And now it is here, and not only do I have the honour of hosting a fantastic guest post by William, but also the very first public reveal of the book cover for Haunted (so remember where you saw it first). It is a little different from most of the YA covers around at the moment, and I totally love it! Rohan Eason's illustrations are so incredibly spooky, and I could stare at the image for hours (and as the book isn't due to be published until September I'm just going to have to make do with this for the next few months). Make sure you click on the pictures to view the images in all their big sized glory.
And now, over to William:
After completing the Witchfinder trilogy, I was really keen for a new storytelling challenge. Witchfinder had been pretty epic: a story that spanned over a quarter of a million words, virtually every monster in the mythical bestiary, and a timeline that started a moment or two after the Big Bang and reached right up to the present day (by way of the Stone Age and the English Civil War!). Now I wanted to write a story with a tighter focus, a tale that concentrated on a few characters over the course of a week.
A week in which a huge, heart-stopping supernatural drama would be played out…
I’m a great believer that writers should always be challenged by their next project. They ought to step into those early pages of a new book with their hearts lodged firmly in their mouths. ‘Can I really do this?’, ‘Am I good enough to pull it off?’ Those questions should forever be ringing in the writer’s mind.
With HAUNTED I set myself two formidable (for me, at least!) challenges. First, I would tell the tale from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old girl. Up until this point, I’d always written my books from a boy’s perspective; could I really capture an authentic voice for a teenage girl? As I got deeper into the story, I began to realise that I shouldn’t always be conscious of the gender of my hero, Emma Rhodes. What did I know about this character? She was clever, strong-willed, determined, resourceful, grieving, robust and yet sensitive, especially to cruelty and injustice. Those were the things that mattered about her, and they were characteristics I admired and felt able to convey.
At this point I should tell you a little about the story:
Emma Rhodes begins the book in a state of complete isolation. Some months ago, her little brother Richie died while in her care. Since that day Emma has been haunted by grief and guilt, a state which has driven her friends away and left her fragile and alone. Into this lonely world comes a mysterious American – a teenager who moves into the derelict Sparrow House across the street. His arrival changes everything. Shrouded in mystery, he begins to draw Emma out of her isolation by revealing to her a shocking truth. Someone in the little town of Milton Lake is using the fabled ‘Ghost Machine’ to call the spirits of the dead back to our world. Now it is up to these two lost souls to find out who is operating this strange invention before it is too late. For call by call, the hungry dead will be unleashed…
My second challenge was to introduce a ‘celebrity historical cameo’ into the book. The Ghost Machine is an antique telephone from the 1920s, its crackling line a pathway to the world of the ravenous dead. But here’s the thing: the Ghost Machine is based on a true story.
In 1920 the world-famous inventor Thomas Edison – the man who developed the light bulb, the movie camera, the telephone and the record player – claimed to the world’s press that he was on the verge of inventing a phone for speaking with the dead! No kidding, he really did! After his death ten years later it was thought that Edison had been pulling one of his famous pranks on a bunch of gullible journalists… but what if he’d been telling the truth?
Why would Edison have covered up such a fabulous invention? What might have caused him such mortal terror that he hid the device from the world? And what if the Ghost Machine was still out there, waiting for some desperate soul to start making calls on it again?
Once I’d hit upon the idea of the Ghost Machine in a modern setting (with Emma battling to discover its whereabouts before it tore her world apart), I knew that Thomas Edison himself must feature in the story. What followed is essential for any writer hoping to recreate a historical setting and personality: LOADS of research. I read four HUGE biographies on Edison, as well as several books on the development of early telephones. Once I’d absorbed all my notes, I was ready to write the chapters in which Edison revisited his famous Menlo Park laboratory and, at dead of night, began his experiments with the Ghost Machine.
Research helped to make this ‘character’ seem real to the reader. I had to recreate the way the Great Man spoke, how he moved, how he thought, how he listened (tricky as Edison was almost stone deaf!). I had set myself this challenge before when writing Witchfinder: Gallows at Twilight, which featured the real historical character of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. But in that case I was helped by the fact that very little is known about Hopkins, and so I could create the character pretty much as I wanted him. With Edison, I felt a huge amount of pressure to get the real man down on the page as faithfully as I could.
Of course, the real Edison never experienced a night of supernatural terrors, as he does in HAUNTED, but I had to know enough about him as a character – his history, his family, his strengths and prejudices – to make the scene seem as genuine as I could, both for readers who had no clue about the historical Edison and for those who knew his life inside out. It was a terrifying challenge, but one I absolutely relished!
So what more can I tell you about HAUNTED? Well, here are a few teasers: we have a Circle of very unlikely and very ruthless necromancers (or ‘conjurers of the dead’); a haunted house once owned by a mass murderer; a deserted theme park in which a decidedly grisly ghost decides to manifest; a troubled boy with a secret so surprising it will (hopefully!) take your breath away; a hero who faces her grief and terror only to discover one devastating revelation after another; a school library like no other; an antique shop harbouring the most terrifying wonders the world has ever seen; a collector of bric-a-brac who will chill the very marrow of your bones; a mystery that goes to the heart of Emma Rhodes and blurs the line between the worlds of the living and the dead; and a nerve-shredding finale so spooky it made Michael Grant (of GONE fame) lose sleep!
But wait a minute…
Is that a phone ringing in the next room…? No, it’s OK, I’ll wait here.
I think it’s for you…
A note on the cover: this is the first EVER reveal of the HAUNTED cover, especially for the brilliant Book Zone. The artist is the very talented Rohan Eason, whose previous work includes The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. What we all wanted from this cover was a very stark fairy tale vibe to go with the gothic spookiness of the story. Lyrical black-and-white imagery contrasting with the red lettering fitted the bill perfectly. I love how the ghosts – or the ‘unmade’ as they are known in HAUNTED – swirl around to frame Emma as she ventures towards the Sparrow House.
A place where many dark secrets wait to be discovered…