Q&A with Catherine Arden

Small Spaces, The Catherine Arden Quartet of Middle Class Horror, Coming to an End Empty smileswhich presents the final frightening confrontation between Olly, Coco, Brian and the Smiling Man. PW She spoke with Arden about the importance of honoring the emotional impact of her characters’ terrifying experiences, her favorite seasons to write about, and why children love horror.

Middle class horror is a growing genre these days. What is important in exploring horror for this age group?

Children love to be afraid. It’s fun to experience a primal feeling like fear in a safe environment, like when you’re reading a book. Best Horror also explores realistic feelings, such as loss, anger, and longing, in a way that empowers the young reader. In horror, the bad thing is graduated. He’s a monster, he’s a ghost. They can be seen, fought and defeated, which is very powerful for a child.

The thread in the last three books is how Ulysses, Coco and Brian have been affected They experience past adventures and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. How Show fit shock impact in chain bracket?

Once I knew I was going to write several books about Olly, Coco and Brian, I wanted them to read as real kids going through real experiences. And there’s no way you can get past the frightening things they do — and the uncertainty that comes with it — without having to deal with the emotional fallout. I asked myself how I would feel, if I were still eleven years old, and had had a very frightening experience and been living in a state of great anxiety, waiting for the next one. Real people are the sum of all their experiences, and I didn’t want to erase the emotional impact of one book when writing the next.

The parents of the protagonists are notorious for being absent from many events in many middle grades Adventures, but in the Small Spaces series, they are important characters. What is the Important to you about getting them involved?

In the books I read when I was a middle school student, parents were always either dead or absent, physically or emotionally. But I thought it would be interesting and different to reverse that trend and try to write good parents. Quartet parents are not perfect – who? – But all the parents in the book are trying their best even though they don’t fully understand what’s going on with their kids. This situation creates interesting conflicting motives in the young heroes – they want to ask their parents for help but are afraid to put their parents in danger. I asked myself what a parent—the normal, good parent—would do in a situation where they know their children are suffering, their children are afraid, but they don’t know why, and the children are reluctant to tell them. I tried to be honest with that.

Each of the Small Spaces Quad books can be read as a standalone entry or series. How did you form it so that it could be read individually and without context? Have you always planned to make it a chain?

I didn’t always know I wanted to write a series, but then small spaces Coming out, I realized I had more to say about the adventures of Olly, Brian, and Coco and their dealings with the Smiling Man. So I embarked on this seasonal approach – I decided to write one book for each season of the year. I knew that horror was often read in separate installments, so I did my best to make each story stand alone, and to give enough information in each book so that the new reader could follow it.

Each book in the series is relatively short, less than 300 pages. Was it a deliberate decision? To keep it brief?

Book as long as it should be. Goosebumps has definitely inspired me, where every book is short but has wallpaper. I also think I’ve seen a trend of overcrowded middle grade books – which I would have loved at that age – but sometimes I feel that thick books frighten some younger readers, and I thought short books sounded friendlier to all.

Each book takes place in a different season, beginning in the fall and ending in the summer. What is your favorite season to write about? And how did you decide on the scariest (and most comfortable) items for each season?

Fall and winter are my two favorite seasons, and in some ways lend themselves to horror anyway. So small spaces (Scarecrows in the fall) and dead sounds (Ghosts in Winter) was the most fun to write about. Creating ambiance is one of my favorite things as a writer, and so I had the best time trying to evoke all parts of the chapters. For fall, this included red sugar maples, rainy nights, hot chocolate, wet leaves, fog, fires in a wood-burning stove, a corn maze, a creaking haunted house with a ghost upstairs, and of course, plenty of scarecrows standing and staring at you. For the winter, I loved writing about an all-out blizzard, a delicious pancake breakfast while it’s snowing outside, and of course how dark winter nights can be, especially when stranded in a hotel with ghosts whispering in the corners.

your first book, Bear and NightingaleIt was for adults. What do you like about writing for a younger audience?

I really enjoy switching the audio from senior to middle grade. Change is very exciting and it’s fun for me as a writer to work on keeping my voices distinct. I also love writing horror for a younger audience because it is an interesting challenge to write – horror has to come from an ominous and carefully disgraceful atmosphere – you can’t have blunt and overt violence. I also love writing for children because there is no better feeling than when a child tells me they love my book or when a parent or teacher tells me that one of my books has made a reader reluctant to read. These are the best moments.

What are some of your favorite horror books and creators for kids and adults? You have Have you always been a fan of horror?

I am a huge fan of books and movies. I grew up reading RL Stine and Mary Downing Hahn, as well as books of ghost stories and spooky folklore. Growing up, I got into Stephen King, Cliff Parker, and Shirley Jackson. My kids’ favorite horror novel will always be Wait for Helen to come By Mary Downing Han, Cooler I’m still shivering at the thought of nearly 20 years later. Some of the modern horror novels for middle grade that I have enjoyed are Scratch Scratch by Lindsay Currie and This apparition house by Ally Malinenko. For adults, I adore We have always lived in the castle Written by Shirley Jackson. Stephen King’s favorite is misery. Lately I really enjoyed Only good Indians And the chainsaw heart by Stephen Graham Jones.

What’s Next?

I’ve done my own horror quartet, but I have some ideas for indie horror movies that I’m excited to explore. I also hope to try my hand at middle grade fantasy at some point. I also have a new adult novel coming out soon, which will be historical fiction.

Empty smiles by Catherine Arden. Putnam, $16.99 Aug. 9 ISBN 978-0-593-10918-2


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