Monday, September 13, 2010

An Interview with Dan Poblocki and a GIVEAWAY

Interview with Dan Poblocki,
Author of Stone Child & The Nightmarys

Your first story “spark” for THE NIGHTMARYS was when you had a dream about two similarly dressed girls and later saw some Victorian photographs of white veiled girls from a friend. Where did your story ideas go from there?

Originally, I meant The Nightmarys to be a story from the perspective of Abigail, a girl who was haunted by a group of phantoms in white dresses.  Every time I started writing though, her story just stalled.  I didn't know why... It was impossible to continue.  Even so, I tried four different times (forty pages each time!) before I realized that I needed to approach The Nightmarys from the perspective a different character.  So I created Timothy. I felt Timothy was a better entrance into "The Haunting of Abigail Tremens," than Abigail herself.  As he learns about the strange new girl in the school, so does the reader.  At the beginning of the story, he is drawn to the mystery of her personality, and soon, Abigail becomes a fresh and surprising threat.  And of course Timothy has his own set of problems... The rest of the novel grew from the push and pull of these two haunted kids.  

Both of your books have a hint of ancient “dark magic” in them; why and how did you choose the “Goddess of Chaos” and the fear-controlled tooth?

I was partly inspired by the Gothic horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft.  What he is known for, besides using the theme of "ancient dark magic," is inventing a pantheon of evil gods, at the center of which is tentacled sleeping-demon called Cthulu who has the power to drive humans mad simply by looking upon them.  Or something like that... Lovecraft lived most of his life in Providence, Rhode Island, the city where I was born, and many of his stories were set there.  New England has always inspired me with its old houses, its history, its battle scars.  Obviously, some places in New England can be quite creepy.  In one Lovecraft story, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," which I quote at the beginning of The Nightmarys, a quiet seaside town holds a dark secret.  The townspeople use a mystical metal which they forge into jewelry to worship a group of monstrous creatures living in the ocean off-shore.  I referenced this concept of a mystical, almost-alien metal when I created the "ancient artifact" for The Nightmarys.  Taking a note from Lovecraft, I deliberately left the metal's history vague.  It's important for an author to know the history of our mythologies...  But when sharing with the reader, I think a purposeful vagueness regarding origins of chaos, or evil, or whatever goes bump in the night always makes a story scarier; at least it did for Mr. Lovecraft.  

Were there any particular things mentioned in THE NIGHTMARYS that are part of your own nightmares?–besides the nightmarys.

None of the other specific horror elements in the book were from my own dreams... though I did base Zilpha Kindred's laundry room on the one in my old apartment building.  I had a hard time doing laundry down there after writing that scene.  One aspect of the book came directly from my own fears, but it wasn't supernatural in origin.  I don't remember ever feeling more helpless than during the week before my government declared war on Iraq.  I used this memory when creating Timothy's family.  They confront their own belief system after Timothy's brother is injured during an attack overseas.  I tried to stay away from the politics of the issue and respond directly to its emotional effect on my characters' lives.  So to answer your question, I have to say war is one of my worst nightmares.  I can't think of anything more horrific.      

When your characters reach the lighthouse scene towards the end of the book, I couldn’t help but think of how all the clues came together.... very intricate. How in the world do you come up with all these "clues"? Any inspirations?

This one is hard to answer without giving the "clues" away.  I like to use images, objects, and words which might seem benign in one context, but when exposed to a different light, look just a bit tilted, fraught, and possibly dangerous.  I held onto some of them for a long time, waiting for an appropriate story in which I could put them to use. The Nightmarys was that story.  In the end, I tried to imagine how I might intertwine all the various "clues" thematically, and I modified them to fit.    

Does it take a while to put all your ideas together or do you have a planned story in your head? What’s your strategy?

It takes a good long while for me to put the ideas together.  Like I said, I started The Nightmarys several times.  Once I connect with a character, I try to outline as much of the plot as I can, while giving myself permission to be a little loose.  Sometimes straying off-path takes you into new, surprising territory.  Other times, though, you end up lost.  For me, it helps to know where the story needs to finish up.  That way, in the getting there, you can wander all over the place.  However, I do take comfort in knowing I can go back and revise.  

What’s your all-time favorite horror/thriller writer?

John Bellairs wrote my favorite kind of horror novel.  Gothic.  Set in the nineteen-fifties.  Almost parodying popular genre ficiton of the time-period.  The House With a Clock in its Walls.  The Dark Secret of Weatherend.  The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull.  So much fun!  In the end, after the evil-of-the-week was defeated (and it was always defeated), the characters usually drank hot chocolate, kicked up their feet, and got right back to normal life.  For a kid, so much of life at that age can be scary.  John Bellairs's books let me know I can be scared for awhile and then move the heck on.  For real chills though, no one can top Stephen King.  I've read The Shining five times.  

Can you recommend a good classic "scary" book to young adults and/or middle graders?

Other than the John Bellairs books I already mentioned, I recommend Wait 'Til Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, a very creepy story about a ghostly little girl.  And if you can get through the sometimes overly poetic language, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft gives me goosebumps just thinking about what the main character finds in the basement of that old Providence house...  

Will we be seeing another book from you soon? Give us a peek... please?

Yes!   Very soon, in fact.  I have new series called The Mysterious Four coming out in spring of 2011.  The first book is called Hauntings and Heists.  It's about a group of kids who form a mystery club in their small town... They end up stirring up old ghosts and other troubles.  I don't think I'm allowed to share any of it just yet... but I'm really excited about it!

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us! Can't wait to read your upcoming books...

You can visit Dan's website {here}.
{Now Enter to Win}

Please read the following to enter to win 1 of 3 copies of THE NIGHTMARYS by Dan Poblocki:
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  • Books will be shipped from Random House; please allow at least 2 weeks for arrival in your mailbox
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Ends Sept. 30th, midnight EST


Jamie Manning said...

Great interview! This book sounds really cool, thanks for the chance to win it!

Kelly aka yllektra(I Work For Books) said...

This book sounds really really cool!
Definitely going into my to-read list and I enjoyed the interview! XD

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