Ginger Nuts of Horror
Interview by Tony Jones
Today we have the pleasure of having an indepth chat with YA horror writer Leo Hunt who has just released the final book in his supernatural trilogy which began with Thirteen days of Midnight which was first published in 2015. Before we introduce Leo here’s a very brief recap on this terrific trilogy
Leo Hunt graduated from UEA in 2014 with a First in Creative Writing and American Literature. He is now a full-time writer. His first novel, Thirteen Days of Midnight, was published in summer 2015 and shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Prize 2016.
Thirteen days of Midnight is about Sixteen year old Luke who inherits a lot of money from his estranged father ( a relatively well known celebrity magician) without realising there are some very nasty consequences to claiming the cash. Always read the small print when you sign a contract.... He soon discovers his father was really a powerful necromancer who had the power to control ghosts and use them as slaves. Luke is now the unlucky ‘Daddy’ to these ghosts, who really don’t like him and will do anything to break free and create havoc.... The interconnected trilogy expertly blends strong supernatural storylines with teenage angst, girl-trouble and small-town life. Luke realises it’s tough fighting for your life when your GCSEs are just around the corner! Luke really grows as the trilogy develops, but little does he know before long he will have to do battle with The Devil himself....
As one of the few horror websites to regularly feature YA horror we recently reviewed the novels that have been nominated for YA section of the Bram Stoker 2016 Awards. The overall winners being announced at the end of April. As the latest YA short list only features American novels this article presents an ‘alternative’ shortlist of six great YA horror which we gave great reviews on the Ginger Nuts of Horror site during 2016. We have nothing against our American horror friends and two of our six hail from the USA but were surprised their selection did not have a more international flavour. One wonders what that famous Irish writer Bram Stoker would make of the fact that an award which proudly wears his name has no British or Irish entries at all? Never fear Bram, we have an Irish author on our alternative Ginger Nuts list just for you…. So everyone raise a Guinness to Peadar O'Guilin and his fantastic ‘The Call’ novel, which is listed below
Horror really is a worldwide phenomenon, with our genre continuing to grow and thrive into an international horror community which interconnects 24/7 through social media where a chat with an author you love is often only an email away. In the horror world everybody knows everyone and we believe the Stoker Award really needs to reflect the worldwide horror market more effectively. It should look beyond the American cabbage patch. There is great YA horror everywhere and some of our favourites are below.
I have been a horror fan all my teenage and adult life and a school librarian for more than twenty of them. The bread and butter of my job is recommending the books I enjoy to my school readers and the six listed below have been picking up rave reviews from my many teenage readers. They are a mix of clever and challenging fiction which deal with different aspects of horror through fantasy, science fiction, madness and fear.
Let’s stick with fear…. Our selection provides this ingredient in spades. Sadly the official Stoker YA list does not and although there are some pretty good books, genuine scares are lacking. Think back to the horror novels you remember best as a kid and the titles which leave the greatest impression are often those which ramped up the scares. Our six books most definitely do that; from the weird timeless house the teenage girls inhabit in ‘The Woman in the Walls’ to the terrific ghost story anthology in ‘The Wrong Train’ which harks back to the classics of the early 1900s to the madness and paranoia in ‘The Creeper Man’. There is something for everyone here.
We present the ‘international alternative’ The Ginger Nuts of Horror YA horror, best of 2016...
This feature reviews all the novels featured on the YA Section of the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot, in which the winner is announced on 29th April along with all the other categories. We are also reviewing a couple which didn’t make the final selection. The YA category does not usually pick up a lot of attention, but since I’m probably one of a handful of horror enthusiasts to have read all the books Ginger Nuts of Horror casts its critical eye upon them. There are some top notch books here, a couple of mediocre entries and one real cracker which I have saved to the end. Sadly, what this list lacks overall is good old fashioned fear and kids really do enjoy being scared, as adult life long horror fans will all recall from their old childhoods as an ingredient key to a successful horror novel. Although there are some very accomplished books here, there really is nothing to keep your kids awake at night. I’m also always on the lookout for the next big think, or the next book I think the kids are going to love, but I doubt very much it is on this short list.
