clients include Archie Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel; she is best known for her work writing and drawing the 42-issue run of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She is also the author of the WARREN THE 13TH series published by Quirk Books. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her online at http://taniadelrio.blogspot.com/.

A Chat With Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson, Authors of The FAIRDAY MORROW Series

I recently participated in World Read Aloud Day. It was a blast! But the day only got better when I discovered that one of the librarians who had reached out to me was none other than Stephanie Robinson, co-author of the FAIRDAY MORROW book series.

I am a HUGE fan! It was probably a good thing I didn’t realize that it was her until after the fact, or I might have totally geeked out!

I immediately invited Stephanie and Jessica to the Spooky Middle Grade blog, because, of course, I have questions only they can answer!

Let’s get to it!

 

1.How did you gals start writing together? Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 12.25.07 PM

Jess: We met in English class freshman year of high school. I have always enjoyed sharing my thoughts about books with Stephanie. I wrote a children’s poem that I wanted to turn into a picture book, but when that didn’t work out and I decided to create a middle grade book with my idea. It seemed natural to ask her if she wanted to write it with me. The rest is history- and lots of it!

Stephanie: I had always loved writing and had written many short stories and poems. Growing up I thought I would write a book a summer when I became a teacher.  So, when Jess asked me to co-author a book with her, I decided it was the perfect chance to begin working on one of my dreams (and I soon found out that I write too slow to produce a book a summer- and there are a lot more steps to publishing than I knew).

  1. Tell us about Fairday Morrow. Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 12.26.04 PM

Fairday is our main character. She’s in 5th grade and has a younger sister named Margo who she adores. Fairday is a thinker and likes to take in the situation around her. She’s calm and inquisitive and loves playing with words. Fairday reads a ton and shares the books she enjoys with her best friend Lizzy. She tries her best to be fair and doesn’t like seeing people be unkind. 

  1. How did you come up with the idea for this book series? 

Jess: The initial story was partially created by my grandfather. When I was a kid, I stayed with my grandparents for a while and they lived in a spooky house in Ridgefield, CT. Sometimes it sounded like someone was walking around upstairs when there was no one up there, and my grandfather used to tell me it was Ruby Begonia clomping around in her high-heeled sneakers. I spent years trying to catch her, but never did. Ruby’s story took shape as I grew up. When I was in my twenties, I wrote the children’s poem, Ruby Begonia and the High-Heeled Sneakers. One day, I thought how cool it would be to turn the poem into a chapter book and the name, Fairday Morrow popped into my head. I thought to ask my best friend and book buddy, Stephanie Robinson, if she wanted to co-author it with me, and happily she agreed. Stephanie and I both love books; we love to read and talk about the stories. So, we started writing and talking about Fairday and the adventures of the Detective Mystery Squad (DMS). 

Stephanie: After Jess asked me to work with her on changing her poem into a story the ideas began emerging from all over the place. We would meet, talk, brainstorm, and dissect each other’s ideas. Each time one of us shared something we would spark new ideas in the other person. Some of the elements of Fairday’s story have appeared in my dreams and others that have happened in my everyday life.   

  1. Do you base your characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans! 

Jess: In a way, all of our characters are a mix of different people that we’ve known throughout our lives. Banner, particularly, is a close comparison to one of our high school friends, and Dif, well, he’s sort of a conglomerate of those mean kids that everyone has come across from time to time, but people can change, of course. 😉

Stephanie:  As a teacher I see many personalities in the classroom. It has been helpful to add elements to characters like Marcus and Dif from my observations.  A friend of my husband’s family was called Brocket, and I have always loved the name. Jess and I borrowed it for Marcus because he deserved a cool last name, after all he is Brocket the Rocket. 

  1. How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell? 

We are big fans of “write what you know”. We end up sprinkling in pieces of scenes we observe, funny things that have happened to us, and small details from our lives. Many of our real adventures are woven into the fictional ones.

  1. What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing? 

Jess: I loved the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary- and Ellen Tibets was one of my absolute favorite stories. I also really enjoyed fairy tales and books about space and astronomy. 

Stephanie:  I started out in first grade as a struggling reader and once I got the hang of it I couldn’t get enough! I devoured books growing up. Some of my favorite authors were Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl. I loved fairy tales and Shel Silverstein poems. I read every Nancy Drew book and the Little House series. I wanted to be Nancy and Half-Pint! I read a mix of genres and the Fairday Morrow series blends genres- so I think I was influenced by my reading for sure. 

  1. What are you working on now? 

We are currently working on book 3 in the Fairday Morrow series- Fairday Morrow and the Master’s Emporium.  It’s a lot of fun to write and it’s exciting to see what other secrets the Begonia House has in store for the DMS and all the places their case will take them. 

  1. What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?  

We mostly write by the seat of our pants, but we both spend hours talking about our ideas and characters. So technically, we do a lot of verbal outlining and occasionally we map out our ideas on paper. We change things as we write though! We speak daily about Fairday and her adventures. We flush out characters, storylines, and everything else both in person and on the phone. Our meetings have always been productive and helped us to be on the same page. We use Google Docs, which allows us to write in one document from anywhere. Usually one of us starts a chapter and the other person goes in and starts working their magic- adding, deleting, and crafting the writing until it’s a blended expression of both of our ideas. We agreed early on that we would always be honest with each other and that we wouldn’t take things personally. From the beginning we wanted to create the best story we could, and we knew that we would need to put our egos aside. Luckily, we have always had a relationship in which we could tell the other person exactly how we felt. It was a blast writing together!

