Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

Best-selling and award-winning author Holly Black pays me a visit. She answers my questions about writing, getting published, the Spiderwick series  and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Holly, welcome on “Veronika Asks” and thank you for being here! How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m Holly Black is three words!

You’re Scorpio, aren’t you? The stars say they’re often determined and intuitive, but at the same time secretive and obstinate. Do you consider yourself a typical Scorpio?
I believe in astrology in a very general way – my father-in-law is an astrologist, so I have to believe a little!  I certainly fit lots of the descriptions of Scorpios

Can you spill a few secrets about those of your books that will be (has been) released in 2009/2010? I’m talking here about “The Wyrm King: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles”, “The Good Neighbors: Kith”, “Poison Eaters & Other Stories” & “The Good Neighbors: Kind”.
Hrm.  The only secrets I have to share on the Good Neighbors series is that the last book, Kind, comes out Fall 2010.  The whole series was based on certain kinds of betrayals.  Book 1 was about family betrayals, Book 2 is about betrayals in love and Book 3 is about betrayals of self. Muahahaha.
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a collection of my short stories.  I wrote two new stories for the collection, one set in the Modern Faerie Tale world.

“Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale”, published in 2002, was your first novel. What gave you inspiration for a faerie tale? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
The longest and most tiring part of my road to publication really was learning how to write a good book.  It took me many years for Tithe to get into any kind of decent shape. I was lucky enough to find an editor who loved the book fairly quickly, but if I hadn’t spent all that time writing and rewriting it, I don’t think I would have had such a positive experience.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits?
I don’t have too many writing habits, but I do a lot of my writing at night and I do a lot of it with headphones on, so I can listen to music and shut everything else out.

If you could give only one advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I would advise them to read everything — read books in familiar and unfamiliar genres, read nonfiction, read the backs of shampoo bottles — and to write a ton, and to find a critique partner.  Not only is it great to build up a skill in critiquing another person’s work, but having a trusted reader to tell you when a scene is good and when it isn’t is invaluable.

You write mainly fantasy and horror for teens and children. Why those genres in particular? You have been living in a “decrepit Victorian house” when you were little. Did this influence your writing?
I write the kinds of stories I most love to read – dark fantasy, capers, and urban fantasy.  I don’t know if growing up in an old, decrepit house had a direct influence on the kinds of stories I had to tell, but certainly my childhood did.  I grew up absolutely believing in the fantastical and it is very easy for me to get back into that frame of mind.

A lot of adults read your children books. How do you explain such a success? Are you writing for a certain audience or “just writing for yourself”? Why do you think people are so attracted to fantasy, faeries and magic?
I think that everyone is intrigued by the idea that the world could be bigger and stranger than what we see – that out of the corner of our eye we might be able to glimpse something more.  But I do mostly try to write for my reader-self.  I try to write the stories that I think I would love.  I am really happy that other people — kids, teens, adults — like them too.

You said you’re living in an old house with a secret library. If we’d manage to sneak into the library, what kind of books could we find there?
My library has a big folklore and myth section, a lot of fantasy novels, and a lot of comics.  I think the most surprising thing I have is a ton of true crime.

Why this love for spooky dolls and hats?
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dolls.  I never stopped.  They are like tiny, very still people. I love hats because they are so dramatic!

You’ve probably been asked if you believed in faeries a hundred times. Let’s ask the question another way: some people say you never invent anything, that everything that comes to your mind as an idea is already existing somewhere. Do you think there’s a Spiderwick somewhere? Would you go there if it really existed?
You mean a Spiderwick estate or an Arthur Spiderwick?  I absolutely think there are researchers like Arthur Spiderwick who look for evidence of faeries.  In fact, quite a lot of faerie folklore has been collected by people, like Robert Kirk or Dermot MacManus or even William Butler Yeats, interested in finding proof that faeries exist.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how?
In recent years, I haven’t gotten to celebrate Halloween, despite my great love for it.  The World Fantasy Convention is often the same weekend and doesn’t allow costumes.  When I am home, though, we usually throw a party, complete with fog.  Last year we had a dinner party where we served insects and other seasonal delights.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Oh, I would puzzle over three wishes forever – but I would never wish to be a character in a novel.  Their lives are too miserable.  It must be awful to be a protagonist!

Imagine for a second you’re not an author/artist anymore. Which job would you pick?
I’d probably be a librarian.  I was in library school when my books came out and I really loved it.  I never finished.  I wouldn’t mind going back.

What about your projects? What are you working on right now?
My new series is called The Curse Workers and the first book is White Cat.  They are caper mobster fantasies set in a world where one in a thousand people have the ability to cast curses, and magic is illegal.

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?


Author & Book: I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
Movie & TV show: My recent most favorite film is probably Brick.  And I have been loving True Blood on HBO.
Food: Korean BBQ.
City: New York.
Music: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright.
Hobby: Reading.
Place to write: My new office!
Quote or Motto: Coffee: you can sleep when you’re dead

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Books
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Neither
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Loner
Shy or Easy-going? Socially anxious
Serious or Funny? Mostly serious.  Mostly.

Thank you, Holly!
You can learn more about Holly Black and her books at


Darren ShanBest-selling horror author (think about the “Saga of Darren Shan” or “Demonata” series) Darren Shan answers my questions about vampires, horror and writing – and tells us more about his upcoming movie…

Hi Darren, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself (then your works) with three words?
I’m the author of horror books for teenagers (primarily) and adults (previously as D B Shan, although they are to be rebranded as Darren Shan books from this point forward). My books are on sale in close to 40 countries around the world, and have sold somewhere in the region of 13 million copies, give or take.

