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Fall 2015 Publishers’ Preview: Five questions for Jonathan Stroud

Publishers' PreviewsThis interview originally appeared in the September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions. 

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Disney-Hyperion

Ghost-hunters Lucy, George, and Lockwood return for a third adventure in the Lockwood & Co. series: The Hollow Boy.

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Photo: Rolf Marriott.

1. Does your own writing ever scare you?

JS: I always secretly hope that re-reading a passage will give me a prickle up the spine. The Red Room in The Screaming Staircase managed it, and a rather nasty crawling ghost in The Hollow Boy definitely made me peer over my shoulder to check out the dark corners of my study…

2. Have you ever seen a ghost?

JS: I regularly see sinister forms loitering at the bottom of my bed, but they usually turn out to be my kids. In all honesty, I’m not psychically sensitive. There are probably specters gesticulating frantically beside me right now, but I simply don’t notice them.

3. How do you balance humor and horror in a novel?

lockwoodandco197x300JS: Horror without respite quickly becomes tedious. My protagonists use humor as a weapon to counteract the darkness. My aim is that the jokes and shadows throw each other into greater relief, intensifying the combined effect.

4. How do you allow new readers into the second or third book of a series without boring established fans?

JS: If your characters are sufficiently engaging, they should create an immediate rapport with any reader, whether old or new. Then you can seed useful background bits of info into the plot without anyone really noticing.

5. What does the skull in your backpack say?

JS: In my experience, talking skulls are all the same. Mine offers me daily words of encouragement interspersed with weary sarcasm. Somehow or other, this keeps me writing.

Sponsored by
Disney-Hyperion

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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