Interview with Q.L. Pearce
1. Greetings, can you tell us a little bit about your history and how your work has evolved up to this point?
My first publication was an elementary level activity book about dinosaurs. It came out around the same time as Jurassic Park was published. I was so into dinosaurs I actually figured out that if they made a comeback my favorite, ankylosaurus, would fit in my back yard. I enjoyed writing and researching nonfiction, but my heart had always been set on creating scary short stories. That’s what I loved to read and that’s what I wanted to write. More Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs came out in the early 90s and it was a huge hit! I wrote five books in that series and went on to write several others. I also continued to write nonfiction and branched into biography. With coauthor and illustrator, Gina Capaldi, I wrote Red Bird Sings, which won several awards including a Carter G. Woodson gold medal.
2. What genre, or genres, do you write?
I write for young readers in every age range from picture books to young adult. When it comes to fiction, horror and sci-fi are my favorites.
3. What is your latest book called and what is it about?
Spinechillers: Hair-Raising Tales is a collection of short stories for a new generation. It includes seven tales about ghosts, monsters, mysteries and mayhem. The stories are generally for tweens and teens, but young horror readers are a unique group who are difficult to categorize so it may appeal to a wider range.
4. What was the inspiration for your book? When did you first get the idea for it?
I have enjoyed ghost stories since a was a child. During my elementary school years I lived on a small island in Florida. My friends and I shared stories and swapped scary comic books. We even formed a ghost-hunting club, though I can’t say we ever found anything. It was fun though. Those days are the inspiration for Spinechillers.
5. How long did it take you to write it? What is your writing process like?
It took about eight months to write the individual stories and another four or five to rewrite. I’m fortunate to have a terrific critique group to help with the process. I’m also very lucky to be able to get feedback from the amazing writing duo, Thorne and Cross. I probably write for a couple of hours a day, and I work on several projects at a time. I’m always on the search for concepts. I love prowling through antique stores or traipsing around in new environments looking for objects and settings that might spark an idea for a tale. My BFF Tamara Thorne and I sometimes go on road trips and we stay in haunted hotels to soak up the atmosphere.
6. What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m working on a new collection of Spinechillers for Book Two. I’m also writing a YA horror novel and a middle grade mystery/adventure series called Mystic Cove, with coauthor Francesca Rusackas.
7. Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
Swimming Lessons, the first story in More Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs has always been one of my favorites. It is based on something that happened to me when I lived on the island. Of course I ratcheted up the experience and made it much scarier then it actually was. Still, reading it is like going back and spending some time as my ten-year-old self.
8. Do you plot ahead of time, or do you let the plot emerge as you write?
I usually have a basic idea for a plot, but I put most of my effort in understanding my characters and developing the setting. Once that is in place I let the characters show me what happens.
9. Who are some of your favorite authors to read? Favorite books?
There are so many! Ray Bradbury, George Orwell and Roald Dahl are among my favorite masters. Modern masters include Neil Gaiman and Holly Black. My favorite book is always changing but Something Wicked This Way Comes, Coraline and The Graveyard Book are all on the list. I remember when I read Fahrenheit 451 I considered what book I would be if I had to memorize it for posterity. I picked Animal Farm.
10. Where can we buy your book?
About the Author
Q.L.Pearce is the author more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books for the Fox animated film Titan AE and the Universal animated series Land Before Time. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala Sa (Carolrhoda Books, with co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi), received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, "I was a child once. That was very scary."
Spine Chillers Buy Link
Excerpt from Spine Chillers
The Roller Grille was the real deal. An authentic drive-in restaurant with car hops on roller skates delivering trays of burgers and fries to people parked outside. It had been in business for decades. Other than a fresh coat of paint now and then it hadn’t changed from the day it opened.