Another real weakness of this list is that it only features American authors. The Stoker is supposed to be an international award, but you wouldn’t know it from their shortlist. So we will shortly be releasing an international list of great teen horror which has been reviewed on the YA section of the Ginger Nuts of Horror ‘Young Blood’ section in 2016.
Now to the books…..
As an occasional feature I will provide you all with a roundup of the different YA horror titles which have crossed my path over the previous couple of months. The majority of these will be fairly new, however, I will also feature older books by authors I have enjoyed which have not been covered on Ginger Nuts of Horror in previous reviews. Many sure you read to the end, as the final book is a total 10 out of 10 knockout.
By Tony Jones
The end of the world begins with a hand-lotion….
We hope you’ve had the chance to read our recent accompanying Dan Wells interview. The interview mostly covers Dan’s debut cult novel “I Am Not a Serial Killer” (2009) and the super-cool 2016 film of the same name which has attracted rave reviews, recently arriving in the UK cinemas. So now we turn to Dan’s latest novel “Extreme Makeover” which was released by Tor in the USA in November.
As a long term fan of Dan Wells, I was looking forward to reading his latest offering, which was aimed at the adult market rather the YA audience his books are typically targeted at in the UK. Interestingly, in the end notes of “Extreme Makeover,” Dan comments that he had stop-started on this novel for many years while working on numerous other projects before eventually completed after much coaxing from his agent. I’m pleased to say it was well worth the effort, ‘pet-projects’ are often very different from an author’s normal literary output and “Extreme Makeover” certainly fits into that ‘something different’ category. It’s probably more thriller than horror, with a surgical implant of black comedy which revolves around a unique apocalypse.
When I was a kid, Lewis Barnavelt was one of my best friends.
We were introduced by Mercer Mayer. Mayer had done the illustrations for a series of books featuring one of my other best friends, J.D. Fitzgerald and his older brother T.D., The Great Brain himself. I had pretty much exhausted my relationship with J.D. (though I would, of course, revisit our shared early adventures pretty regularly) and was looking for a new companion in my elementary school library when I stumbled across The Figure in the Shadows. The artwork was familiar, Mercer Mayer at his best, and a description of the book sounded promising -- if scary -- so I knew I had to check it out, both literally and figuratively. The trouble was, The Figure in the Shadows was the second book in the series, and I knew, even at that young age, that you had to start with the first, even if it had pictures by some guy named Edward Gorey, rather than Mercer Mayer.
That night, I devoured the first three books in John Bellairs' series, and met the boy who would change my life: Lewis Barnavelt.
From our first meeting, Lewis and I seemed destined to be friends. After all, we had a lot in common. I wasn't an orphan like he was, but I was growing up in a small town much like New Zebedee, where Lewis is sent to live with his Uncle Jonathan as The House with a Clock in Its Walls begins. (Truth be told, my hometown bore absolutely no resemblance to New Zebedee, but why let a little thing like objective reality interfere with a new friendship with a fictional character?) More importantly, Lewis and I were both loners, given to reading and moping, fairly unpopular with our classmates, poor at sports and a little, well, chunkier than we should have been. And we were both cursed, oddly enough, with "purple corduroy trousers, the kind that go whip-whip when you walk."
It was easy for me to become friends with Lewis; I didn't even have to imagine it. When you're that age, the friends you make in books are more real than people in the "actual" world... I'm not sure that feeling ever changes, to be honest, but that's a thought that might require therapeutic intervention if I pursue it much further.
I will say this, though: friends like Lewis Barnavelt? J.D. Fitzgerald? The Three Investigators? Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace? Those are some of the best friends I ever had: always there for me. Always willing to hang out. Reliable. Resolute. Wonderful.
As I grew up, though, I didn't treat them particularly well. I discovered girls, and other friends, like Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone and Paul Atreides from Dune. I kind of forgot about Lewis, and his Uncle Jonathan, and their neighbour Mrs. Zimmerman, and, of course, Rose Rita...
I forgot, that is, until I had child of my own. I was wandering through the kids' section of a bookstore when we were on holiday and was stopped in my tracks by a chunky hardcover collection of those first three John Bellairs' novels: The House With a Clock in Its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring. Of course I bought it. And of course, that night, when everything was quiet, I read those books.
