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In the lead up to Fright Night – an evening of spooky stories featuring a talented line-up of YA authors and creative teens – we asked Sarah Epstein, Leanne Hall and Ellie Marney about the scary tales that influenced them.

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What’s the scariest moment you’ve come across in your reading history, and how has this influenced your writing?

Leanne Hall: I didn’t read Coraline by Neil Gaiman until I was well into adulthood, but one of the many joys of this very scary novel is the way it transports you back to childhood, to a time when you’re just old enough to be left on your own to explore. Coraline is a story that features uncanny doubles – places and people –  and there’s an extremely scary moment where Coraline’s other mother turns around to face her…and there is something very different and terrifying about her face (no spoilers here).

Coraline taught me that terror can be contained in finite, mostly familiar settings, with a small cast of characters. Sometimes all that’s required is to set the ordinary world out of kilter a few degrees, and creepiness ensues. I try to take that sense of the strange-in-the-familiar into all my writing.

 

 


 

Sarah Epstein: The Christopher Pike novels I read as a teen directly influenced the genre I write today. I was interested in horror but wasn’t quite ready for my mum’s collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. So when I stumbled across Christopher Pike’s books in my high school library, I was thrilled to find scary books for teens with protagonists my age. Soon after this I started writing my own creepy short stories which later served as my starting point when I returned to writing decades later as an adult.

 

Illustrated book cover: Road to Nowhere by Christopher Pike. Blonde woman is seated in the driver's seat in a car, and a skeleton is seated next to her. Red text reads Christopher Pike, green swirly text reads Road to Nowhere.
 


 

Ellie Marney: An interest in horror stories is something that I think arrives early in a reader and never leaves; it was definitely the case for me. The scariest moment I had as a reader was when I cracked open the covers of my first Stephen King novel – it was his debut work, Carrie, and it had the most gruesome, blood-drenched cover! I think I was fourteen; I remember reading under the bedcovers late at night with a torch, and when the penultimate scene at the prom arrived, and the bucket tipped… I don’t think I slept at all that night (and I’ve still got the same copy of Carrie on my bookshelf). King has influenced my writing in so many ways – I’ve always tried, as much as I can, to follow his lead by investing deeply in character in my stories. I hope I’ve succeeded! It’s only when the reader really cares about the characters and their histories that they can feel worried or scared when they’re under threat…

 

Book cover with red serif text that reads Stephen King and white serif text that says Carrie. Illustration of woman with blonde hair and bloodied palms held up sits below the text.
 


 

Sarah Epstein, Leanne Hall and Ellie Marney will appear in Fright Night, an evening of Young Adult spooky storytelling, at Spring Fling on Friday 4 November 2022. The event will also feature  three special teen guests writer plus a spine-tingling recorded video from the master of the macabre, Neil Gaiman.

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