Halloween is almost here, and to help us celebrate, we sat down with Shadow House author, Dan Poblocki, to talk writing, scary stories, and more!
OOM: Welcome back to the OOM blog Dan! For those of our readers who are not familiar with the Shadow House series, can you tell us in 50 words or less what it’s all about?
Dan: Five kids from around the country receive invitations to visit an old estate called Larkspur in New York's Hudson Valley. When they arrive, they discover that their invitations don't match, so they head inside the mansion for help, only to find they can't get back out again. Then the ghosts show up . . .
OOM: What surprised you most about the characters you created across the three books in the Shadow House series? No spoilers please!
Dan: I guess I was most surprised by how much I grew to love each of them. Despite their differences, my main characters: Poppy, Azumi, Marcus, Dash, and Dylan, all manage—in certain ways—to take care of one another. While writing the end of the third book, I actually grew very emotional, realizing that I had to say goodbye to them.
OOM: Why do you think people, especially children are so drawn to scary stories? What is the appeal?
Dan: I think we all have different reasons. I like to believe it's a way to train our brains into becoming braver in real life. On the most basic level, I think scary stories appeal because they're often exciting, and take us away from what's ordinary. Some of us crave that rush, just like some of us like riding roller-coasters. The thrill is what keeps us asking for more.
OOM: Can you tell us more about the audience you had in mind while writing the Shadow House books? What do you hope they take away from this series?
Dan: I basically always write for the reader I was when I was a kid—a reader who wants to be pulled into a story and who can't stop until they get to the last page. What I hope the audience takes away is that a "scary" book can also be filled with heart and warmth and messages of kindness and complex ideas—all the stuff we usually think exists in other genres. Scary stories are emotional experiences that often beg to be read again and again.
OOM: What would you like to say to any librarians and/or teachers who are just picking up the books now and who would be interested in sharing these with their students? What would you like them to know before they begin reading?
Dan: First, I would like to say: THANK YOU. Librarians and teachers are the absolute best, and I'm so pleased to hear from so many of them about how my stories have gotten reluctant readers to finish a book for the first time. I'd also say, for the Shadow House series in particular, to start with book #1 if you can, since there's an overarching plot to the series, filled with wild twists and surprises, and I wouldn't want you to miss any of it!
OOM: As a fun Halloween treat for our readers, can you set up the beginning of an original, scary story? Can you do it in only two sentences?
Dan: Only two sentences?! That's hard, but I'll try...
For as long as I can remember, no one has ever lived in the crumbling cottage at the end of my street; however, as the sun set on Halloween and the skinny shadows of bare trees blended into evening gloom, my friends and I noticed a flickering, orange glow illuminating a broken window in the small house's second story.
Shivering at the bottom of the long, dark driveway, I puffed up my chest and dared my small group of costumed friends: "Whoever is brave enough to knock on that rotting front door can have my whole bag of candy..."