What inspired you to write Shiver Point?
When I was in primary school, in year 5 or 6, I found a book in the library called Creepies. It had a picture of various monsters on the front, and it was full of short, scary stories. It felt a little forbidden, like it shouldn’t have been in there, or an adult had left it in our library by accident. I flicked through, a little scared by the pictures that were waiting for me, and stopped at a short story about a zombie outbreak on Mars, which was way scarier than it sounds. I absolutely loved it, and from then on I was hooked on scary stories. So I guess I wanted to scare MG readers the way Creepies scared me, and open them up to a world of (not too scary!) horror. As well as scary books, I love all the books and TV shows about groups of kids who are the only ones who can see the real monsters out there, so I think that inspired me too.
Is Shiver Point itself based on a particular place in real life?
I grew up in the north of England, and then moved to Cornwall when I was a teenager, and I fell in love with those sleepy little towns by the sea that shut down in the winter, and feel forgotten by the modern world, with closed down cinemas, deserted beaches, rusty piers and abandoned fairgrounds and a sense that nothing ever happens, but that if you look close enough you might find something sinister lurking just under surface. I wanted to capture that in Shiver Point, but also create a setting that all children could relate to as well, with high streets and playgrounds and woods and all the things they walk past every day in their own home towns.
Which character are you most like and in what ways?
Ha-ha, this is tricky, as I think there’s a little bit of me in every one of my characters (except Riley as I’m rubbish at fixing things and DIY!). But Oli’s love of films comes from me, I teach Film Studies in my day job and I love horror films (nothing too scary though, I had to turn off the new Evil Dead film the other day, I was too scared!). Alex is a bit like me too, I loved to skateboard and surf when I was younger and I never fitted in and only really found my own Shiver Squad later on in secondary school. Like Sophia I’ve always believed in working hard, and trying to do the best you can, and like Mo I think there’s nothing wrong with admitting when you’re scared!
Which member of the group do you think plays the most important role and why?
I think maybe Mo, because he’s the heart of the group in a lot of ways, and although he’s the most scared that makes him the bravest too, as he has to overcome his fears. He’s the one that holds things together when there’s an argument, and he’s the character that first gets the group together in book 1. Without him there might not have been a Shiver Squad at all!
Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Alex and his friends?
More monsters, for sure! I can’t say too much, but there’s a creepy farm I walk past most days, surrounded by empty fields, and I always find myself walking a little quicker when I’m nearby! So that definitely plays a part in book two, as does the creature that lurks there in my story, but you’ll have to wait until February to find out more. Book two is actually already written, and I’m just planning book three right now. I grew up watching all the classic horror films from the 80s and 90s and it’s no secret that I try to reference them a little in my books. There’s so many cool monsters out there I’m spoilt for choice!
Why did you choose to write books for this age group?
I think that 9-12 age range is just such a great age. I’ve got three children, and two of them fall into the MG boundary, and we have such great chats about monsters and fairy-tales and I think at that age there’s still that sense that anything is possible. I’ve loved horror and the strange and supernatural since I found Creepies back in primary school, and that love has never left me. I think that with Google Earth and cameras everywhere there’s far less mystery in the world than there was thirty years ago, which is sad in a lot of ways. For middle grade readers, I think it’s great for them to let their minds run free and imagine that in some lonely, far-off corner of the world, monsters and creepy things really could still exist.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
I’ve got three young children, so anywhere I can get a little peace from them! I’m lucky in that I don’t have to get ‘into the zone’ to write – I can write anywhere, anytime, so before school, on lunch-breaks, whilst I’m waiting for my children at football training or Dungeons and Dragons club. My dream place to write would be somewhere by the sea or somewhere snowy, so that I could write for a couple of hours and then go off for a bit of time surfing or snowboarding.
Which other horror books for kids would you recommend our subscribers read next?
There’s so much good MG horror out there right now! Top of my list of books I want to read are short story anthologies – Read, Scream, Repeat compiled by Jennifer Killick and A Taste of Darkness compiled by Amy McCaw. I love the Jennifer Killick Dread Wood series, as well as the Crater Lake books. For older readers, Little Tiger’s Red Eye range is fantastic, with some very creepy titles like Frozen Charlotte, Fir, and my own YA horror, Whiteout.
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