Tyler, Andy and Jacob threaded around the cars and pushed through the glass doors to the diner. A hostess dressed in a fuzzy sweater and a poodle skirt guided customers to booths covered in red vinyl. A candy-colored jukebox blared from a corner. The laughter and chatter of the crowd was louder than the music. Tyler noticed Shay jammed into a booth with her friends. He raised a hand in greeting but she ignored him.
Andy pointed to the long soda fountain. “There’s room over there.” Tyler nodded and they each claimed a stool.
“What’ll it be?” Randy, the soda jerk adjusted his black bow tie and gave them a toothy grin. The boys ordered shakes.
Andy whirled around once on his stool and stopped to face Jacob. “So do they have any place like this in Phoenix?”
“No. This is pretty cool.” He looked around and his eye settled on a wall of photographs. “Who are those people?”
“Those are the prom kings and queens from the high school,” Tyler answered.
“Wow there’s like a hundred of them. What’s the deal with those two?” Jacob pointed to a black and white photo that was larger than the rest.
Tyler slipped into telling the story that everyone in town knew by heart. “That’s Johnny Tonnarro and his girlfriend, Samantha. He was like a rock star a long time ago. He got killed in an accident off Yetter Point.”
“It was a foggy night. He drove his car off the cliff and got squished like a pancake,” Andy added. “His girlfriend waited for hours in the cold for him to show up. She was all dressed for the prom and crying like a baby.”
Jacob gazed at Samantha’s sweet face. “That’s sad. What happened to her?”
Tyler lowered his voice for effect. “She drowned a year later on the anniversary of the accident. She was down on the jetty throwing flowers out into the ocean, those stinky white ones...gardenias. A wave swept her off the rock. Some people say they’ve seen her.”
“Seen her? What do you mean?”
Andy took up the story again. “Every year around this time her ghost waits out on Thorne Road near Highway One for Johnny to pick her up. Just standing there crying.”
Randy placed the shakes in front of the boys and joined in. “This time of year the evenings are usually foggy,” “They say she waits just off the edge of the road in the mist - lavender gown, white gloves, and gardenias in her long, blonde hair.”
Jacob’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. “Really? A real ghost? You’ve seen her?”
Taylor and Andy couldn’t hold back their laughter. “Nobody’s seen her,” Andy snickered. “It’s all made up. Not the accident part but the ghost part.
Jacob frowned. “So Samantha didn’t really die?”
“Oh, yeah. She died alright. She drowned. But only little kids and tourists swallow the ghost story. You have to be a real lamebrain to believe it. Last year the town newspaper offered a ten thousand dollar reward for anybody who could get a photograph of her. There were a lot of fakes but nobody’s earned the money yet.”
Still grinning, Tyler turned to take a sip of his milkshake and caught a glimpse of Shay. She was staring toward the entrance. If looks could kill, her eyes were lethal weapons. Tyler followed her gaze.
“Uh oh,” he whispered and his smile faded. His brother was holding the door open for Anilla Jacoby, Shay’s arch-enemy. Anilla beamed up at Lane and slipped her arm through his. The couple slid into a booth. Shay stood and stormed toward the door without looking at them.
“This isn’t good,” Tyler muttered.
A moment later his phone beeped. He read the text. Come outside now. We need to talk. Shay was waiting for him as he pushed open the door.
“I thought I would die of embarrassment. I can’t believe he would show up here in front of everyone with that airhead hanging on him like that. Now I know why he’s been avoiding me.” She turned on Tyler. “How long has this been going on?”
“Don’t ask me. This is the first time I’ve seen him with Anilla.”
“He needs to pay a price for humiliating me like that. I want to embarrass him in front of all of his friends!”
Tyler shifted nervously. “Shay I don’t want to...” “Think of something!”
“Look, Shay. Maybe you should just let it go. He’s my brother. I can’t ...”
“I’m not going to let this go, Tyler.” She leaned in and growled. “You’re with me or against me. And trust me, if you want to survive high school you don’t want to be against me. I can make your life miserable.” Shay turned and stomped away.
Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016.