Read Scream Repeat ()

Read, Scream, Repeat.

👻  Read, Scream, Repeat – Q&A and Book Review 👻

Read Scream Repeat ()

Read, Scream, Repeat is the perfect companion this spooky season! Thirteen blood curdling stories from thirteen award-winning authors including, Kirsty Applebaum, Jasbinder Bilan, Aisha Bushby, Joseph Coelho, Rachel Delahaye, Kat Ellis, Phil Hickes, Polly Ho-Yen, Sharna Jackson, Jennifer Killick, Elle McNicoll, Dan Smith and J.T.Williams. The anthology has been brilliantly curated by scream queen herself, Jennifer Killick. 

If you are a fan of all things horror, you will love these tales of terror featuring a strange and peculiar painting, an unnerving encounter on a train and a pond that wants nothing more than to drag you down, down, down into its depths – and this is to name just a few! This chilling collection is perfect for settling down to read under the cover of darkness, if you dare!

Reviewed by Krystal McCann

Dear authors, 

Congratulations on such a spine-tingling anthology of spooky stories in Read, Scream, Repeat and for being part of this epic author Q&A hosted on the VIP Reading blog!

We are delighted to be hosting this Q&A and also featuring Read, Scream, Repeat in our special Halloween Book Box!

The Attic Room by Phil Hickes

Your story is set in a grand place called Valcourt Manor House. The attic in particular is a very creepy part of the house, cobweb covered and forgotten. Why did you choose this setting for your story?

Having an atmospheric setting is very important in a spooky story. That’s why you never read ghost stories set in supermarkets or busy restaurants! Attic rooms to me are always creepy—they’re generally tucked away from the rest of the house, often small and cramped, with little light and lots of shadows. Perfect for unsettling events to ensue. 

The character of William had a very sad life, where did inspiration come from for his character? 

The inspiration for William didn’t come from any person directly. But I did think it might be interesting to present a child from a rich family in a sympathetic light. We often think these children don’t have a care in the world – myself included. But we don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors or what these seemingly privileged children are having to contend with. 

When writing your stories, what helps you get into the right mindset? 

I don’t get much done in summer because I find it hard to write spooky stuff when it’s sunny and warm. So once autumn comes along, and there’s rain tapping on the window, and leaves rustling in the breeze, I find it the perfect atmosphere to write. I occasionally listen to audio of rain or ocean waves too. 

What is your favourite scary movie and why? 

I love the 1979 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot. It’s a vampire movie I first watched as a child and it’s haunted me ever since. There are some truly terrifying scenes in it.

Deep Water by Dan Smith 

In your story, something ancient and menacing lurks beneath the surface of Cosgrove Lake. Where did your inspiration come from for that? 

When I was growing up we used to sometimes spend the weekend at a bungalow by the edge of a large, deep lake. It was very beautiful, but even though I loved swimming, I never liked swimming there. For one thing, it was so deep the bottom was a never-ending blackness. But the main reason was because the shallows were filled with weeds which you had to swim through to get in and out of the water. The weeds would brush against my legs and I always imagined they were the tentacles of something ancient and menacing trying to drag me down!

Amy and George are not very kind to their cousin Mia, in Deep Water. Why did you decide to write them this way and what affect does this have on the story? 

Amy and George are ghastly! They’re snobbish, selfish, and mean. I wanted something horrible to happen in the story, and it’s always more fun if it happens to people like Amy and George. If they were nice children it wouldn’t be half as much fun, and my dark side always finds it deliciously satisfying when awful people get their comeuppance.

Wolf Moon by Kirsty Applebaum

Toby has a very overactive imagination in the story. What gave you the inspiration for the character of Toby? 

I have to confess, Toby is based largely on myself. I also have a very overactive imagination, but that can be a handy thing when you’re a writer! Just like Toby in the story, I often find myself lost in crazy thoughts where I’m either saving the day heroically, or where everything has gone disastrously wrong. Toby is also inspired by the fairy-tale character Little Red Riding Hood, as he is on his way to his grandmother’s house when he gets distracted by something rather sinister.

The silver amulet plays an important role in the story. What object would prevent you from turning into a wolf person? 

