Tag Archives: scary stories

Guest Author: Why I Read (And Write) Scary Books by Will Hill

Will Hill is the author of one of my favourite books of 2011, Department 19.  The sequel, Department 19: The Rising came out earlier this year and was even better.  To celebrate the release of The Rising, Will Hill wrote this fantastic guest post about why he reads (and writes) scary books.  Since it’s nearly Halloween I thought I’d re-post it. Enjoy his post and make sure you grab the Department 19 books for some seriously creepy, gory and action-packed reading.

When I was about 12 I was so scared by Stephen King’s It that I slept with the light on, having placed the book, a beautiful old library hardback with a terrifying oil-painted amusement park clown on the cover, in the middle of my bedroom floor where I could keep an eye on it.

It was the prologue that did it.

George Denbrough chases a paper boat down the flooded streets of his hometown, until he loses it down an overflowing drain. A drain in which he finds a friendly, charming clown. A clown that suddenly changes shape and pulls George’s arm off at the shoulder, leaving him to bleed to death in the rain and the rushing water.

That was it for me.

Not only was it the moment when I closed that particular book and asked my mum to take it back to the library for me, as I was too scared to touch the thing myself, but it was also when I first understood the power that certain books can possess. The power to scare you silly.

I wrote Department 19 because I wanted to tell a story, about an ordinary boy called Jamie Carpenter who is thrown into an extraordinary world where he is forced to sink or swim, where he finds out who he really is. But I’ll be totally honest – I wanted to scare readers as well. Not because I’m mean, or vicious, or some kind of sadist, but because I think that books have a unique quality that I wanted to take advantage of – how scary they are is limited only by the power of the reader’s imagination.

I can describe the vampires in Department 19 in as much detail as I choose, but the picture of them that appears in one reader’s head is still going to be very different to that in someone else’s. In films and TV, the monsters, the villains, the frightening and scary things, are fully formed and shown, decisions that the director and the makeup department have made and then presented to you, whole. That doesn’t mean they can’t be scary, not at all – The Exorcist, The Omen, the original A Nightmare On Elm Street, all scared the hell out of me when I was younger than I am now. But they’re a communal experience, where everyone who sees them sees the same thing.

Books are different. With books, it’s just the words on the page and the power of your own mind. It’s personal.

When I was a teenager, I went straight from reading children’s books to reading Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert etc. My mother, who always encouraged me to read, and who would regularly bring me horror paperbacks home from the second-hand shops near where we lived, even though she didn’t really approve of them, would often ask me “Why do you read all that horrible stuff?” She still asks me that question, but now she also adds “How can you think of the horrible stuff you write?” I didn’t have an answer for her when I was younger, but I think I understand it a bit better now.

I loved (and still love) horror because nothing makes you feel more alive than staring into the darkness and confronting the things that scare you.

It’s placing yourself in harm’s way, without actually taking any physical risk. It’s like being on a rollercoaster – you know full well that it’s safe, you know that nothing genuinely bad is going to happen to you, but your heart is still pounding, your palms are still clammy, and you’re still wearing that slightly hysterical grin that is meant to show you’re not scared, but in fact gives you away completely. And while the ride may be horrible, may be a terrible, gut-churning ordeal that you never, ever, ever want to do again, when you get off at the other end, your legs wobbling and your face pale, the sensation of being alive, of having survived, is wonderful. It’s adrenaline and it’s probably mild hysteria, but ultimately it’s the primal, joyous sense of being alive.

That’s what scary books did for me.

Still do.

You can confront terrible things, evils both great and small, violence and pain and anguish and loss, and you can do it all from the comfort of your favourite chair, or lying in bed with a lamp on, the one that’s light doesn’t quite reach the corners of the room, the dark corners where things can hide, and wait. And if it gets too much, you can simply close the book, and come back to the real world for a while.

For some reason, the human brain seems to contain a tendency towards the masochistic; it’s the bit of your mind that looks at the rollercoaster tracks and thinks it can see cracks in the metal, that looks at the dog being walked innocently in the park and imagines it suddenly accelerating towards you, its jaws wide, foam frothing from its mouth. This is the bit of our brains that give horror its power. And it’s why I still read scary books, and why I write them. Because I love the thought of tapping into something primal, of experiencing something visceral.

