Category Archives: Seriously Spooky Month

Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Sue Copsey

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by New Zealand author Sue Copsey.  Sue is the author of the Spooky Adventures series, which includes Young Nick’s Head and Ghosts of Tarawera.  Sue joins me today to talk about why she writes spooky stories for kids. Thanks for joining me Sue!

Here’s a question for you. Do you like scary books and movies?

Did you answer “yes”? Next question: Why do you like them?

Weird, isn’t it, how we enjoy being a little bit scared. The sort of scared when you can hug a cushion or the cat and know you’re not in any actual danger. Where you stick your fingers in your ears and squeeze your eyes shut … then open them just a tiny bit, or put your hands over your face but peep between your fingers.

05_Ghost of Nicks Head reduced

When you look over your shoulder and take a deep breath before turning the page of a ghost story.

Or maybe you’re reading a spooky story in bed, and you pull the covers right up to your chin, and keep glancing at the bedroom door to check that dark shadow really is just your dressing gown hanging on the hook. And before turning out the light, you make sure there’s nothing under the bed (except your dirty socks, and … oh, missing maths worksheet!).

When Zac asked me the question “Why do you write spooky stories for children?” I realised that the question I really needed to answer was, “Why do I love ghost stories so much?”

I grew up in England, where every town and village has its spooks, and I was always fascinated by these stories. On Halloween, my friends and I would dare each other to walk through the local churchyard, which was said to be haunted by the Grey Lady. We never saw her, but I won’t forget the terror of walking amongst the gravestones, eyes straight ahead and fixed on the far wall of the churchyard, muttering “it’s okay it’s okay” to myself. Once we had all walked the walk of terror, we would make our way to the village chip shop for a bag of hot chips (the end of October in England is cold – so cold) before making our way home down the dark, empty lane. (This was before trick or treating was a thing. Okay yes, that makes me quite old.)

But for me, it didn’t stop there. I wanted to know, who was the Grey Lady? Why was she haunting the churchyard? What was the story? And so it began. Behind every haunting is a tale of days gone by, of unsolved murders, revenge, tragedy, and slips in time. Rich pickings for an author!

So another question for you – do you like history? Are you yawning? Well you can stop that, because history is the coolest of subjects – really, it’s just another name for stories, and it should never be boring! I don’t think there’s enough history taught in New Zealand schools, so I like to include plenty of it in my stories. But how to make it interesting for you guys? Just add spooks!

GoT cover

There are plenty of ghost story opportunities in New Zealand history. The first book in my Spooky Adventures series is set at Young Nick’s Head on the East Coast. Interesting name don’t you think? Any idea why it’s called that? See – history can be intriguing! The second book was inspired by the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. Did you know that a phantom waka warned of the eruption? And that local legend says it will appear again if the volcano reawakens? How could I not write a story about what would happen if two modern-days boys, out kayaking on the lake, happened to see the phantom canoe?

So I guess the answer to the question, why do I write ghost stories, is to give New Zealand kids a delicious scare – just enough to thrill, not enough for nightmares – and to teach them some of our history in such a way that it is fun, never boring.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Be sure to visit Sue Copsey’s website for more information about her books and ghostly facts and jokes – www.suecopsey.com

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The Ghosts of Tarawera by Sue Copsey

I love ghost stories, adventure stories, and stories set in New Zealand.  Sue Copsey has combined all of my favourite types of stories in to her explosive new book, The Ghosts of Tarawera. 

On holiday near Rotorua, Joe and Eddie are fascinated by the area’s bubbling mud pools and boiling geysers. Local volcanologist Rocky tells them about the Pink and White Terraces that existed on the lake where they’re staying, and how they were destroyed in the cataclysmic 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. But Joe’s fascination turns to unease when strange sightings on the lake and dark rumblings from the Earth hint that the volcano is reawakening. Can he persuade Rocky, who puts his faith only in science, to sound a warning?

The Ghosts of Tarawera is an action-packed adventure with a good dose of spookiness.  Much like the pressure building inside a volcano, the suspense builds until it reaches its explosive conclusion.  There is a sense of impending doom right from the start which made me want to keep reading to find out how it all ended.  The front cover (which I love) suggests that an eruption will occur, but when, where and how you just don’t know.

The story is set around Rotorua in the modern day and follows Jo and Eddie who are on holiday with Jo’s family.  It reminded me of Elsie Locke’s Canoe in the Mist (which was set in 1886 at the time of the huge eruption of Mount Tarawera).  The ghostly waka that warned of the 1886 eruption appears in The Ghosts of Tarawera to warn Joe of the trouble that is brewing below them.  Sue also looks at how ghosts might use other ways to communicate in the age of smart phones.  Not only does Jo see the ghostly waka, he is also sent strange text messages and Facebook messages that are trying to tell him something.  I loved this idea!

