Scary Out There: A Blog on Horror in Young Adult Fiction: A Chat with Kendare Blake
My guest this week is Kendare Blake, author of the critically acclaimed ANN DRESSED IN BLOOD. Kendare lives and writes in Lynnwood, Washington. She writes books, enjoys scary movies, digs trying new food, goes hiking and plays (she insists) really bad tennis.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Welcome aboard, Kendare. Let’s jump right to the big question upon which Scary Out There is built. What scares you?
KENDARE BLAKE: Uncertainty scares me. The unknown.
JONATHAN MABERRY: How so–?
KENDARE BLAKE: It’s a fairly universal human fear, and it scared me as a teen, too.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Anything else?
KENDARE BLAKE: Also, zombies. And that old preacher guy from Poltergeist II. I’d like to think that I’ll never lose the link to my childhood fears.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Except now you channel that into your fiction and scare the bejeezus out of teenagers.
KENDARE BLAKE: Sure.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Where do you stand on the debate as to whether horror fiction is too intense for teens?
KENDARE BLAKE: I disagree.
JONATHAN MABERRY: All the time?
KENDARE BLAKE: All the time. Heartily.
JONATHAN MABERRY: What’s your stance?
KENDARE BLAKE: Reading is a safe space. And being afraid in a safe space is great. Like being on a roller coaster, unless you’re that guy who lost his foot on that roller coaster.
JONATHAN MABERRY: What about extreme horror?
KENDARE BLAKE: To be fair, there is a difference between horror and straight up torture porn. So, maybe no torture porn for kids. But horror? All the horror they can handle.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Do you have a practical definition for ‘horror’?
KENDARE BLAKE: I define horror fiction as anything horrifying. Anything unsettling. Anything disturbing.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Is there only one kind of horror?
KENDARE BLAKE: No, it doesn’t have to be monsters tearing people apart, or psychos slicing folks up the middle, though both of those are nice. It can be as subtle as a lake with no bottom, as quiet as a girl who may or may not have poisoned her dog.
JONATHAN MABERRY: How does that play out in your own books?
KENDARE BLAKE: Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares tell the story of Cas Lowood, a young ghost hunter who goes up against Anna, the strongest ghost he’s ever seen. And she wipes the floor with him. Lucky for him, the two form a connection, and she becomes the catalyst for a journey of discovery about the magic knife he wields, and the terrible specter who murdered his father.
JONATHAN MABERRY: They’re terrific books, too. I remember grabbing ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD based on the recommendation of one of my teen writing students. I browsed a couple of pages at the book store and by the time I took it to the register I was four chapters deep. And I heard a rumor about it being optioned?
KENDARE BLAKE: Yes, it was optioned by Stephanie Meyer’s Fickle Fish production company.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Nice! Best of luck with it! So…what’s next?
KENDARE BLAKE: Next up is something that is perhaps less horror. It’s called ANTIGODDESS, and it features dying Greek gods in contemporary America and the reincarnated heroes who get caught in their war.
JONATHAN MABERRY: That’s a book I had the pleasure of reading for a cover blurb. I devoured it. I believe my blurb said: ‘ANTIGODDESS is a riveting and chilling horror thriller that deftly blends ancient legends with modern horrors. Highly recommended.’ And I stand by that statement. It’s a killer of a book, though not straight horror.
KENDARE BLAKE: There are horrifying elements to it, lots of blood and disturbing imagery, but it’s more of a thriller, or hero’s quest than straight horror.
JONATHAN MABERRY: If you had to recommend just three YA horror novels –past or present—which books make your must-read list?
KENDARE BLAKE: I’m going to cheat a little bit here.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Yeah, that seems to be a running theme when I ask that question.
KENDARE BLAKE: I tend to think that horror as a genre can be read by any reader at any level at any time. So these won’t necessarily be categorized as YA, but I think young adults would like them anyway.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Fair enough. Hit me with your first pick.
KENDARE BLAKE: It’s a classic: Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, a magical, whimsical, disturbing stories about a pair of sisters whose entire family was murdered.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Nice. And your second pick?
KENDARE BLAKE: Next, Stephen King’s IT, because it’s a big, fat popcorn bucket of horror tropes.
JONATHAN MABERRY: No joke. It stands up well to re-reads, too. And third–?
KENDARE BLAKE: Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, even though I haven’t finished it. If you’re into horror and you haven’t read him, you’re missing out.
JONATHAN MABERRY: Joe’s a great guy and a friend of the Horror Writers Association. Hell of a writer. Well, Kendare, thanks for swinging by for a chat. Best of luck with your books, and we’ll see you ‘round the cemetery.
SPECIAL NOTICE: The Bram Stoker Awards will be announced this week (Saturday night!) at the Horror Writers Association banquet at the World Horror Convention in New Orleans. Here’s a link to the live webcast: https://www.horror.org/blog/?p=3952
And here are the finalists in the Young Adult Category:
Barry Lyga: I HUNTER KILLERS (Little Brown)
Jeff Strand: A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO (Sourcebooks)
Jonathan Maberry: FLESH & BONE (Simon & Schuster)
Libba Bray: THE DIVINERS (Little Brown)
Maggie Stiefvater: THE RAVEN BOYS (Scholastic Press)
Michael McCarty: I KISSED A GHOUL (Noble Romance)
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics. His novels include EXTINCTION MACHINE, FIRE & ASH, PATIENT ZERO and many others. His award-winning teen novel, ROT & RUIN, is now in development for film. He is the editor of V-WARS, an award-winning vampire anthology. Since 1978 he’s sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, and poetry. He is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse, and co-founder of The Liars Club. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara Jo and a fierce little dog named Rosie. www.jonathanmaberry.com Find him on Twitters at @JonathanMaberry and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jonathanmaberry