Tag Archives: horror

Teen Trends In Speculative Fiction

Three years ago, I interviewed some editors for an article on horror and paranormal fiction, and asked what they saw as upcoming trends. Let’s see if they were right….

“There’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal,” a Delacorte editor said. “I think the most popular books are the ones that set the ghost story in the contemporary world. There’s something about believing those things are out there right now that is thrilling for young readers.”

“Pure horror will probably never explode the way fantasy or sci-fi have exploded at different times,” a Scholastic editor said, “but the wave of terror ebbs and flows. During any given year, some subgenre or another seems to take off. For the past couple years, apocalyptic zombie stories have been big, thanks to Max Brooks, Brian Keene, and others.”

At Llewellyn, an editor said, “We see good, steady demand for well done paranormal thrillers, books that might even be called ‘dark fantasy’ or ‘urban fantasy,’ especially for girls. Witty, graphic horror, such as the books by Darren Shan, seems to work well for boys.”

In a Candlewick Press editor’s opinion, “I think we’ll see more graphic fare in all of these areas as the graphic novel continues to gain popularity. It’s a natural fit. For middle-grade readers and younger, the emphasis seems to be on series publishing and story collections, while YA readers range more between genre/series fare and lush, literary novels like Twilight.”

Seems like they did pretty well. And how about today? At the SCBWI New York conference a few of months ago, Susan Raab said that mystery and ghost stories are thought to be growing. Vampires and werewolves are still big, but not expected to last. Fantasy in general is softening, but dystopian fantasy is growing.

Of course, who really knows? A fantastic book may be ready to launch, and pull back up one of these trends, or start a new one. And as for fantasy, editor Ari Lewin noted that eight or nine of the top 10 books on both the hardcover and paperback children’s bestseller list that week were fantasy of some kind. We keep hearing about the death of fantasy, but that seems to be wishful thinking on the part of editors who are tired of it. Readers just keep on reading. (Note that these were not high fantasy (knights and dragons), but lots of dystopian and paranormal books.)

So what’s the next big trend? Have you read — or written — a book that you think will light some fires? Personally, I’m hoping that Rick Riordan’s new Kane Chronicles series will reignite interest in ancient Egypt, both historical fantasy and straight historical fiction. Because, you know, I have this Egyptian novel I haven’t beChris Eboch with Haunted booksen able to sell yet….

Chris Eboch has this fantasy that she’ll start a new trend and beginning authors will submit their manuscripts with covers letters that says, “It’s the next Chris Eboch” so often that it becomes a cliché.

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Why are scary books popular?

Many people, from children to adults, love books, movies and TV shows that are scary. This can include spooky paranormal stories, creepy Gothic romantic dramas, adrenaline-packed action flicks, or true terrorizing horror.

“I’ve always loved stories of the supernatural,” Christopher Golden, author of the Body of Evidence series, once said in an interview. “As a child, I enjoyed anything creepy or unsettling and I loved monsters of all shapes and sizes. Ordinary life is so mundane, and things that went bump in the night were always the most intriguing to me.”

What’s the appeal?

Part of it may simply be the adrenaline rush, the excitement we don’t always get easily in daily life. We are still wired for action, the fight or flight response that our ancestors probably had to face on an almost daily basis as they hunted, or defended themselves against wild animals and other tribes. Now the stress builds up slowly, at school or at work or at home. A good scare can release it.

Scary stories can also help you deal with your own fears. They can give you specific tools to use, like examples of how to escape from kidnappers or fend off a mugger. Watching characters survive dangerous situations, or overcome the bad guys, can give you confidence that you could survive a similar challenge.

“One of my all-time favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak,” editor Joshua Glazer has said. “It introduced me to my first monsters—and taught me how to make friends with them. I think that’s the role of scary literature in a kid’s life. It provides a safe and neutral realm where kids may engage their fears without becoming consumed by them.”

Granted, it’s unlikely that your average reader will ever have to face a true Wild Thing, diabolical super villain, alien, ogre or vampire. But sometimes the example is more of a metaphor.

“Growing up is intrinsically horrific,” Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize, has said. “You’re a shape-shifter in your changing body. You’re a vampire in your thirst for life. Your emotions can turn you from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. Essentially, Gothic fantasy is all about reflecting this reality through metaphor.”

We hear a lot about escapist literature. But sometimes literature helps us to face our fears instead.

What does your choice of literature say about you? Does it change depending on the circumstances of your life? Do you feel better after a good scare? Why?

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What’s in a name?

Hey folks — I’m a new blogger in this group (you can find out more about me under Authors or Books, above), and I’m thinking about just why I’m here.

My first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, was historical fiction. I then wrote several other (unpublished) historical and contemporary fiction novels, without a hint of fantasy in them. I also did some work for hire nonfiction and fictionalized biographies. My first nine published books have no fantasy, science fiction or alternate reality elements. And yet, here I am on a blog about “speculative fiction.”

True, my Haunted series involves a girl who can see ghosts. Technically, the book is a fantasy, or even horror. Yet I never even noticed that I was changing genres, and the editor who acquired it claims he doesn’t like fantasy. I guess we both saw it as more of an action series, which happened to include ghosts.