Sue really emerses you in the setting.  There is a real sense of place in this book – you feel like you are there at Lake Rotomahana and you can almost smell the sulphur, hear the mud bubbling, hear the birds singing in the bush, and feel heat of the hot pool.  Sue made me want to visit Lake Rotomahana and see everything for myself, even with the fictional eruptions of the story.

I really like Sue’s characters.  The kids are very relatable and the adults are role models that the kids look up to. I especially like Rocky and Buzz, the two cool GNS geologists who are camped beside the lake investigating the Pink and White Terraces. They take Jo and Eddie under their wings and get their help with taking readings around the lake.  Thanks Sue for giving boys some great positive male role models in Rocky and Buzz!

This is something for everyone in Sue Copsey’s books.  They are perfect for fans of Des Hunt or anyone who just loves a good adventure story.

Make sure you check out Sue Copsey’s Seriously Spooky Guest Post about why she likes scary stories.

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Lesley Gibbes

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Lesley Gibbes, author of the award-winning book, Scary Night.  Lesley joins me on My Best Friends Are Books today to talk about her spooky picture book.

There’s no denying, I love all things scary! When I was a child I loved a good scare and nothing was scarier than the darkness of night. There’s something so deliciously terrifying about noises in the dark made by things you can’t see. My imagination would run wild and I loved it!

So of course, my first picture book just had to be set in the dead of the night when anything can happen. And in SCARY NIGHT when three friends, Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake and Pig with a parcel set out on a mysterious night-time journey all sorts of scary things happen. Close your eyes and imagine snapping crocodiles, roaring bears, mountain cliff tops, graveyards, bats, spiders, castle ruins and rats. Are you brave enough to join the journey and find out just where the three friends are going? Go on, you won’t believe the surprise!

SCARY NIGHT has just the right amount of scare to give your kids a thrill with a reassuring ending that’s sure to have everyone celebrating. It was awarded Honour Book, by the Children’s Book Council of Australia for Early Childhood Book of the Year 2015 and is the perfect book for Halloween this October!

SCARY NIGHT written by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King and published by Working Title Press 2014. CBCA Honour Book 2015 Early Childhood Book of the Year. Shortlisted Speech Pathology Australia, Book of the Year (3-5 years) 2015.  You can visit Lesley Gibbes at www.lesleygibbes.com

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13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt

When I was a kid there weren’t many books about ghosts available for my age.  As a 12/13 year old I wasn’t ready for Stephen King and there weren’t many other scary books to choose from.  Thankfully there are more and more ghost stories for kids and teens being published and it’s always good to read a different and exciting take on ghosts.  Leo Hunt gives readers a good helping of ghosts in his new book, 13 Days of Midnight, about Luke and the 8 murderous ghosts he inherits.

Sixteen year old Luke Manchett has a pretty ordinary life living in a small northern town with his Mum. Until one day, a letter informs him that his celebrity ghost-hunter Dad is dead and Luke is the sole heir. But this is no ordinary inheritance – Luke finds himself in charge of eight horrendous ghosts, his Host, with his life and that of his Mum, loyal dog Ham and new friend Elza all in terrible danger. It’s up to Luke to open the Book of Eight and find a way to stop the Host destroying everything at Hallowe’en. Even if it means stepping into Darkside…

13 Days of Midnight is a deliciously dark, creepy read that will make you want to keep the light on at night.  It’s a genuinely scary story that creeped me out in several places. Much like making a deal with the Devil, you don’t get quite what you expected with this book.  Just when you think the story is taking off in one direction Leo pulls you in a completely different direction and he certainly keeps you on your toes.

Leo introduces us to some seriously creepy ghosts in 13 Days of Midnight!  Luke inherits his Host of eight ghosts from his father – the Vassal, the Shepherd, the Judge, the Heretic, the Fury, the Oracle, the Prisoner and the Innocent.  As Luke has just inherited them he doesn’t know how to control them, so they are trying to break free.  They’re violent and unpredictable, and even though they can’t kill Luke, they find other ways to hurt him and the ones he loves.  There were moments in the book when each of them sent a shiver down my spine but I think the one that scared me the most was the Prisoner with his shears.