I had forgotten just how scary they were. Bellairs apparently wrote the novels with adults in mind, then shifted the language somewhat to suit younger readers, while doing nothing to curb the at-times overpowering dread. And I had forgotten a lot of the specifics, of course: I had spent thirty-odd years reading horror novels, and the sounds in the walls and the curses on the jewelry had, I admit, blurred together a bit. I did realize, though, that it was the Bellairs novels that gave me my first taste of horror, and, in their way, shaped my future career. And my nightmares.
And my friend Lewis was there, on the first page, riding that bus into New Zebedee, wearing his purple cords and freaking out about the future.
He might not have known where he was going, but for me, it felt like coming home.
Robert Wiersema is the author of five books, most recently the short story collection Seven Crow Stories. But he also worked in bookstores for over 20 years, coordinated author events for Victoria, B.C.'s Bolen Books in Canada and is one of the country's busiest book reviewers.
A mysterious young woman rises from the sea . . . the ghostly wife of a country singer follows her husband from town to town, exactly a peculiar vengeance . . . a hitchhiker grants a boon to the young man who picks her up . . . the disappearance of a young boy changes the life of his older brother . . . the last circus comes to Henderson . . . the wildly successful prodigal son returns to the town where he grew up to find his first love waiting for him . . . an expectant mother is tormented by a crying within the walls of her home. . . . In his debut collection Seven Crow Stories, bestselling novelist Robert J. Wiersema draws on myth and folktale, ghost stories and fairy tales to share a glimpse of the worlds bordering our own.
By Tony Jones
Behind a rather drab looking book-jacket lurks a truly exquisite collection of eight short stories aimed at the teen/YA market or anybody who enjoys a bloody good old fashioned scare…. And to be frank, if any adult horror writers (published or unpublished) out there want an A-Z lesson on how to construct supernatural stories for children, then look no further than this masterful anthology. Many of the tales sneakily play on the insecurities of everyday life, especially those irrational fears that put children on edge. From the outdoor light which randomly flashes on and off, to the smelly old photo album, not forgetting the strangeness of a new house or even the invisible friend who is just a tad too real. Jeremy De Quidt presses all the right buttons in building an oppressive atmosphere of darkness which permeates throughout all unique eight stories...
In a complimentary feature to Our Festive Fifty series of articles, we are proud to bring you The Books of Their Childhood, Where authors tell us about their favourite book or books from their childhood. Today we feature contributions from Kate Harrison, Moira Fowley Doyle and Jeremey De Quidt
With Christmas fast approaching and the dread of all that Christmas shopping ahead of you, why don't you let Ginger Nuts of Horror take some of the pressure of you? With our four part guide to purchase horror books suitable for your precious ones.
Our Festive 50 is designed as a buying guide for parents who would love to introduce their younglings to the horror genre, but who might be a little concerned with exposing them to something that might distress them too much. The books featured here have all been vetted and deemed suitable for teenage readers. So read on for the final part of this massive countdown of the best YA horror fiction out there...
As complementary feature to our exciting Festive 50 countdown, we bring you The Books of Our Childhood.
We all have that one book that we hold dear to our hearts. That one book that stands out in the mists of our memories as the book that first ignited our passion for reading. For this reviewer, the book that springs to mind is Douglas Hill's The Galactic Warlord. Yes on hindsight it was clearly cashing in on the Star Wars craze, but this tale of the last of a species of humanoids who thanks to generations of training and selective breeding became the most feared fighting force in the Universe. However, unlike so many other examples of this the Legionnaires as they were known as where a force a good, fighting tyranny and corruption throughout the cosmos. Which is why The Galactic Warlord decided to wipe them out, with only Keill Randor surviving the initial assault but dying from a lethal dose of radiation, he is picked up by a mysterious race and cured of the radiation poisoning and given an indestructible skeleton and an enhanced healing factor.
You can all stop shouting "Wolverine" from the cheap seats. To a kid in growing up in St Andrews, it would be another 15 years or so before Wolverine would even make an appearance.
The scope of this series of books and their simple moral code fanned the flames of an already burning desire to read. Even now after close to forty years since first opening the pages of the books I still think about them. Keill Randor I salute you.
Read on to discover what other books have inspired some of our finest YA authors.