My special guest for the start to this holiday weekend is Q.L. Pearce. She’s chatting with me about her new adult novel, a dark fiction work titled Spine Chillers. It’s the first in a new series and is a collection of spine-tingling ghost stories.
Q.L. Pearce is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books for the Fox animated film Titan AE and the Universal animated series Land Before Time. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala Sa (Carolrhoda Books, with co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi), received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs italisize (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, "I was a child once. That was very scary."
Welcome, Q.L. Please tell us about your current release.
Spine Chillers is a collection of short stories for young readers. It includes classic ghosts, a monster or two, urban legends and one tale that is an homage to The Twilight Zone. The stories are for reading aloud at a sleep-over, or under the covers with a flashlight. My goal was to include something for everyone and hope that each reader will find a favorite among them.
What inspired you to write this book?
The book is in the tradition of my first short story series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. Although it has been out of print for some time, I still hear from adult readers who let me know how much they liked the books when they were kids. Spine Chillers is for a new generation of tweens to teens.
Excerpt from Spine Chillers:
From Hale Hallow Woods
“We told him he would have to pass a test…demonstrate his bravery by hiding in the museum before it closed and staying alone all night. We knew he was afraid of that place. To prove that he had been there, Andrew had to go to the top floor, climb out on the little balcony, and get one of the small stone gargoyles at the edge of the railing. It must have started raining sometime during the night.”
Tyler caught his breath. Andrew Buckner was at the window. It was raining harder, but Tyler could see the boy’s blurred image. His pale white hand was pressed against the pane. His eyes burned with anger.
“They found his body the next morning. They said he had slipped from the railing. The gargoyle was missing. We made a pact never to tell anyone why he had gone to the museum. His parents just locked up the house and no one saw them again. Ten years later Tom Dixon died in a swimming accident. Ten years after that Eddie Macavee was killed when his truck drove off a cliff during a storm. I left shortly after that. I heard Lester Morrow was found in the woods. They said it was a heart attack.”
“Why do you think he’s come back now?” Tyler asked, willing his voice to be steady.
“He’s here because I’ve come back. He plans to complete his revenge.”
“What should we do?”
Grandpa stood, walked to the window and placed his hand on the glass. He didn’t seem to see the boy glaring up at him from the other side of the pane, their hands separated only by a thin glass barrier.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a few things including the next volume of Spine Chillers. I have three fact/fiction picture books with Gina Capaldi, a middle grade mystery adventure with coauthor Francesca Rusackas, and a YA horror novel in work. I’m also thrilled to be joining Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross as co-host for YA nights on Thorne, Cross and Pearce Haunted Nights LIVE, part of the Authors on the Air: Radio Network.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I won my first school writing contest in third grade and my first city sponsored contest at age eleven. I’ve always loved to write but I began seriously submitting to magazines when I was in my early twenties. It was more of a hobby and I gathered an extensive collection of rejections. Over the course of years the rejections went from definite “no” to “no, but keep submitting.”
Originally I wanted to write horror for adults. I often included children or teen characters in my work and I eventually realized that the stories were really about and for them. My first contract with a major publisher was for an activity book about dinosaurs. It was with Price Stern Sloan. My first contract for fiction also came from Price Stern Sloan when they published Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I start my reading and research mid-morning then spend two or three hours writing. My dogs take me out for walks a couple of times a day and I use that time to brainstorm. I usually write for another hour or so later in the afternoon. I turn in early and rise early. The critters pretty much determine that schedule.
When I’m not writing I’m thinking about my books in work, doing research, and gathering ideas, or working on promotion. I volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and I read a lot! So although I can’t say that I sit in front of my computer as a full-time job, I think I can say that I’m a full-time writer.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I do a lot of research. I enjoy prowling through antique stores for curious objects or photographs that might spark an idea, or hiking around in new environments to use as settings. My dear friend, author Tamara Thorne, and I sometimes take road trips. We visit haunted hotels, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, all for background and inspiration.
I don’t know if it would be considered a quirk, but one thing that I won’t do is have an animal come to harm in anything I write just to further the story. I get very upset when a writer kills of a dog or cat to show the danger or ratchet up the tension. Early in my career I wrote a story in which a cat disappeared in the vicinity of a killer plant. I still regret that.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m originally from Kitchener, Ontario. Shortly after I was born my family and I moved to Baranquilla, Colombia. We arrived in the United States when I was five and we lived on an island near the Gulf coast of Florida. As a child I wanted to be a storyteller or a mermaid when I grew up. We eventually moved to Palm Springs in the California desert so I scratched mermaid off the list and focused on storyteller.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The advice I usually give to working writers is finish what you start. I have several manuscripts that are sitting in a file folder because I didn’t push through when I hit a weak spot. Once that happens I start second-guessing and lose momentum. A prolific writer I respect told me to get the story on paper even if it isn’t exactly what I had in mind, then go back and get it right.
The advice I always give to young writers is to take every opportunity you can to travel, meet new people, learn about new cultures and try new things. Life experience is a wonderful muse.