  1. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Jess: Be yourself. It’s important to love what you’re doing and continue to work because you enjoy the process. If you take your projects seriously and make time for them to flourish, you’ll feel your own sense of validation. It’s important to protect creative time and space and keep up the practice- there is no failure or wrong or right in art, it’s all worthwhile, and your skills will develop as you continue to craft your writing.

Stephanie: Write at your own pace and use a process that works for you. It is easy to look at other writers and compare yourself to them. Some people write fast, some are like me, and the pace is a bit slower. That is okay! I appreciate that there are writers who can sit down and type thousands of words. I tend to nitpick over words and sentences. Learning to be comfortable with your process will allow you to enjoy yourself. Don’t lose sight of why you are writing and don’t worry about the rest. Creating stories is fun!

  1. Where can we buy your books? 

Thanks for asking! You can buy our books at your local bookstores, and if they don’t have them on the shelves they can order them for you. 

Our books are also available at: 

Amazon Indie BoundBarnes and Noble

Connect with Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson:

Author WebsiteBlogFacebook Twitter Instagram

First Look Interview: Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Today, I’m thrilled to give readers a first look at the new middle grade novel by the writing team of Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski, Whispering Pines!!! Welcome Heidi and Kati! We’ll show off that beautiful cover soon, but first can you pitch your new book to us Twitter-style, in 280 characters or less?

X-Files meets Stranger Things in this contemporary horror MG about a UFO-obsessed girl determined to find her missing father, and a ghost hunting boy now being hunted by a ghost of his own—that of his older brother—who team up to save their town from supernatural forces.

Yes!!! I love everything from that pitch! Aliens, ghosts, mysterious supernatural forces. Why do I feel like this book was written specifically for me?

Next, I challenged Heidi and Kati to finish these sentences about the book:

The one thing Rae Carter wants is to…

KATI: Find her missing father.

HEIDI: Couldn’t have said it better myself. 😉 In the meantime, she also wants to learn how to fit into Whispering Pines.

Caden Price knows more than most about the mysterious town of Whispering Pines, including…

HEIDI: …the fact that there is a world hidden beneath their own, and his town serves as the gateway.

KATI: Unfortunately for Caden, he’s not the only one who knows this. Just as he’s not the only one who’s figured out that the Price family holds the key to unlocking that world.

My first thought when I saw the cover was…

HEIDI: Wow! So delightfully creepy!

KATI: Same. I loved it immediately. Diana Novich is such a talented illustrator.

And, without further ado, let’s take a look at that gorgeous cover:

Whispering Pines

So beautiful and mysterious! I love the lighting, and did you catch that ghost hand?

Finally, I challenged Heidi and Kati to a little Lightning Round!

  • What was your favorite spooky story as a kid?

KATI: I actually didn’t like reading spooky stories as a kid – I got nightmares too easily. I used to wait for Heidi to read a book first so she could tell me if it was scary or not. Sometimes she lied about it. >: (

HEIDI: “Lied” is a little harsh. I was just trying to broaden your horizons. And it worked! Now you love reading horror. You’re welcome, by the way. ; p  I loved R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, especially “Let’s Get Invisible.” That ending has stayed with me for years.

  • Do you believe in the supernatural?

KATI: Definitely.

HEIDI: Me too. I think anything is possible.

  • What tips do you have for kids interested in writing spooky stories?

HEIDI: Read and watch spooky things. And play the “what if” game, trying to think of the scariest possible outcomes. And then invest in a good night light.

KATI: Also when you’re writing, try to create scenes that scare you. If you can scare yourself, you’ll scare your readers.

  • What’s the coolest costume you’ve ever worn for Halloween?

KATI: Actually, my coolest costume was simple black clothing that I wore when I worked at a haunted house – it helped me blend into the shadows so I could scare people.

HEIDI: One time I was a crayon. That was pretty wild.

KATI: I remember that costume! Pretty sure I was that same crayon the next year. I don’t think “cool” is how I’d describe it, though. ;D

Final question: Can readers expect more adventures set in Whispering Pines? 

KATI: We are currently working on an as-yet-unnamed sequel.

HEIDI: Yes, lots more planned for Whispering Pines!

Yay!!! Looking forward to it!

WHISPERING PINES releases September 1st, 2020 through Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Kati and Heidi_author photo_Positive Vista Photography

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski are a writing team of two sisters. Heidi is afraid of all things that go bump in the night, but watches shows like the X-Files and Stranger Things anyhow. Kati enjoys reading about serial killers and the apocalypse, but secretly sleeps with a nightlight. They believe that the best way to conquer fear is to share it with as many people as possible, so between the two of them, they love creating stories full of all the things that scare them most. They are the co-authors of the Mystic Cooking Chronicles trilogy.

Find Heidi on twitter and instagram: @hidlang

Find Kati on twitter and instagram: @ktbartkowski

Or visit their website: www.HeidiandKatiBooks.com