Although these days I seem to be reading more Middle Grade than YA, for some time I have been bemoaning the lack of good YA horror and thus I was excited when I first read that Stripes were launching Red Eye. I have not yet read Frozen Charlotte, but I really enjoyed Sleepless. It is an incredibly creepy story which also contains some particularly gruesome deaths for its characters. It therefore hits the spot for both kinds of horror lovers - those who love psychological creeps and chills, and those who love a healthy(?) dose of blood splatter. I am therefore honoured to be hosting Lou on the first day of the Red Eye:
My Life That Books Built
I can't remember a time when I didn't have too many books. Growing up, I had too many to fit in my bedroom. At college, I lugged boxes and boxes of them up to my tiny third-floor room in my hall of residence - and I have one friend in particular who swore he was never, ever helping me move again after he spent a Saturday carrying crates of them from a van up to my new flat. (It's not like there wasn't a lift - was it, Matthew?)
I read books on the school bus every day, and I read them in the yard at break time. I always overpack them when I go on holiday, and I've been known to put a spare book in my bag when I catch the train in to London for the day from Bath. Just in case I run out of book before I get home. Because that might happen.
Books, you could say, are old friends - and a few of them have made more of an impact over the years than others.
One of the first books I ever really loved - the one I wanted to talk to everyone about (and which, devastatingly, none of my friends had read) was Alfred Hitchcock's Witch's Brew. It was only a little thing - a collection of short stories by people whose names meant nothing to me at the time, but looking at the contents page in that same copy, there's Shirley Jackson, and there's TH White and Joan Aiken… and Robert Bloch's "That Hell-Bound Train." That was the one that did it: the story of Martin, a man down on his luck and riding the railroads of America, who is stopped one night by a decidedly sinister train conductor and given a watch that can supposedly pause time. The catch is that if he never uses the watch, when the time comes, he will have to ride the train.
Over the years, the book got packed away and I forgot the name of the story - and even who wrote it - but I never forgot the story. After my mother died a couple of years ago, I was sorting through her things and found a box of books. My books. And there was the little blue Puffin paperback… and there was "That Hell-Bound Train".
I must have been about 11 when I read The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper for the first time, and I fell completely in love with the world. I don't think I ever managed to read the whole of the series, but that book in particular has never gone away… and I think about it every time it snows.
In my early teens, I found a book in the SF & fantasy section of the library in town. It had a black cover with what looked like a drop of water in the middle, and if I'm honest, I probably took it home because I thought the cover was cool (and, naturally, that I would look cool reading it on the bus. I said I've always loved books - I never said I wasn't shallow…). That was Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith - and that was the book that made me want to be a writer. I finished it and thought, "I want to do what that book just did to me." I could try to describe the plot, but I'm pretty sure I'd just end up waving my hands around and saying, "… and it's all just, like, awesome."
We take something from every book we love, I think: every book changes us just a little. These three, though, they made a big difference. The Hitchcock-horror book - and "That Hell-Bound Train" in particular - showed me that sometimes, the shortest stories cast the longest shadows. The Dark is Rising dropped me into a world I was desperate to visit: I would have given anything to be able to step into that book. I still would - and I still am. And Only Forward was the book that flipped a switch somewhere in my head: the book that had a voice I couldn't ignore. Every book I've ever read has built me, but these three are the foundations.
Huge thanks to Lou for stopping by to tell us about the books that meant a lot to her when she was younger. Tomorrow the Red Eye blog tour continues at http://www.flutteringbutterflies.com, and please come back here on Sunday 18th January when Alex Bell will be here telling us about her Magnificent Seven Scariest Books.