Friday, October 21, 2011

Thriller Contest Judging and NOSFERATU!

Boys Will Be Boys

We wanted to let everyone know that the next round of judging is happening and we will be announcing a winner soon. There were some excellent entries and of course it always makes it very difficult to choose just one. Stay tuned!

Until then, please enjoy this screening of NOSFERATU.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Patrick Carman Has Ghostly Visions

When Kellie Celia at Walden Pond Press asked if I wanted to speak with Patrick Carman to continue our GUYS READ:THRILLER celebration I had to keep myself from being a bit of a slobbering fan boy and answer with a calm yes. Well, when I made my first call to Mr. Carman I stumbled over my tongue and started speaking bocce (an interplanetary trade language comprising parts of multiple languages. It was created by the Baobab Merchant Fleet to allow communication between starcraft pilots, crews, and support personnel of various species.).

We decided to set up a second call for the interview a day later (mostly because our timing was off, not because he wanted to call the authorities about the raving lunatic speaking to him on the other end of the line). Mr. Carman was very gracious to speak with me about his story Ghost Vision Glasses, the craft of writing and a shared love of weird mail order gadgets. This is how it all went down...

 What brought you to the Guys Read: Thriller project?

Patrick: I'm fishing buddies with Jon (Scieszka, writer and editor extraordinaire). He's not very good, he's kind of a hack actually (laughs). I've been with friends with Jon for awhile and when he asked if I would write a weird little story, I said sure. From there he let me off the leash and do my story with very little editing involved.

A lot of your books lean to darker themes. Why did you choose to write suspense/thrillers? Were you influenced by these types of stories?

Patrick: The kind of stuff I grew up on was the creature features. Creature from the Black Lagoon, Twilight Zone, etc. They were softer creepy stories, weird stories, that are not as scary and graphic as the movies and stories are today. The movies today would have terrified me as an 11 year old viewer.

I agree. Movies like Saw and Hostel would have put me into therapy...

Patrick: I know. Those older stories were great escapism, thrilling stories that took you to different worlds that I could enjoy from the safety of my own room. Those kind of stories were an influence to what I create today.

I prefer the classics myself. Why do you think young readers are drawn to these types of stories?

Patrick: Weird things are universal and I think that everyone can relate to these kind of stories on some level. It's another form of escapism much like Willy Wonka or the Narnia books where the kid isn't exactly in charge but they have to navigate through that world. They deal with the dark elements. In my first book The Dark Hills Divide it was about a kid lost in an adult world, where they had to sneak around and figure out their role within it. I don't think young readers necessarily want to push out adults in stories but they want to escape into something, a new world, some place that they wouldn't go to in normal life.

Yes! my daughter's creativity grows from reading. She makes up parts to the stories that we read. She develops a sense of wonder and is starting to create her own stories.

I agree with you that Stephen King On Writing is one of the best books for writing. If there was a Patrick Carman On Writing book, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Patrick: The longer I do this the more I find that it is the simple art of telling a story. As kids get older I feel like they do less reading and story telling. A fabulous way to get better at writing is to torture your friends by reading them your stories and getting their feedback. If they tune out or get bored at certain parts then you know you need to change those sections. The toolbox for writing is there - you need a pencil or a pen and some paper. People can be writers, you practice for ten years and three hours a day and you will be a writer. The thing that separates those with a knowledge of craft and storytelling are the ones that can tell a great story. You can practice and be good at constructing a sentence, putting word after word, but at the end of the day it boils down to - can you tell a good story.

This is wonderful advice. I believe that everyone has a voice, they have to learn how to bring it out. 

Patrick: Right, kids are great at telling stories at age 10,11, 12, but they are not necessarily great at writing them down.

Most of your books are multi-platform, which is a lot of fun, is this a component you consider before launching into a new story? Why do you think this is an important aspect to have with your books?

