Who doesn’t love a good scary story? Here at OOM we’re already counting down the days until Halloween. To get everyone in the spirit, ghost story maestro Dan Poblocki stopped by to chat about his first book in the new Shadow House series! But be warned: This book will keep you up at night, too afraid to close your eyes for fear of what hides in the dark . . .
Dan, you’re no stranger to scary stories. What are you most excited about for Shadow House?
Shadow House is a series that tells the haunting story of five kids who are summoned to a sprawling mansion and then get trapped by the ghosts inside. This project is my favorite fantasy come to life. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of having the freedom to discover the secrets of an enormous, gothic house, and the fact that this Shadow House is also filled with nasty spirits is a fun bonus.
And the book is just the beginning! There’s also a Shadow House app available (and it’s just as creepy as the book!). Tell us a little more about it!
I’m really excited about the app! The books in the series can be read alone, but the app is there for a whole new kind of haunting. The five kids who are summoned to Shadow House in book one aren’t the first to have been called, and the app is a series of stories that will help readers unlock the mystery of Shadow House.
You recently got a rave review from another master of spooky stories for kids: R.L. Stine! How did that feel?
It was awesome and a little bit surreal. I was reading books by R.L. Stine when I was in elementary school. If someone had told me then that he would be reading— and enjoying!—my own books one day, I wouldn’t have believed it. I think when I saw his review, I started trembling in disbelief!
Shadow House combines so many elements from classic horror films and books. Where did you get your inspiration from?
The mansion in Shadow House is not what it seems. The characters quickly learn that it can move its doors and hallways, change shape, and make things appear—and disappear—at will. Preparing to write this series, I reread The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I think is the classic haunted house novel.
Let’s talk about writing! How do you want your readers to react when they read the last page of Shadow House?
I wanted to leave the reader at the end of each book with a sense that the ground had shifted, that what they thought was true might actually be false, and that anything could happen next. The most fun aspect was that each kid changes dramatically from book to book, and I had a good time allowing them to surprise me with their decisions and reactions to the threats that the house presents to them.
And while we’re on the topic of writing, any tips for aspiring horror writers out there?
Keep a notebook and write down the things that scare you, fascinate you, make you laugh, and make you angry. Horror stories aren’t only about horror. To be truly scary, they need to be peopled with characters that readers care about, that have real lives and relationships that readers can cry for or panic with or shout at.
There are rumors that ever since you started writing this series, spooky things have been happening to you! Are you being haunted?
Yes! I sometimes work at an office space in a sleepy, industrial section of Brooklyn, New York. One night, the sun had gone down, and I didn’t realize that I was alone in the space, so when I stood up from my cubicle and turned off my little lamp, the room was completely dark. Walking home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was following me. But whenever I turned around, no one and nothing was there, thank goodness!
We need to know, as a master spooky storyteller, are you a big fan of Halloween?
I love Halloween. I think of October as one big celebration. I like to watch a ton of horror movies and read ghost stories, stroll through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, go on ghost tours of historic spots in New York City, pick pumpkins, and carve jack-o’-lanterns. I also enjoy seeing other people’s costumes, even more than creating my own. My favorite costume ever, though, was a reader who dressed up like the creepy statue in my book The Stone Child. She emailed me a picture, and I felt so incredibly honored. I was like, “Yes, this is why I do what I do!”