Me — light, happy, genial.
My books — dark, twisted, demented.

“Hell’s Heroes”, the tenth book in the “Demonata” series, is out this month (October 2009). Can you share a few spoilers (what is the “Demonata” series about, by the way)?
The Demonata is a ten book series about demons. The backdrop to the overall story is that there is a parallel universe to ours, populated entirely by demons. They have been biting away at humanity for thousands of years, but are now posied to break through and wipe us out. Three teenagers have the power to stop them. Sounds cliched and straightforward, doesn’t it? But trust me, it isn’t! Hell’s Heroes is the final book in the series, when everything hits the fan!

“The Vampire’s Assistant”, (a movie blending the first three books of “The Saga of Darren Shan” together), is due to be released on October 23, 2009. Have you already seen it and were you fully involved in the project?
I wasn’t involved in the film in any real way. I did read through the script just before they started shooting, and made some suggestions, a few of which they heeded, but for the most part this is writer-director Paul Weitz’s baby, a re-imagining and re-invention of the story told in the books. It makes all sorts of major changes, so it isn’t a fiathful adaptation, but I have seen it and I do like it. As much as they changed, it keeps the dark, twisted, freakish elements of the books, which for me was the most important thing.

You said you started writing when you were fourteen years old. Were you already writing horror, fantasy and dark comedies then? Why did you pick the horror genre?
Yes, my work has almost always been focused on matters dark and grisly, although I have written some lighter books in my time. I didn’t pick the horror genre — it’s just what I was naturally drawn to. I always think it’s a matter of simple tastes. Some people like steak, some prefer pork. Some people like romance, some prefer horror.

Why do you think people are so fond of horror stories? How do you explain your success?
I think for the same reason they like roller coasters — it’s scary, but safe. We get a buzz from being scared, an adrenalin rush. As long as that happens in a safe, controlled environment, that can be hugely enjoyable.

Do you plan on writing something non-horror related? Or, to say it another way, if you had to choose between writing in another genre or not at all, what would you pick?
I’ve written all sorts of books, many of which have yet to see print. Fantasy and sci-fi themes crop up in most of them, but I’ve written some straight-up thrillers too, a direction I might be exploring a bit further in my adult books over the next few years.

I understood, from online articles (and your Wikipedia page, for that matter), that your first books weren’t really successful. What made you start over, write a new book, send it again, in one word: fight?
I didn’t actually start over. I spend an average of 2 to 3 years working on any one book, but I juggle several books around at the same time. So, I might work on a first draft of a book this month, the third draft of a different book next month, and the final draft of yet another book the month after that. My first book to be published was for adults. It picked up some decent reviews, but didn’t sell very well. But I’d already written and sold the first few of my vampire books for children while waiting for it to be published, so it wasn’t a case of failing with one type of book and then trying another — both were created during the same time period. My children’s book took off — my adult books didn’t. Although they’ve sold significantly better since they were republished recently!

You said you own thousands of films. Which movies can we find in Darren Shan’s collection?
Just about everything. I have over 4000 films in my collection, from short silent films made around the turn of the 20th century, to classic Hollywood productions of the 30s and 40s, to modern blockbusters, to foreign-language films, to… I’m not too fond of true-life made-for-TV dramas, but I’ll give just about anything else a go.

How do you work? Do you have special rituals or habits that help you? Is the writer’s block a problem?
I’ve never had writer’s block, though some books certainly do come easier than others. An idea can come from anywhere. I’ll play around with it until I’m ready to start writing (that can be anything from a couple of days to several years), then jot down a brief synopsis of the book. Then I’ll usually break it down into chapters, to give myself a firm starting point. Then I sit down at my PC and write an average of 10 pages a day until the first draft is finished. After that, I’ll usually leave it alone for several months, go and work on other books. Then I’ll do an edit, leave it for a while, work on other books, return and do another edit, etc. I’ll usually do at least 6 or 7 edits of a book before I’m happy with it.

If you could be a hero or a creature from one of your books, who would you be? For that matter, if you had to choose, would you be an Evil Fighter or a Dark Creature?
Well, my first series for kids, The Saga of Darren Shan, was based on a character who shared my name, and who might indeed (if you read the series all the way to the end) actually BE me, so in a way I already AM a hero from my books! 🙂

If you had a special power, what would it be and why?
The power to eat as much as I liked and never put on any weight!

What about your projects?
Next up is a one-off fantasy book called The Thin Executioner. Then a four-book series about Mr Crepsley, the main adult vampire from my vampire series, telling his back-story.

Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? And while we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
I’ll be celebrating Halloween in Orlando this year, and checking out their Cirque Du Freak scare zone in the Uuniversal Halloween Horror Nights theme park — I’m intrigued to see what it will be like!

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Buy some more films, probably!


Author & Book: Stephen King. The Secret Garden.
Movie & TV show: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Boys From The Blackstuff.
Food: Sweet & Sour chicken.
City: London.
Music: Pixies.
Hobby: Collecting art.
Place to write: My office.
Quote or Motto: Don’t let the bastards grind you down!!

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Neither — I’m a hot chocolate man!
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Usually home, watching a movie.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both — I live in the countryside in Ireland, but have a flat at the heart of London, and I love bouncing about between the two.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Either, depending on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love travelling, except when I’m in the middle of a first draft of a book, when I barely even stick my nose outside my front door.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I like watching soccer, but I don’t play any sports.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Shy.
Serious or Funny? Seriously funny!!

Thank you, Darren!
You can learn more about Darren Shan and his books at

Darren’s Reading List for Halloween
“Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.
“The Books Of Blood” by Clive Barker.
“Let The Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.