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Review of HAUNTED by Olivia Clements (15)

It’s only a few weeks now until my new supernatural thriller HAUNTED goes on sale! This is always the most nail-biting time for a writer, waiting to see what the world thinks of his new book! Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the first official review from the people that matter most, my Young Adult readership, is pretty darn good. This is from Olivia, an avid reader and not your typical horror fan…

Haunted-5 front only

Haunted

By William Hussey

Review by Olivia Clements

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I don’t often read Horror books as they tend to scare me witless, so I was dubious about being handed this book. But, never the less, I stiffened my shoulders, turned on a bright light and turned to the first page.

What I found was a cleverly written, action-packed horror that asks the reader to imagine when haunting becomes real. It focuses on the idea of the spirits of the dead being called back to haunt the sleepy town of Milton Lakes in the bodies they once owned. Only one girl notices the dark intention of the townspeople’s dead ancestors, fights to stop it, and to protect the people she loves. Emma Rhodes, suffering after the death of her brother, meets Nick Redway, the mysterious boy who knows about the dead. And together they go on the terrifying task of finding the machine that started the danger, and sending the spirits back to where they belong. 

The main reason why I liked this book was the suspense. I was fascinated by the idea of the Ghost Machine, a machine built to bring back the spirits of the dead, and how it would be used. Hussey has put in enough suspense to ensure the reader gets thought it. The mystery of The Circle, and why they are bringing back the dead, keeps the reader going, biting their nails until the very end of the book. 

Another factor to the book was how much I liked the characters. Emma Rhodes and Nick Redway. They are wholesome and believable, which adds effect and makes the reader feel for them. Emma has lost her brother and blames herself. The way she is written gives her a sadder, lonelier side that makes the reader love and feel sorry for her. She is that likable, daring girl we all want to be and the writer has made her so real that she almost demands our loyalty and support.

But Nick himself is another great character. He adds to the suspense of the story with his hidden past that continues to elude us. His life is clouded with mystery which goes hand in hand with the horror of his task, to send the dead back to where they came from. His struggle to keep Emma safe and fight to save the town gives him a sad, but determined feeling that enforces the reader’s attention and backing. 

A book is only ever as good as it’s characters. If that is true then this one is brilliant. The main characters are likeable and real. Each one has their flaws and separate personalities. Their feelings come across in such a convincing way that the reader has to feel them as well. Even the villains of the story demand sympathy. You can never be fully angry with them because you can see their reasons and empathise with them.

The book also appealed to me because it was believable. Each character was written so fluently that it was easy to feel what they felt. Emma could have been your average girl in school and the fact that she saves the town gives a hopeful air to the book, encouraging others to be brave like her. Even the more magical sides to the book were handled well and effectively. There were no ‘crucial coincidences’ that can seem fake, it felt plausible and made for better reading through that.

The book ends with a sudden twist, ending in an almost gut wrenching way. It contrasts to many other books by having such a non-stereotypical ending, that stays with the reader for a long time.

I cannot do any more to recommend this book than by saying it was an emotional thrill ride for the reader and presented a firm, likeable array of characters, leaving the reader with a content, confident feeling long after the last page was turned.

Wow! Thank you, Olivia, you’ve made my day!

The Scribblers of Kirk Hallam College & The Piano Room

At the kind invitation of the wonderful team at World Book Day and brilliant school librarian Miss Bredgaard, I recently visited Kirk Hallam Community Technology & Sports College. It was a blazing hot day, so I thought that providing that trademark Witchfinder tingle of terror might be a bit more of a challenge. I needn’t have worried. With all the children assembled in Kirk Hallam’s terrific library, I began my usual hunt for nefarious witches with a reading from the first Witchfinder book and, as usual, the infamous BOO! moment got everyone in the right mood.

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What was particularly brilliant about this school visit was that it coincided with the Scribblers’ annual awards ceremony. The Scribblers is a creative writing club for pupils within the school. During the lunch hour we were treated to brief extracts from the scribblers’ work – a lively, atmospheric and wonderfully varied array of prose and poetry that left me reeling with admiration for these young writers.

Prior to the visit Miss Bredgaard asked if I would present the prize for Best in Show – the piece of writing judged the most accomplished of all the entrants (a very difficult task for the judges, as every entry I heard that day was exceptionally good). Of course, I was honoured to present the prize, but asked if the winning piece could be sent to me before the visit. Now, I was very tired the morning I received Miss Bredgaard’s email. After a delayed flight home from my holiday, I had arrived back in England at 2am and needed to catch up on some sleep. So I opened the email thinking I would just scan the contents and read it more carefully later…

Read the rest of this entry »

Haunted Quote 4

I hope you all enjoyed the first look at the HAUNTED cover last week, and that you all gorged yourselves on Easter eggs over the weekend! I’m on a diet at the moment, and so there was no chocolate for me. Now there’s a REAL horror story for you ; )

Anyway, it’s time again for another random/intriguing line or two from ‘Haunted’. This time there’s something a little meatier on offer – a taster of the infamous Phantasmagorium! This warehouse of horrors, this unimaginable trove of terrors, this store of supreme scariness will play an important role in the book. And so here’s a glimpse…

‘They hurried on past iron maidens with eyeholes full of blood; past the mummified heads of things half-human, half-animal; past a huge water tank in which the tentacles of some leviathan horror swooped and swirled. On, on. On down passages lined with…’

And we’ll leave it there!