In 2008, I wrote an article for Children’s Writer on horror and ghost stories. In an interview, Delacorte Editor Krista Marino said, “There really hasn’t been much true horror done for YA, but there’s definitely been a rise in the popularity of thrillers, ghost stories, and stories based on the paranormal.” What defines horror, then?

Agent Ashley Grayson said, “My definition of a horror novel is one where a group of ‘good’ people encounter a malignant entity, whither a ghost, werewolf or psychotic killer. The novel of terror can include the quite different type of story where simple acts of malice by the protagonist or her circle of friends avalanche into worse acts. Fortunately or not, classic monsters like vampires are the new buddies of romantic interests for teens.” So is Twilight a horror novel, because it involves vampires, or a romance? Or a romantic horror?

Scholastic Editor Joshua Glazer noted, “Scary stories are always popular, but not everybody self-identifies as a horror fan. I often encounter people who say ‘I don’t like horror,’ but ask them if they’ve read The Stand or seen The Exorcist, and they’ll answer with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ Horror also hides in unlikely places. If Beowulf debuted in stores today, it would probably be shelved in the horror section, and the recent mega-properties like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter all contain horrific elements.”

I would say I don’t like horror. I haven’t even read The Stand or seen The Exorcist. And yet, I’m a fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, and Haunted: The Ghost on the Stairs involves a scary ghost possession. I have even called the Haunted series “horror light,” though it never occurred to me to use the word “horror” as an Amazon tag word. Instead I stuck with terms such as ghost stories, action and spooky.

When you read a novel with ghosts, vampires or werewolves, do you think of it as a horror novel?

Or do you prefer the term paranormal (defined as supernatural or not in accordance with scientific laws, including phenomena such as ghosts, telepathy, UFOs and Bigfoot), or speculative fiction (dealing with a world outside normal life, and generally considered to include science fiction, fantasy, alternate histories and horror)?

On the one hand, maybe it doesn’t matter. Someone can like ghost stories or vampire romances without needing to define them further. But finding the right language could be key in helping readers find the right books. For example, kids who enjoy Goosebumps might look for other “horror” books. And they might enjoy the Haunted series …. So I guess I need to go back and add “horror” to my Amazon tag words, and embrace my status as a horror author!

Chris Eboch with Haunted books

Chris Eboch thinks feeling horrific might not be so bad.

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The Best Monsters in Kid Lit

To prepare for Friday the 13th tomorrow, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite monsters in kid lit. Warning–some spoilers follow.neverendingstory1

Gmork appears in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story as a very scary wolf, and the fact that he’s chained only makes him more scary, in my opinion. But his post-death act of snatching Atreyu in his jaws saves the warrior from the all-consuming “Nothing.”

harrypotterfightingthebasiliskThe basilisk from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a giant snake with a murderous stare. Its poisonous fangs almost got the best of our boy hero, an event that foreshadowed the series’ finale. Also, the creature whispered rather creepy things from inside the walls of Hogwarts.hamster

Cuddles, the giant hamster from R. L. Stine’s Monster Blood II, is probably one of the campiest monsters in kid lit. He grows large enough to attack a school after eating some strange, green goo that makes an appearance in several Goosebumps books.

Smaug, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, is one of the coolest dragons in literature, if only for his death scene. Crusted in gems, he’s  invincible–except for a bare patch on his left breast. After he’s killed by Bard’s arrow, his body crashes into Lake-town, destroying it.the_death_of_smaug

What are some of your favorite kid lit monsters?

cherylicon3 Parker Peevyhouse not only reads books about monsters, but writes them too.

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The Best Creepy Houses in Kid Lit

What is it about dark attics and steep staircases that makes you hold your breath with anticipation? The creepy house is the one of the best elements of scary stories. I’ve compiled this list of my favorite:

houseclock1Uncle Jonathan’s mansion in John Bellairs’s The House With a Clock in Its Walls. Not only did it have secret passages and hidden rooms, its walls also held a clock ticking down to Doomsday. That is my kind of story!holidayhouse

The Holiday House from Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always. This would be the perfect vacation house–Spring every morning and Christmastime every night.  Except for the rather monstrous fish bobbing in the pond outside…

12 Grimmauld Place from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, etc. Tended to by a demented elf with dreams of having his head mounted on the wall, and guarded by a screaming portrait, this filthy house actually held a very important secret treasure.

coraline-house1And my new favorite: The Pink Palace from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.  A dreary, boring old house, it has one very creepy element: a tiny door that leads into a mirror world. Yes, a portal!

Have I left any out?

cheryliconParker Peevyhouse has toured the houses of many, many authors–and some of those houses were seriously creepy.

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Scary-Good Marketing

goosebumpsWhen I was a pre-teen, I loved the twist-endings and strange happenings in R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. But Stine’s new Horrorland series is a marketing stroke of genius.

The series is based on the scary theme park from a book in Stine’s original Goosebumps series. Each book in the Horrorland series re-introduces characters from a Gossebumps book and sends them off to the Horrorland themepark. Scholastic is re-issuing the original books that tie into this new series, so they’re essentially doubling their money by selling new books that make kids want to buy the old ones. Genius

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