The splatter on the front cover boldly claims that ‘If you like Skulduggery Pleasant read this!’ and I totally agree with this.  Leo has a great mix of spookiness and humour that will appeal to fans of Derek Landy.  Whether you are looking for the book to fill the whole that the Skulduggery series has left behind or you just want a really good scare grab a copy of 13 Days of Midnight now.  Leo leaves us with a sense of impending doom at the end of the book.  You know that something big and scary is coming, but what that is I have no idea.  I can’t wait for the sequel, 8 Rivers of Shadow coming in 2016!

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Gareth P. Jones

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Gareth P. Jones, author of my favourite funny book about ghosts, Constable and Toop, and the forthcoming Death and Ice Cream.  Gareth talks about why he loves writing about death.  Thanks for joining me Gareth!

“Honestly, Gareth, why do you have to write about death?”

My new novel (published by Hotkey Books) comes out January 2016, and I already know that my mum won’t like it because of its title. It is called Death or Ice Cream?

“Why can’t you write a nice book like Little Women?” she says.

“I think because I was born a hundred years too late,” I reply. “Also, I’ve not read it but I have seen that episode of Friends about it and I’m pretty sure someone does die in it. Beth possibly?”

“Black Beauty then.”

“I’m not massively keen on horses.”

My mum’s real question is: “Why do you have to write about death?”

Firstly, I should explain that I don’t only write about death. I have three series of books (Ninja Meerkats, The Dragon Detective Agency and The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates) in which the vast majority of the characters make it to the end. I have also written the text for two picture books, (The Dinosaurs are Having a Party and Are You the Pirate Captain?) which are very light on the subject of mortality.

But when it comes to writing my standalone novels, I am often drawn to the subject of death. The Thornthwaite Inheritance is about a pair of twins trying to kill each other, The Considine Curse begins with a funeral, and Constable & Toop is a Victorian ghost story named after a real undertakers.

It was the real Constable and Toop that sparked the idea for my new book, Death or Ice Cream? I follow them on Twitter (sure, why wouldn’t an undertakers have a twitter account?) and they put up a link to an article called 500 Ways To Say Dead about all the euphemisms we use for dying (kick the bucket, push up the daisies, fall asleep, bite the bullet, pop your clogs etc.) It got me thinking about why we have such a long list of ways to express the one thing that will definitely affect us all. The answer is that death is something we are scared of so we use language to soften its impact. We try to make it sound funnier, gentler… more temporary. But, if Dumbledore has taught us nothing else, it is that fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

“Yes, Gareth.” This is my mum again. “But you write children’s books. Why can’t you be more like that nice Beatrix Potter or Enid Blyton?”

Over the nine years I have been a published author, I have visited hundreds of schools and met thousands of children. I have observed that these children have not yet learned to fear death but they are fascinated by it. And literature allows us to consider subjects in a way that is engaging, satisfying and, above all else, entertaining. So whether it’s war, religion, prejudice, sex or death, books help us explore these tricky subjects in a unique – and rather wonderful – way.

Anyway, my new book isn’t just about death. My favourite thing about being a children’s author (rather than – say – a crime writer or a purveyor of historical fiction) is the freedom to employ different genres and draw upon a variety of influences to tell my stories. As my publishers will tell you, Death or Ice Cream? is a difficult book to describe but I’ll have a go anyway. Death or Ice Cream? is a selection of dark morality tales, closely interwoven and all set in the same fictional town of Larkin Mills. While the characters change from story to story, the book has an underlying theme about the duality of the daily choices we are forced to make. Let me try that again. It’s about god and the devil and why religion forces us to make a choice between them. It’s also about domestic sharks, concrete sculptures, dodgem cars, corrupt politicians, evil doctors, the Roman empire, the dangers of archeology, zombies, the art of making television, alien landings, death and ice cream.

Oh and if you’re thinking that the question Death or Ice Cream? is a no-brainer, then I should point out that it is not really a choice at all.

After all, you can choose never to have an ice cream.

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Death or Ice Cream? is published January 2016 by Hot Key books.

You can read my review of Gareth’s Constable and Toop here on the blog.

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Beware – Seriously Spooky Month is here!

I love spooky books for kids and teens!  If it’s got ghosts, witches, vampires (non-sparkly ones), zombies or anything supernatural I’ll read it.  So I’ve decided to dedicate a whole month to spooky stories.

Throughout Seriously Spooky Month in October I’m highlighting my favourite spooky and scary books for kids of all ages, from picture books right through to YA.  I’m also very excited to have some wonderful guest posts from authors and illustrators who create spooky books for kids, including Barry Hutchison, Chris Priestly, Gareth P. Jones, R.L. Stedman, Sue Copsey and James Foley.

Scare your socks off this October and join me for some Seriously Spooky reads!

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