Hurry back next week for more teasers!

HAUNTED cover & Quote 3!

Hi guys

It’s time for another random/intriguing quote from Haunted! But before we get to that, here at last is the cover for the finished book!

Illustrated by the phenomenally talented Rohan Eason, whose previous credits include his brilliant, atmospheric work on The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, it reflects the dark fairy tale vibe of a story in which a young girl must overcome her grief to battle the spectral forces that are threatening her town. The cover shows our hero, Emma Rhodes, approaching the derelict (and quite possibly haunted) Sparrow House: the former residence of a mass murderer, the Victorian ruin now harbours a mysterious newcomer to the cursed town of Milton Lake.

As Emma approaches so the spirits of the ‘unmade’ swarm around her. It is a bold, stark design which, we hope, will catch the eye and stir the imagination. It hints at the tone of the book – mystery, intrigue, spookiness galore and more than a few heart-stopping surprises – but also leaves much to the imagination…

Here’s a look at the full book design. On the back you can see the fabled ‘Ghost Machine’ telephone discharging its ectoplasmic, spirit-forming energy onto the page. This then forms into those shadowy characters that threaten Emma Rhodes.

For larger versions just click on the images!

You can also read all about the challenges HAUNTED presented over at the brilliant Book Zone website – just click here

And now for the third intriguing HAUNTED quote:

‘She had laid down the challenge and then abandoned her brother to the spell of the Sparrow House…’

See you soon for more Haunted news and yet more teasing and tantalizing random lines!

HAUNTED Quote 2

It’s Monday (boo!) and time for another random/hopefully intriguing quote from my next nerve-shredding novel HAUNTED (out in September). So without further ado here is a glimpse of Chapter 5:

‘Emma caught sight of an egg-shaped head with little holes where the ears had been; goggle eyes staring out of lidless sockets; skin ridged white and scarlet, like the contours left by lava on the face of a volcano…’

See you next week for more frightsome snippets!

HAUNTED Quote 1

Hi All

Over the coming months, I’ll be posting some intriguing and some purely random quotes from my forthcoming thriller HAUNTED. You can find out more about the book by clicking here. And so on with the first quote:

‘… I did not want it to be true. That is why I treated you so roughly, Oliver. You were the only one whose voice I could not deny. Now, as silence and darkness nears, I beg your forgiveness.

Your friend, Thomas Edison.’

Spectacular Writing from Jersey Schools!

Signing books at Grainville

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the wonderful Grainville School in Jersey for a day of events that included Haute Vallee School, Le Roquier School & Jersey College for Girls. As well as the usual Witchfinder Experience (during which we discovered lots of devilish goings on and executed a particularly bloodthirsty witch), I also engaged the children in a HUGE creative writing workshop. As ever during these sessions, I was amazed by the creativity of the pupils. My main aim as a writer is to get kids excited about reading and writing their own stories, and I am delighted to report that the children of Jersey did their schools proud.

The central story we all collaborated on involved a dark conspiracy to split the world in two! Together we built a strong main character called Jill – a clever, sensitive girl who eventually found the strength to overcome her grief for her dead brother and stand against Armageddon! Again, I was overjoyed (and a little awed!) by the ingenuity of the children during our storyline brainstorming.

After the visit, the brilliant Miss Basu sent me a collection of the children’s stories. They’re so good I just had to share a few lines with you.

One of the things I try to impress upon young writers is the need to grab the reader’s attention in the first paragraph or, better yet, in the very first line. This advice was taken on board by Justyna, Zoe, Ross, Trudy, Aimee, Andre and Chiannon in the opening to their joint story:

‘The suffocating silence of the desert seemed unbreakable. Nothing but the barely audible sound of wind humming softly in the distance. Unbearable heat radiated from the demonic ball of flaming gas they all once had loved so much.’

Wow! What an opener! I loved the sense of arid desert silence being eternal and unbreakable. I was immediately hooked. The same is  true of this poetic opening sentence from Sophie, Matt, George, Molly, Eleanor and Jordan:

‘Blistering winds tore at the clouds, pulling at the edges like strands of an old man’s hair. The rain battered against the windows; the rustling of papers could be heard inside his room.’

I love the imagery here and the fact that everything seems so alive: the clouds, the rain, the papers. The atmosphere is evoked so brilliantly, and we are immediately intrigued as to who ‘he’ might be.

