Friday, October 9, 2009

Celebrating October with a Ghost Story

Since it's October and Halloween is just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to sit down and have a chat with Saundra Mitchell, author of the YA ghost story, Shadowed Summer.

First off, here is the description, courtesy of

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap. Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

Here are a few questions Saundra was so kind enough to answer for us. Thanks again, Saundra!

1. What gave you the idea for Shadowed Summer? And did you always intend to write it for the YA audience?

Saundra Mitchell: My original intention was to write a book that would make readers feel the way Annette Curtis Klaus's THE SILVER KISS made me feel when I was a teen. However, I actually wrote this book thinking it would be for adults (the original draft was twice as long as the final book you hold in your hands!) One of my beta readers told me, "This is a YA novel!" and re-reading it, I realized she was right. I think it speaks to the level of lunacy some writers experience when it comes to their own work. I wanted to write a book like a YA novel I loved when I was a teen... but somehow, I had no idea I'd written a YA novel. Go figure!

2. When you first decided to sit down and write Shadowed Summer, did you know you were going to write a ghost story? Were you inspired by any ghost stories you knew from your childhood?

I definitely knew it was going to be a ghost story. Hauntings and ghosts have fascinated me my entire life. Even in my first novel, which was straight-up historical fiction, I included a ghost story as an aside in the text. And I'd have to say I was probably inspired by all of them! But I think you can see Betty Ren Wright's THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS and Zilpha Keatly Snyder's THE HEADLESS CUPID in the DNA of my novel.

3. I love the setting of Shadowed Summer. It almost feels like a secondary character (I felt as if I could see the grave yard and like I had been inside the Red Stripe Grocery). Was it hard to develop the setting so that it lived and breathed for your readers? And how much research went into researching the area?

Thank you very much! I've never been to Louisiana, so there was a lot of research involved! Fortunately, I have family who live in Baton Rouge, and my best friend lives outside Atlanta. Georgia doesn't have the same culture as Louisiana, but visiting in the summer there was an *excellent* reference for the weather. My best friend and I both grew up in very small towns, so that's something I think is universal. There's a lot of Gem, Indiana and Ila, Georgia in fictional Ondine, Louisiana! Making sure all the language was authentic the hard part- and in fact, I've asked my editor if we can make a few tweaks in the second edition. Somehow a very Yankee "soda pop" slipped into my text, disturbing good Southerners everywhere.

4. What is your writing routine like, as far as schedule and what is your writing area like?

When I'm working on a book, I write 1000 words a day, every day, until the book is done. I can write *more* words if I want to, but my count still turns over at midnight. I start at 8.30am, after my daughter is off to school, and I work until 8:00pm or so. The weekends, I try to get my 1000 words done early so I have some time to myself! But this schedule keeps me focused. If I'm lenient with me, I tend to goof off.

As for my surroundings, my desk is a wreck right up until I start writing a book. Then I get reallllllllllly interested in cleaning everything off. But once my area is pristine, I have no more excuses, and then I start writing.

5. Since we're celebrating October and
Halloween on YAedge this month, what was your favorite Halloween costume you've ever worn (as a kid or an adult)?

I have to admit, my favorite Halloween costume is my RenFaire costume. At your service, milady!

Thanks again Saundra for taking the time to answer our questions!

For all the readers out there, if you haven't picked up your copy of Shadowed Summer yet, it's your lucky day! We'll be giving away one copy to one lucky person! All you have to do to enter is comment in this blog post. Contest ends Sunday night (10/11/09) at 9pm PT.

Good luck!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Zombie Mania

I saw Zombieland this weekend and was blown away by the witty, well delivered script. Woody Harrelson - amazing as a zombie-killing redneck. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance of an unlikely geek hero ROCKED. You felt Emma Stone's determination as the gritty, suspicious girl, looking out for her younger sister. And Abigail Breslin proved to be as full of gumption as her Little Miss Sunshine character back in 2006. In fact that’s one of the reasons I loved Zombieland – because of the dysfunctional family the characters become (similar to LMS).

Zombie movies really commit. I mean, they're not satisfied with giving you a localized scare. No creature killing off a few schmucks in a small town. Nope. Zombies want us to fear for the world. And in this age of global warming, mutating viruses and a bottle of hand sanitizer beside your sunscreen - so we should.
In the meantime, why wait for the real thing when we can partake in zombie mania while we still enjoy pizza over human flesh? With the big H around the corner, I thought it fitting to point you to a few zombie related sites. Get out your hair mousse (makes great ooze)!

And if you’re really adventurous, find out if your city/town/angry village is participating in World Zombie Day this October 11th. Check out the Myspace page for more details:

Go Get Zombified! - great tips on zombie costume making - cool zombie costumes / props – instructional video on how to create your own zombie makeup. For those who like to watch. ;)