A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
It’s happy book birthday-day to the incredibly talented Dawn Kurtagich with the launch of her stunning, spine-chilling psychological thriller, THE CREEPER MAN – and I’m honoured to be doing the big day interview. So, with no further ado . . .
Hi Dawn, and huge congratulations! So, firstly, can you tell us a bit more about THE CREEPER MAN?
The Creeper Man tells the story of seventeen year-old Silla and her little sister, Nori, who is mute and quite badly disfigured by their abusive father. They escape from their London home, and seek refuge with their Aunt Cathy in the countryside, discovering that Cathy is rather odd, and has painted the manor house the colour of blood.
After a strange muttering from their aunt about how “he’ll never let them leave”, things begin to unravel. Cathy loses her grip on reality and hides herself in the attic, refusing to come down. Silly begins to see something strange in the woods, something like a man, but impossibly not. The house begins to decay and warp around her, and they begin to run out of food.
Then, one day, as Silla is working in the garden, she notices that the trees are closer than they were before. The trees are coming, and with them: the thing in the woods.
Reasons to buy it:
1. There is a mysterious boy who might know more than it seems
2. There is a really weird thing happening inside the house
3. Silla has secrets and they are pretty big
4. Aunty Cath has a secret too, oh boy.
5. There is kissing.
And if you had to describe the novel in three creepy words?
So where did the inspiration for THE CREEPER MAN come from?
From many different sources. My home, firstly. I am in a very beautiful place, surrounded by woods and hills, and there are so many creepy things around here at night (not limited to abandoned, outbuildings with rusty bars in the windows, bats, and strange scratching noises in the roof).
Silla as a character is what really came first, though. I’d written what is now the “Broken Diary Entries” in The Creeper Man in a “notebook of ideas and doodles”, as well as a sketch of Silla. The hidden message was: “You can’t love the mad”. That line is still in the novel somewhere. Silla was really the original starting point.
After that, it was many things: The idea of not knowing what’s behind the next tree, the idea of Slenderman, stories about missing children and so much more. Most of the book grew very organically, which was perfect! I knew that this novel would involve some kind of awful, sinister family legacy.
Were there any scenes where you scared yourself out of your seat? And if so which scared you the most?
For me, writing the parts where Silla is alone and reflecting on what’s happening. They were eerie to write because of what she is thinking and saying, yes, but also because I tended to be alone in the dark when writing them. I was in a nocturnal phase for the writing of this novel, so after everyone was asleep, I sat alone with the door closed and a dim lamp, writing about Silla’s fears, her sense of madness and the strange things happening around her. And, of course, about the Creeper Man, drawing closer. That chilled me, for sure.
I’ve heard you say that you were inspired to write dark fiction on account of some hard experiences as a child – do you think that to write darkly you need to experience darkness?
I don’t know. That’s my honest answer, because I can only speak from my own experiences. I know that it has certainly affected me and inspired my writing.
Do you think you’d ever want to write ‘light’?!
Actually, I aspire to write at least one light novel in my life. I want to do it, I want to experience it. I want to create an uplifting and inspiring story, world, and character(s). Who knows when, though!
Creepy characters or creepy plot – what starts your process off?
Characters. Almost always. Sometimes the situation is the first inkling of an idea, but it’s only when I know who the story is about that I get really excited.
Do you have any share-round-a-campfire type horror experiences yourself?
Definitely. Maybe one day I’ll share them!
What draws you to horror as a genre?
The unknown. As soon as I see the monster, I’m less afraid. But when I don’t know what the scratching behind the wall is, I’m intrigued. Horror represents the pandora’s box of fiction. Someone is saying “DON’T TOUCH THAT BOX!!!”, so (of course), I want to touch it (and yank it wide open!). I love how horror is coupled with a bildungsroman tale so nicely. It’s so tangible.
With so much horror I imagine coming from the imagination, do your novels require much research?
It varies. The Dead House required a lot of research. Much of it was from personal experience, yes, but then I had to research to make sure I was being accurate with my facts, and then allow myself to be a little free with those facts to create something “other” and surreal. There are a lot of details in the book that are factually accurate, like the sunrise and sunset times for 2004.
The Creeper Man required less research, but it did require permission to use a family manor house as inspiration for the setting.
Favourite horror novel and film please?
How could I pick only one???
Novels: House of Leaves, The Pricker Boy, Scowler, The Haunting of Hill House, and many more!
Films: Insidious, Prince of Darkness, Event Horizon, A Tale of Two Sisters, Shutter (the original), Ju-On, and so many more. (It would probably be easier for me to tell you which horrors I don’t like!
Stephen King or Dean Koontz?
Do you have a favourite character in THE CREEPER MAN?
I love Nori.
And a favourite quote?
“The Creeper Man is watching you while you think you rest, he sows discord between the two who love each other best.”
With your debut being published just a year ago, can you tell us a little about a year in the life of a new author?
An absolute whirlwind! Since The Dead House was published, I have travelled to Chicago, Orlando and will be going to Boston and Texas; I’ve met authors I adore and whose books got me into this game; I’ve met the most loyal and wonderful readers, and I feel as though I have made friends in one of the greatest communities that exists today; I’ve seen my book’s TV option sold and met with the writer of The Dead House for TV; I’ve experienced writing to proposal, coming up with new and exciting ideas, and I’ve spoken to kids who genuinely LOVE books, love to read, and who aspire to be authors themselves. It has been the most magical, rewarding year ever!
So what’s next for you?
Next is more books! I’m working on my third YA, have just about finished an adult thriller, and am working on a middle grade project too. No rest for the wicked! ;D
Lastly, how are you celebrating the release? Are we talking Halloween in July launch?
I believe there will be cake, but apart from that, it’s being kept a secret from me!
THE CREEPER MAN is out now, and for a taster of what to expect, watch its great trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFKynmeiBZY
Books: THE DEAD HOUSE | THE CREEPER MAN
“What an evil and original story. You can’t stop reading Kaitlyn’s diary. But is she real? It’s a mystery inside a mystery–and the shocks keep coming. Scary stuff!” — R.L. Stine, best-selling author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series for The Dead House
Alex Campbell announced she was going to be an author at the age of eight. But no one took much notice. Which was generally how life developed thereafter. After a nomadic school career in back row daydreaming, and one English degree later, she moved into the world of PR and copywriting where she got other people and products noticed instead. Continue reading…
Books: LAND | CLOUD 9
“Packed with twists and dilemmas, the pace never slackens, pulling you towards to its enthralling conclusion. Highly recommended.” — Emma Haughton, author of Now You See Me for Land