I think any object at all could be used to prevent such a curse, as long as it’s been enchanted with the right spell. Something that is easy to keep with you at all times would be best, such as a piece of jewellery or clothing. For me, earrings would probably work well as I never go anywhere without them. Yes, I’d go for enchanted earrings!

When writing your stories, what helps you get into the right mindset? 

I often use music to help me get into the right mindset when I’m writing. Sometimes, a particular song seems so right for the story, all I need to do is listen to that song and I’m ready to write. At other times, reading stories or watching films in the same genre can help me get into the right mindset too.

Which comes first when writing a spooky story, the characters or setting?

I think a spooky story can start with either the characters or the setting – or even with the plot. For Wolf Moon, it was the setting that came first. The main action takes place in the carriage of a moving train. I wanted to set the story here because being stuck in a small space makes anything scary seem even more scary, because there’s no escape!

The Light Bulb by Rachel Delahaye 

In your story, Dan and Clementine have created a very sinister way of creating electricity to light their bulb to ward off the creatures. How did you come up with that idea? 

Being afraid of the dark is something we can all relate to. It’s natural – we have an inbuilt fear of what we can’t see. So I definitely wanted to write a story that explored the terror we feel in darkness when we’re out of our comfort zone (obviously darkness in a nice bedroom at night time is nothing to be afraid of)…For added terror, I then added in some flesh-ripping creatures. You know, just in case it wasn’t creepy enough. But, as with all my stories, I love to play with opposites. And that’s how I came up with my ‘light bulb moment’. What if the light was actually a trap, too? What if what looked like home was actually prison? What if what felt right was in fact very, very wrong? Sometimes relying on something for safety and comfort isn’t as reliable as relying on your instincts. Although, who knows what the best defence could be for Otto, Avery and Hazel in this particular scenario…

Avery and Otto find Hazel very testing and a bit of a know it all throughout the start of the story. Why did you decide to give Hazel’s character a heroic ending? 

Everyone is far more complicated on the inside than anyone could tell from the outside. We are the sums of feelings and wants and fears and hopes. We have talents, depths, thoughts and strengths that aren’t always obvious or on show. So, while Hazel is arrogant and annoying – or that’s what Avery and Otto think – there is far more to her. At one point, Hazel admits she’s wrong about something, and her sad, meek apology and her own disappointment at being wrong (because Hazel is never wrong) show us that she has very high expectations of herself, and that all this time she has been under pressure to keep up her ‘genius’ persona. Why? We’ll never know. But I wanted her to be the hero, because who would expect that? And that’s the point. Characters have to keep surprising us in stories, because they do in in real life, too. Acting out of character is what we do all the time. 

Read, Scream, Repeat brings together some incredibly talented authors. How did you feel to be part of such a brilliant collection of spooky stories?  

My first response was to squeal with delight, and then, of course, I felt so lucky and honoured to be selected. Jennifer’s books are so packed with fright, fun and humour, I knew that this was a project that I really, really wanted to be a part of. 

When writing your stories, what helps you get into the right mindset? 

As I write my stories, I try to see them as a film – so in my head, I’m watching everything so clearly, even the bits that aren’t described in the written story. While not all the details in my ‘film’ are using in my writing, it helps me build the picture. I can see how the monsters devour humans and hear the screams of terror – I’m really THERE. And I also wrote this story at night, with the lights down low so I had an extra shiver as I wrote.

Do you have a favourite spooky book? 

My favourite adult one is probably Dark Matter by Michelle Paver; yes, I was rigid with fear, but it was so atmospheric and beautifully written. Children’s stories are little easier on my poor heart, apart from Frozen Charlotte (YA) by Alex Bell, which I threw across the room in terror (I couldn’t finish it)! It’s a great time for children’s spooky literature, and I love Jennifer Killick’s Dread Wood series – proper scary tropes, but such wit! And also the Wranglestone books (YA) by Darren Charlton are wonderful, as are the classic mythology-based stories such as The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, which pitches good against evil: the thought of badness or darkness ruling the world always sends a shiver down my spine. 

What elements make a good scary story? 