Because being scared is good.

It’s one of the ways that you know you’re alive.

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Invisible Fiends: The Darkest Corners by Barry Hutchison

One very quiet night in the library, two years ago, I was looking for something interesting to read when I came across a new series, called Invisible Fiends.  Mr Mumbles, a story about a boy’s childhood invisible friend who came back and tried to kill him sounded like my kind of book, and I was hooked within the first few pages.  I love stories that send a chill down my spine and Mr Mumbles did exactly that, while also making me laugh.  Now, with the final book in Barry Hutchison’s fantastic series, The Darkest Corners, being released, one of my all-time favourite series has come to an end.  And what an end it is!

Kyle′s dad is everywhere. Really everywhere. In windows, through doors, on advertising billboards. Kyle just can′t escape him – and maybe he′s tired of running, anyway.

It′s time to fight.

But Kyle′s dad is one of the most powerful invisible fiends, and he does nothing without thinking it through. Just as Kyle learns to control his powers, he′s faced with the worst possibility of all. What if the thing that′s needed to open the gate between worlds, and destroy the world, is nothing other than… himself?

The Darkest Corners is an absolutely perfect end to a series that I wish could go on forever.  I admit I had a tear in my eye as I read the last couple of chapters, because I didn’t want to say goodbye to Barry’s characters.  We do get to see each of the Fiends again (if only briefly) and one of my favourite Fiends has a big part to play in this story.  Joseph is a character that shows up in each of the books and Barry’s been keeping us in the dark about who he actually is all the way through.  In The Darkest Corners his true identity is revealed (even though you may have already figured it out like me).  I still found this reveal satisfying though because you finish the book feeling that all the loose ends have been tied up and all the characters are in their right place.  At the end of The Beast, Kyle’s dad revealed something shocking about Ameena and in The Darkest Corners, Ameena continues to shock us.  I won’t tell you how so you’ll just have to read the book.

The thing that I liked most about this book is the reappearance of one of my favourite Fiends.  His relationships with a couple of the other characters provide some of the funniest moments of this book, and we find out why he acted the way he did when Kyle first met him.

As with the other books in the Invisible Fiends series, Barry can creep you out one moment, then make you laugh the next.  He keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen to Kyle and his friends.

Thank you Barry for introducing us to Kyle, Ameena, Mr Mumbles and all the other Invisible Fiends.  If you haven’t read the Invisible Fiends series I highly recommend it, especially for fans of horror/scary stories for children.

5 out of 5 stars

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Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne

Rick Riordan brought Greek and Egyptian mythology into the present day in his Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles series.  In her Takeshita Demons series, Cristy Burne, brings Japanese fairy tales and folklore into modern day England, and introduces us to some creepy Japanese demons, called Yokai.

Miku Takashita always had a close relationship with her grandmother, Baba, who taught her all about the yokai all around us.  When Miku and her family move from Japan to England, she has no idea about the trouble that follows her family.  She knows she’s in trouble when her releaving teacher turns out to be a nukekubi, then mysterious strangers turn up at her home, and Japanese demons kidnap her baby brother.  It’s up to her and her best friend Cait to break into their snow-blocked school and get him back.

Takeshita Demons is an exciting and creepy story that young readers will gobble up.  There is something for everyone, with plenty of action, mystery and chills, all wrapped up in Japanese folklore. Children will relate well to Miku because she’s just an ordinary girl who gets caught up in a battle with with Japanese demons who believe that her family is special.  Miku doesn’t believe that she is special but does what she needs to to protect her family.  Cristy Burne introduces us to some creepy yokai (demons) like the Noppera-bo who can look like anyone they choose, and Nukekubi whose head can fly off when its body is sleeping.  Cristy even gives you some extra information about the yokai in Takeshita Demons at the end of the book, and you can learn more about them on her website.

I really like Takeshita Demons because it’s short but scary.  It’s a perfect introduction to myth and folklore, and would be especially good for those girls who’ve outgrown fairies and want more of a challenge.  I think it would also be a great stepping stone to the Percy Jackson series, or even a series to recommend to those who have already read them.  I certainly can’t wait to read more in the Takeshita Demons series.

The next book in the series is The Filth Licker and you can learn more about it later this week.

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