Today I welcome Holly to the blog! Her new book Feral is out (review tomorrow!) She is here today to talk a little about the opening scene in Feral.
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs).
Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. Kirkus Reviews called THE JUNCTION “...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”
Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com
Now about Feral!
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
Let's welcome Holly!
I was able to ask Holly one question and after reading Feral I had to know about the beginning. The beginning of this novel is just “grab you completely and drag you into the story.” LOVED IT!
So I asked her - Can you tell about how you decided on that beginning?
FERAL went through a complete overhaul during revision. Actually, the book started out being an MG about a girl solving a cold case that centered on her middle school. But as I started to revise, the book kept getting darker…so much so, I felt pretty strongly that the book needed to be bumped up into the YA category.
That sounds like a fairly simple process, but it was actually more like starting from scratch. Sure, the murder mystery element remained pretty much the same—the “cheating” element took on a new meaning in the YA version—but the manner of Serena’s death was identical.
That was about the only thing that stayed the same, though. I knew that key elements were going to have to change—including the genre. Initially, I began to suspect what I would wind up with was YA horror (rather than a YA mystery)…And then I realized my main character was not working. At all. No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t age her up and move her into the YA category. She was so thirteen. Just not right for a YA. (I’ve actually kept the original protagonist in reserve, and have been brainstorming ideas for the “just right” project to put her in.) In trying to come up with a new protagonist, I began to brainstorm a character sketch for Claire Cain—and uncovered her backstory (that she’d survived a brutal gang beating in Chicago). That was when I knew the genre would be psychological thriller—and I also knew that the central theme was recovering from violence.
My editor really liked the chapters told from Serena’s POV—she encouraged me to move the first Serena chapter to the front of the book. I was concerned, though, that the readers’ heart and sympathy would be with Serena if we started the book from her POV—and this is Claire’s story. I knew I had to make what happened in Chicago more horrific than what had happened to Serena. So I wrote—and rewrote—the Chicago scene over and over, each time adding a few more rough, gritty details.
In this final version, too, Serena isn’t just in the book to tell her own story. She’s there as a metaphor for what happens to so many individuals in the aftermath of a violent event: As the book opens, Serena is unable to move forward, and still able to feel pain. That’s certainly where Claire is, too, as she crosses the city limits of Peculiar…
Thank you so much for sharing that! Love to hear how stories come together.
Check out the trailer and watch for my review tomorrow.
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