Tension is the most important, I think. You can scare someone silly without even a drop of blood, gunk or goo if you have a good build-up, because often the fear of what could be lurking is a stronger, more powerful emotion that actually dealing with what’s there… A twig snapping behind you in a dark forest… A door creaking open in a haunted house… The unknown is terrifying. The dark can be scary but a darkness in your understanding or knowledge can be worse; you can’t make decisions if you don’t know what you’re facing…. In terms of writing, it’s important to mix your sentence length, making sure you scatter some short sentences and fragment sentences – where the sentence is just a fraction of a full sentence. Like this. And now this. It’s like little footsteps getting closer to the horror.

Which comes first when writing a spooky story, the characters or setting?

For me it’s the story. I had the idea of the lightbulb and the backstory of how the creatures came, and after that came the setting – cabin in the woods, town in darkness. Then I started to think about which characters would make the most of this situation. By that, I mean, be able to describe the horror in the best way from the best angles. But things change, and actually, once my characters came to life, I found that they were deciding where the story went. So, it doesn’t really matter which comes first, because once you have all the parts, everything moves around. 

What is your favourite scary movie and why? 

I love writing scary stories, but I don’t actually watch many scary movies because I am a total wimp! But I do like watching dark and twisty films, and I love old classics like The Lost Boys and The Stepford Wives. I recently watched Nope about a hungry alien and The Visit, which was about kids being looked after by their estranged grandparents, and you wouldn’t think it, but that had some really jumpy moments. 

What are you scared of? 

Ghosts. I can take monsters, vampires and the nastiest humans alive. But what terrifies me most is the thought of ghosts. I think it’s because they’re unpredictable and walk through walls, so there’s no escape. I cannot watch any horror movie with supernatural elements. Even though I really want to, I stop myself, because I know I won’t sleep!

The Green Ghost by Kat Ellis 

The story of Drest being left behind in the mines is very sad, what gave you the inspiration for it? 

The Green Ghost was inspired by the 3500-year-old copper mine on The Orme – a mountain near where I live in North Wales. I went on a tour of the mine and heard how young children used to work down there thousands of years ago because they could fit in all the really tight nooks and crannies to get at the copper, which I thought was both terrifying and a bit sad.

At the start of the story Aled worries about every little thing. How does he change by the end of the story? 

Aled is definitely a worrier! He worries about every little thing, but when he faces all the creepy goings on in his new home on Bwgan Mountain, he finds he can actually handle it better than he thought, especially with his new friend Mona in his corner.

When writing your stories, what helps you get into the right mindset? 

I like to write scary stories at night, when it’s dark and every little sound seems like it might be footsteps creeping up behind you or something moving under the floorboards. It definitely sets the right mood.

What are you scared of? 

I’m scared of all kinds of things. Sharks (and anything else in the sea, really), heights, snakes, being asked to sing in front of people… all very reasonable things to be scared of, I think!

A Cry from the Graveyard by Jasbinder Bilan

All throughout the story, Alta has a feeling that something is off. Can you describe the character of Alta? 

Alta is curious, inquisitive and caring. This is why instead of going straight home at the end of school she decides to explore the graveyard instead. It is also why when she meets John and he clearly needs her help to defend himself from bullies, she doesn’t hesitate.

Your story is set in a graveyard, the ultimate spooky setting! What do you think makes it such a frightening place to set a story?

I have always been fascinated by graveyards. They are places which draw you to them even though they are filled with dead people and potentially ghosts. I usually begin a story with a setting and then ask myself who is there…in the case of my story I found a boy who was the youngest person to ever be hung in England for a crime which I felt he didn’t commit. So even though it was a frightening place I wanted to bring justice to the character I imagined there.

What elements make a good scary story? 

I think it’s important to build the atmosphere of the story. When writing a scary story you know your reader will be waiting for the jump moment so you want to make it as genuinely believable as possible. It’s a bit like fishing – you hook your reader in and see how far you can push them. 

What are you scared of? 

I’m probably most scared of everyday things. When I was young I was scared to go to the loo by myself in case there was a monster in there. If I ever had to go to my bedroom to fetch something in the dark I would rush there and back in super-quick time imagining something was lurking – I could almost feel the hand creeping towards me.

Blog post by
Krystal McCann