Patrick: Yes, those stories are predetermined. I know going in how they will be put together. But I want to stress a very important point. No amount of tech wizardry can save a bad story. The story must be good before you add the bells and whistles to it. In the Skeleton Creek books one of the characters, Ryan, loves to write scary stories and tell them but didn't want to be IN them. The book is about how opposites attract. The girl, Sarah, wants to tell scary stories but doesn't really want to write them, read them, sit in a room and tell them, she wants to be in them - right in the heart of them. So she uses her talent of video taping them. It becomes a who can tell the story better from a writing stand point or a film making standpoint. In the end they come together to appreciate each others talent and tell a great scary story.

These videos and audio elements are all created by a group of five talented people that I work with here in Walla Walla, WA - which is a small town but it is full of creative people. We are like our own little movie studio. A director shoots them, we have a web designer, an audio guy, etc. It is all put together by us.

How involved are the publishers? 

Patrick: The publishers haven't really been involved with these elements. We have long leash with them on what we create here. They would certainly be welcomed to any creative input but I think they realize this is not their strong area of expertise. We have been doing this for over five years now, since Skeleton Creek came out and we have a great system of creating them.

If you could have any mail-order gadget in the world (outside of GVG),what would it be and why?

Patrick: I really wanted one of those bald wigs. I always thought how great it would be to walk in with it on and shock my mom. "Hey mom, look at this!" (laughs). Unfortunately, I got one of those wigs and it was horrible. It was pretty disappointing. I also wanted one of those decoder rings so I could send messages to friends and I really wanted some sort of surveillance device so I could eavesdrop on my family.

That's a triple threat of awesomeness there!

Patrick: Yeah, I guess I really wanted to be a spy.

For the executive?

Yes, if the book thing doesn't work out, you have a new career path! But let's be honest Asylumites, I don't think he has to worry about a new career. He's creating plenty of great stories, and that tech wizardry he brings to the table is just the icing on the scrumptious cake.

Mr. Carman and I continued to talk for a bit longer about many of his new projects that set my hair on fire. I left a few things out of this interview because we are going to be speaking again about his brand new project DARK EDEN. And there is going to be giveaways and all kinds of great spooky fun to be had. So be sure to come back and haunt the place. Until then, check out the Dark Eden trailer below.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bruce Hale... Monster Hunter?

In our continuing SHOCKtober celebration of all things GUYS READ: THRILLER, Walden Pond Press and I have wrangled up another contributing author from the dark underground tunnels. Bruce Hale, who is no stranger to the Asylum, has joined the arsenal (I call them the arsenal because they are dangerously... good) of writers spilling ink in the thrilltastic anthology.

What brought you to the GR:Thriller project?

Bruce: I'd written a story for the earlier GUYS WRITE FOR GUYS READ collection, so I guess that means I was in some way part of the Guys Read gang (although they never showed me the secret handshake). Being a mystery writer, I presume I was on their list of candidates for selection in this new collection -- and I'm honored to have been chosen.


I've always dreamed of being a monster hunter personally. Is this a factual retelling or was it something you had brewing?

Bruce: Alas, this isn't a factual retelling -- but wouldn't that be cool? I'd been a big monster fan since the days of making Wolfman and Dracula models as a kid, and when Jon Scieszka invited me to contribute a story to the collection, I wanted to do something that was less detective-y and more monstrous. This idea of kid monster hunters came to me during my brainstorming session, and it struck a chord.

In your opinion, what makes a story thrilling and how do you balance it from being too creepy or scary for young readers?

Bruce: Making a story thrilling is largely about getting us to care about a character and then putting that character in deep, deep doo-doo. And that's true no matter what genre you're writing in. What scares us most, I think, is the unknown. If you can play with that fear during the course of your story, you can milk a lot of thrilling moments from it.

I think kids today can handle a lot gorier, scarier stuff than they could when I was growing up, but that doesn't necessarily mean we should give it to them. I balance the scary stuff with humor, which works as a safety valve for letting off the reader's tension, and I use my best judgment as to how much creepiness appropriate for young readers. R.L. Stine set that bar pretty high, though, so I've got a lot of leeway.

Why do you think young readers are drawn to these kind of stories? Did you read them growing up?

