October 25, 2012 by Heidi
Tuesday night I attended yet another wonderful book event at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, this time featuring three Middle Grade authors who have recently published spooky reads–perfect for Halloween! Since you probably can’t see from my slightly blurry picture, the authors were Claire Legrand–The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Adam-Troy Castro–Gustav Gloom and the People Takers, Nikki Loftin–The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (which I’ve already read, loved, and reviewed here).
As you can see from the witch hats in front of me (do you really need to sit in the front row with giant hats so that people behind you can’t see? Common courtesy folks, it’s a thing.), people were really in the spirit and the authors were no exception! Nikki had her shiny mini witch hat, Adam had his Gustav Gloom shirt, and Claire came decked out as Mrs. Cavendish–complete with about 50 bugs crawling up her stockings, in her hair, on her dress, and with necklace, earrings, and rings. She described her trip to Books of Wonder dressed thus as very interesting…it included a guy leaning out of his car to yell ‘Hey lady! You’ve got bugs all over you!’ She seemed awfully gratified when people recognized that it was a costume and not, in fact, some weird new thing.
Each of the authors introduced their books and did a reading to tease us as to the creepiness, and then it was time for questions! The authors were so sweet as to put together three goody bags for the first three people to ask questions. People seemed shy, so for the first time I raised my hand and got these lovely gifts as a result (which I fully intend to enjoy and share with some of the MG readers in my life–Thanks so much Claire, Adam, and Nikki!):
How do you write write scary for Middle Grade readers–how do you actually creep them out but not scar them for life?
Nikki Loftin has built in beta readers at home–her kids! When she wrote The Sinister Sweetness they were 7 and 11, the perfect age. She realized that she wanted to scare kids, but not to have them wake up screaming and crying in the night. She’s the mom–the one her kids will go to when they’re scared–she can’t be the one making them that scared (of course, if you’re crying silently in their room, that’s fine :P)! Nikki was clearly heavily influenced by her love of old-school fairy tales. You know, the ones that were actually scary before ‘happily ever after’ became the norm. She drew a lot on her own love of Hansel and Gretel, and in my opinion perfectly captured the irresistible nature of candy for kids.
Adam-Troy Castro and Claire Legrand both had similar writing methods. They wouldn’t hold back at all in their first draft, so that even when they began to reel it in it stayed creepy. If you start watered down, it’s not going to be creepy enough in the end. Claire also drew heavily from things that scared her as a child, namely bugs!
Both Nikki and Claire said that adults have been finding their books more disturbing than kids! Kids aren’t phased, but they’ve both received reports of adults not being able to sleep after reading their books.
What is your writing process? Are you a pantser or an outliner?
Claire Legrand said that she’s pantsed The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, but has since become a very strict outliner in order to stay on a publishing schedule. Both Adam-Troy Castro and Nikki Loftin said that they did plot, but that they didn’t necessarily stick to it too strictly (accepting for Adam who said that when writing mystery you obviously have to be much more careful about that sort of thing). All three authors agreed that no matter how much you plan, the characters and story can always surprise you. Adam talked about wanting the story to be alive in your head–you can’t force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, regardless of what you’d planned!
What’s next for you?
Claire Legrand is working on another creepy MG novel that will be out next year, The Year of Shadows. But the one I’m even more excited about is her 2014 YA, Winterspell, which is going to be a retelling of The Nutcracker. I’ve never actually read the original fairy tale of The Nutcracker, I only know the ballet, but apparently the actual story is quite creepy. Color me intrigued!
Adam-Troy Castro said that he has two more Gustav Gloom books that he’s going to be working on before moving on to any of his other potential story ideas. He’s also written a lot of books for adults in the past, making him an incredibly versatile author!
Nikki Loftin is working on a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightengale, which I’m also super excited about called Nightingale’s Nest. I’ve always been more of a Hans Christian Andersen girl than a Brothers Grimm girl.
That’s it for this event! It was lovely to get to see and meet these authors–I’m already digging into The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls for a perfect Halloween read!
Also I wanted to mention the campaign to keep Books of Wonder open, which is being run through indiegogo. Books of Wonder is a wonderful independent bookstore that offers one of a kind events and boasts an incredibly friendly and helpful staff. Not only do I want to see them keep their doors open, I know there are many of you out there who would too. Please consider making a contribution–as little as $10 can help, and many wonderful authors have come together to donate contribution perks. Even if you can’t afford to contribute, please consider spreading the word via social media–every bit helps!