Another striking opening comes courtesy of Jasmine, Mollie, Alice, Alia, Sam, Bennie and Jamie. This one puts us directly in the thoughts and feelings of the main character and plunges us into the midst of an incredible mental tumult:

‘Thoughts spinning out of control through my mind. Bashing up against my dented skull. Like a broken record, never stopping. Screaming inside my head, repeating the same dreaded words over and over again…’

I love the staccato rhythm of this writing, pushing us on like a train hurtling along its rails. The imagery of thoughts bashing against a dented skull is great, conveying the turmoil of the character and how unpleasant those thoughts must be. I, for one, want to know more about this intriguing person and what has happened to her.

This piece from Jack Evans-Rentsch is perhaps less overtly dramatic but is just as atmospheric and intriguing. Despite the character here claiming this is a calm place, I feel tension bubbling under Jack’s words:

‘The keys were laid out in front of him clearly as he played. White on black, black on white, his fingers moved to the tempo. The light blazed down on him with the musty smell of the old wooden stage and the hot feeling of the light. The audience was looking, watching, waiting with eagerness as he played. A white rose lay on top of his gleaming black piano. The mood was relaxed. He felt happy here. Calm, soothing. It hadn’t always been like this.

Two years ago Alex Grabrier was sitting in his therapist’s office. He wore his black suit with a gleaming white shirt and a blood-red tie.’

The final image in the paragraph of the blood-red tie contrasts so cleverly with the white rose and, with an almost brutal ease, throws off the tranquillity of what has gone before. This is actually very sophisticated writing, and for this reason I decided to award Jack the prize for best creative writing piece.

All of the entries had something to recommend them and, as I’ve already said, I was incredibly impressed with the students’ work. An effective piece of character-building was shown by Lara Peters who, in her opening paragraph, used words very economically and very effectively to give us a strong character sketch, particularly in the second sentence where actions are used to hint at character type:

‘She was a quiet girl, kept herself to herself. She stumbled around the school, listening to every movement, every word. Her name was Jill Blackmore.’

Back to dramatic action now with Charlotte le Gresley. Again, the action is tense and very well drawn, and I love the imagery of ‘scars’, suggesting the Earth is wounded:

‘I saw the sea, and any sense of normality, disappear into the vast darkness. Into the scars of the Earth. The boats, the swimmers, the buoys, everything in the stretch of blue was sucked into the swirling vortex of black. Screams, like the chorus of panicked birds, filled the air as the great waters fell. I stood on the edge of the precipice and watched the pure rock, crust, and souls fall into the abyss.’

Phew! I was there on the precipice too, weren’t you? Very effective writing.

I can’t include snippets from everyone’s work here (although I must make mention of William, George, Arianne, Danny, Lucy and Kelsey’s terrific image of ‘mountains crumbling like fresh cookies’), but I really appreciate all the hard work put in by every student, and I can assure you I read and enjoyed every entry.

It is a wonderful thing for any author to think that a visit could inspire such clever and creative responses. But I am a little worried… After all, on the basis of this inspiring selection, in a few short years these children could be fully fledged authors in their own right! I’d better warn all my author friends – we need to up our game!

And the winner is…

Firstly, many apologies for the delay in announcing the winner of the recent competition. I’ve had a truly gruesome case of the dreaded lurgy – projectile pea soup puking and everything!

But now, without further ado, the winner of the signed Witchfinder competition is…

JANINE PHILLIPS!

Congratulations, Janine – the book will be in the post to you very soon.

Stick around for more competitions coming soon…

Win Witchfinder 1: Dawn of the Demontide!

Hi All

Isn’t January just about the most miserable month of the year?! Even the hellish denizens of the Demon Father’s domain are feeling gloomy, their razor-sharp teeth all a-chatter and their infernal blood frozen like the water of Damnation Lake (check out Witchfinder 3, chapter 21, ‘Forest of the Damned’ to find out just how *chilling* that bedevilled body of water really is!).

So to relieve the post-Christmas blues, how’s about a giveaway?

1 signed copy of Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide is up for grabs! All you need to do is leave a comment below this post. I’ll select a winner at random on Friday 25th January.

Good luck!

The 12 Days of Witchfinder

Ho-ho-ho, horror freaks!

A Very Witchfindery Christmas to all! In celebration of this time of festive cheer and goodwill to all men and monsters (‘Now you’re making me sick to my infernal stomach,’ the Demon Father complains), I’ve prepared a new take on a favourite carol, now featuring elements from all three Witchfinder books. Hope you enjoy, and best wishes to you and yours this Christmas!

THE TWELVE DAYS OF WITCHFINDER

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A demon in an oak tree!

(then, in the usual way):

Twelve Scarabs Scratching

Eleven Crones-a-cursing

Ten Banshees bawling

Nine Zombies moaning

Eight Toads-a-tumbling

Seven Weres-a-wolfing

Six Ghosts-a-gliding

Five Demontides!

Four Raging Trolls,

Three Grim Grimoires,

Two Hellish Hounds

and a demon in an oak tree!

PS – check back here after the festive season and I’ll have a competition with a BIG PRIZE to banish those January blues!