Bruce: Young and old, we all love being scared silly on occasion. Kids like a safe scare, just as much as adults do — it's one way to feel deeply without putting yourself in actual danger. I used to love supernatural tales as a kid -- especially this collection of supernatural stories called MAINLY IN THE MOONLIGHT, which I must've reread a half-dozen times. And of course, I watched all the monster movies my parents would allow.

What terrifies you? Do you bring any of that fear to your writing?

Bruce: I don't want this to sound macho, but I'm rarely terrified, and when I am, it's by more adult concerns like political demagogues, paying taxes, and so forth. On a more mundane level, rattlesnakes creep me out -- but I haven't used them in a book yet.

In this "Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter" story, I incorporate something that used to mildly creep me out in childhood. My friend Billy and I used to explore the storm drains under the city streets, which was spooky, but fun and adventurous at the same time. (Kids, don't try this at home!)

Can you tell me what the most thrilling book is that you've ever read? Why?

Bruce: I actually don't think I can single out one book, but I can give you a top 4:
THE HUNGER GAMES -- riveting, dramatic story
THE LIGHTNING THIEF -- just pure, thrilling adventure
ROBOPOCALYPSE -- deeply creepy tale of robots taking over the Earth
BEAT THE REAPER -- intense, gross and funny (not for kids)

And last, but not least, do monsters exist?

Bruce: As Shakespeare put it, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And I think that includes monsters, angels, and other things we can barely imagine. For me, the best attitude is, "there might be monsters."

Very well stated, Bruce and Bill. At the Asylum, we know there are monsters lurking... watching... waiting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Margaret Peterson Haddix's 1st Haunting Tale

Suspenseful and thrilling tales are nothing new to Margaret Peterson Haddix. Her books have kept young readers on the edge of their seats for years. But it may come as a surprise to many of us that she has never written a ghost story. Gasp!

Don't fret my fiendish pals. Thankfully, GUYS READ: THRILLER was able to pull such a ghostly tale that has been buried deep inside her creative attic. In our continuing celebration of the Walden Pond Press latest release, I was able to catch up with Margaret during her very busy schedule to ask her about her story Thad, the Ghost, and Me.

What brought you to the Guys Read:Thriller project?

Margaret: I was bribed with promises of baked goods and lawncare assistance. That’s the funny (but true) answer. The more serious (but also true) answer is that I think Guys Read is a good program, and I thought it would be fun to be involved.

I wouldn't want to mow this lawn.

In your opinion what makes a Thrilling story? And can you tell us why you chose to write a ghost tale?

Margaret: I think a thrilling story makes readers obsessed with finding out what happens next. So suspense is very important to the thrill.

I think this is the first ghost story I’ve ever written—I’m not sure why it took me so long! I’d had the idea rattling around in my brain for a while of doing something about a real ghost haunting a “fake” haunted house, and the way formerly “brave” people dealing with the ghost wouldn’t seem so brave once they knew everything they were seeing was real. It seemed to be a good fit for Guys Read: Thriller, and once I started thinking about the actual characters of Harvey, Thad and the narrator, I knew I wanted to write the story.

As a writer of stories that keep us up all night, why do you think thriller stories resonate with young readers?

Margaret: It’s a safe way to try out their own bravery. Or, sometimes, it’s a way to enjoy scaring themselves to death without actually being in danger.

Growing up we have our boogeymen and I'm deathly afraid of ghosts. What scared you the most? Does this influence your writing?

Margaret: I was afraid of weird things when I was a kid: Troll dolls. Long-underwear material. Old cars. Overhead light fixtures. I think this does influence my writing, because, really, anything can be scary if it’s associated with a frightening memory. And, having weird fears helps with the comic relief if I want to ease up on the tension a little!

These would give anyone the creeps!

Okay, so now the most terrifying thing I can think of may be a ghost in long underwear! GAAAAH! Good tip: Avoid any haunted underwear sections in department stores.

Thank you, Margaret for hanging out with us at the Asylum and celebrating GR: Thriller. Be sure to creep back soon for more terrorific interviews!