Q. L Pearce is the author of over 120 books for middle grade and young adult readers, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of her latest short story collection, Spinechillers to review. I enjoyed this book immensely and can’t wait to delve into more books by Q.L. Q.L also kindly agreed to be interview for my blog, and here she talks about her writing and publishing journey, what attracts her to scary stories, where her ideas come from and more! Enjoy!
1) What attracts you to the spooky and the paranormal? What makes it your favourite genre?
As a reader I am drawn to plot-driven books. That doesn’t mean that the characters aren’t important, but the central story is what I love. I have found that paranormal tales often have a strong plot at the core. As a writer, middle grade to YA horror, sci-fi and mystery are my favorites. I enjoy the world building and the suspension of disbelief required in a ghost story. Things that go bump in the night are part of my British heritage and I enjoy researching creepy tales and urban legends.
2) Who are your favourite authors and why?
Ray Bradbury, George Orwell and Roald Dahl are among my favorite classic masters. I love Bradbury’s writing style and, of course, he was amazing when it came to short stories. The clarity and intelligence of Orwell’s work, and his focus on social injustice places him at the top of my list. Animal Farm is an all time favorite book for me. Roald Dahl’s books for children worked on so many levels and he wrote some of my favorite children’s books, like The Witches and The Twits. His work could be sweet and sentimental, whimsical or darkly humorous. Sometimes all in the same book.
Neil Gaiman, Holly Black and Ransom Riggs are some of my favorites modern authors. They are all so great at world building and creating unique characters. Coraline and The Graveyard Book are a couple of books that I wish I had written.
3) Can you tell us where you get your ideas from?
Ideas come from everywhere…magazines, newspapers, travel. An offbeat article about Scottish castles or crop circles might catch my eye. I might see a strangely shaped tree while on a hike and wonder what lurks at its roots. I enjoy prowling through antique stores for curious objects or photographs that might spark an idea, or hiking around in new environments to use as settings. My dear friend, author Tamara Thorne, and I sometimes take road trips. We visit haunted hotels, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, all for inspiration.
4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I could first scribble a story on paper. I won my first school writing contest in third grade and my first city sponsored contest at age eleven. I actually got into a little trouble when I was a kid for telling scary stories that frightened my friends.
5) Can you tell us a bit about your writing and publishing journey so far?
When I was in my twenties I decides to start sending short stories to magazines. Once I began seriously submitting I gathered an extensive collection of rejections. Over the course of ten years or so the rejections went from definite “no” to “no, but keep submitting.” My first contract with a major publisher was for an activity book about dinosaurs. It was with Price Stern Sloan. My first contract for fiction also came from Price Stern Sloan when they published Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. It did very well and I wrote quite a few books in the series.
To date I have written more than 120 books for young readers including educational, nonfiction, biography, and fiction for all age ranges. Spinechillers is my latest. It is a collection of short stories that includes classic ghosts, a monster or two, urban legends and one tale that is an homage to The Twilight Zone. The stories are perfect for reading aloud at a sleep-over, or under the covers with a flashlight. The book is in the tradition of Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. Spinechillers is for a new generation of tweens to teens.
6) What would you say have been the highs and the lows? What are you excited about?
I like all of the elements of the writing process. I enjoy the research, “meeting” my characters for the first time and getting to know them, sketching out the first draft, and shifting the elements like pieces of a puzzle.
Some of the best memories in my career are meeting young fans of my books. Red Bird Sings is a title that stands out for me. It is an adaptation of the autobiographical works of Zitkala Sa, an important Native American writer and activist. My co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi and I worked hard to honor her story. I’m very proud of the book and it received many awards including the Carter G. Woodson gold medal for picture books.
The down side of writing is rejection. I’ve had manuscripts turned down, books in work cancelled, and negative reviews. I try to find the lesson in each rejection that can make my work stronger. I’ve developed a thick skin over the years.
I think as writers we can learn from every review, good or bad as long as you don’t take it personally. You have to use what helps you to grow and leave the rest. I remember when Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs came out it received a “bad” review early on. The reviewer said that it seemed that before writing the collection I had downed a bottle of wine and watched a Twilight Zone marathon. I actually took that as a compliment since I loved Rod Serling. The series went on to sell in the millions.
7) What is the scariest story/book you have ever come across?
I can’t decide between two books. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is so dark and atmospheric. I think it’s one of the best haunted house stories ever written because it leaves so much to the reader. It has all the elements of a ghost story but there is an underlying question about the true nature of the haunting.
One of Stephen King’s early books, Salem’s Lot, terrified me! It’s a vampire novel and I was only able to read it during the day. For a while I also kept a nightlight on because I was so creeped out.
8) What is a normal writing day like for you? Tell us about the process
When I write I usually sit at my dining room table. I have an actual home office with a desk, but my dogs prefer the main room and I like to work with them close by. I begin my day with meditation even before my first cup of coffee. I start my reading and research mid-morning then spend two or three hours writing. My dogs take me out for walks a couple of times a day and I use that time to brainstorm. I usually write for another hour or so at the end of the day.
I hate an empty page so when I’m working on a first draft I just keep going. I write anything as long as words are going on the page. Once I have something to work with I can go back and edit and tweak the manuscript into shape. Sometimes that approach can take your work in surprising directions.
9) What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a few things including the next volume of Spinechillers. I have three fact-based fiction picturebooks in work with coauthor/illustrator Gina Capaldi, a middle grade mystery adventure with coauthor Francesca Rusackas, and a YA horror novel.
10) What advice would you give to other writers who enjoy writing creepy stories?
The advice I give to working writers is finish what you start. I have several manuscripts that are sitting in a file folder because I didn’t push through when I hit a weak spot. Once that happens I start second-guessing and lose momentum.
The advice I would give to those who enjoy writing horror is to let the readers do some of the work. The unknown is deeply emotional. Provide the story, the characters, atmosphere, the dread, but don’t fill in every detail. Leave some room for the reader’s imagination to personalize the fear.
11) What are your plans and dreams for the future?
My husband is a physiologist and a huge sci-fi fan. We have a plan to someday write a book together. I remember one night we went out to dinner and spent the evening coming up with an alien world and determining what sort of species would populate such a planet. We wrote notes on napkins. It was a fabulous evening!
Recently I was thrilled to be join Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross as co-host for YA nights on Thorne and Cross Haunted Nights LIVE, part of the Authors on the Air: Radio Network. I’m looking forward to inviting some terrific authors to be the show!
12) Tell us three interesting things about yourself
Years ago I was an assistant SCUBA instructor. That’s how I met my husband.
I’m not happy about flying but I love to travel. In the past couple of years we’ve visited Florence, Vancouver, Shanghai, Lhasa, and Cambridge, England.
I’m currently completing my meditation teacher training. I would like to work with writers and other creative people who want to be able to find a calm inner space when faced with deadlines, rejections, blank pages and other stressors.
Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Q. L!
You can find out more about Q.L Pearce below!
About Q.L Pearce
Q.L.Pearce is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books for the Fox animated film Titan AE and the Universal animated series Land Before Time. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala Sa (Carolrhoda Books, with co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi), received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs italisize (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, “I was a child once. That was very scary.”
★ Link to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RedBirdSings
★ Author’s social media links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Q.-L.-Pearce/e/B001H9RTXO