Interview with new adult dark fiction author Q.L Pearce

My special guest for the
start to this holiday weekend is Q.L. Pearce.
She’s chatting with me about her new adult novel, a dark fiction work titled Spine Chillers. It’s the first in a new
series and is a collection of spine-tingling ghost stories.
Q.L. Pearce is the author of
more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as
film tie-in books for the Fox animated film Titan AE and the Universal animated
series Land Before Time. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala Sa (Carolrhoda
Books, with co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi), received several awards
including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam
Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade
series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs italisize (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q
believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked
what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies,
“I was a child once. That was very scary.”
Welcome, Q.L. Please tell us about your current
Spine Chillers is a collection of short stories for young readers. It includes classic
ghosts, a monster or two, urban legends and one tale that is an homage to The
Twilight Zone. The stories are for reading aloud at a sleep-over, or under the
covers with a flashlight. My goal was to include something for everyone and
hope that each reader will find a favorite among them.
What inspired you to write this book?
The book is in the
tradition of my first short story series, Scary
Stories for Sleep-Overs
. Although it has been out of print for some time, I
still hear from adult readers who let me know how much they liked the books when
they were kids. Spine Chillers is for
a new generation of tweens to teens.

Excerpt from Spine
From Hale Hallow Woods
“Tell me
what you saw,” Grandpa said. “Everything.”
Tyler was
relieved to share what had happened. The story flowed out in a torrent. His
grandfather sat very still and listened. At last he nodded and spoke.
“He is
able to use things around him to cause fear. He’s using our own tactics against
us.” Grandpa sighed. “I was about your age when it happened. Andrew Buckner was
a frail boy. He seemed to fear everything. We…my friends and I made fun of
him.” He paused and looked down in shame. “We had a club…Tom Dixon, Eddie
Macavee, Lester Morrow, and me. We called ourselves the Champions. Lester was
the leader. He stood out in a crowd because he had bright red hair. We had a
club pin we wore…a super hero with a cape. It was a stupid thing out of a
cereal box. We also had a special thumbs-up
signal that we used when we were planning some sort of mischief.”
grandfather opened a small red leather box he’d been holding. Resting within on
the white satin lining was a cheap plastic pin.
“I guess
Andrew wanted one of these more than anything in the world…to be a part of our
group. It was my idea to challenge him.”
            Tyler glanced over his grandfather’s
shoulder. Again raindrops pattered at the window. In the yard beyond he could
see the boy, Andrew Buckner, standing straight and still by the hedge.
            “We told him he would have to pass a
test…demonstrate his bravery by hiding in the museum before it closed and
staying alone all night. We knew he was afraid of that place. To prove that he
had been there, Andrew had to go to the top floor, climb out on the little
balcony, and get one of the small stone gargoyles at the edge of the railing.
It must have started raining sometime during the night.”
Tyler caught his breath. Andrew Buckner was at the
window. It was raining harder, but Tyler could see the boy’s blurred image. His
pale white hand was pressed against the pane. His eyes burned with anger.
“They found his body the next morning. They said he
had slipped from the railing. The gargoyle was missing. We made a pact never to
tell anyone why he had gone to the museum. His parents just locked up the house
and no one saw them again. Ten years later Tom Dixon died in a swimming
accident. Ten years after that Eddie Macavee was killed when his truck drove
off a cliff during a storm. I left shortly after that. I heard Lester Morrow
was found in the woods. They said it was a heart attack.”
“Why do you think he’s come back now?” Tyler asked,
willing his voice to be steady.
“He’s here because I’ve come back. He plans to
complete his revenge.”
“What should we do?”
Grandpa stood, walked
to the window and placed his hand on the glass. He didn’t seem to see the boy
glaring up at him from the other side of the pane, their hands separated only
by a thin glass barrier.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a few
things including the next volume of Spine
. I have three fact/fiction picture books with Gina Capaldi, a
middle grade mystery adventure with coauthor Francesca Rusackas, and a YA
horror novel in work. I’m also thrilled to be joining Tamara Thorne and
Alistair Cross as co-host for YA nights on Thorne, Cross and Pearce Haunted
Nights LIVE, part of the Authors on the Air: Radio Network.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I won my first school
writing contest in third grade and my first city sponsored contest at age
eleven. I’ve always loved to write but I began seriously submitting to
magazines when I was in my early twenties. It was more of a hobby and I
gathered an extensive collection of rejections. Over the course of years the
rejections went from definite “no” to “no, but keep submitting.”
Originally I wanted to write horror for adults. I
often included children or teen characters in my work and I eventually realized
that the stories were really about and for them. My first contract with a major
publisher was for an activity book about dinosaurs. It was with Price Stern
Sloan. My first contract for fiction also came from Price Stern Sloan when they
published Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
I start my reading and
research mid-morning then spend two or three hours writing. My dogs take me out
for walks a couple of times a day and I use that time to brainstorm. I usually
write for another hour or so later in the afternoon. I turn in early and rise early. The critters pretty much
determine that schedule.
I’m not writing I’m thinking about my books in work, doing research, and
gathering ideas, or working on promotion. I volunteer with the Society of
Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and I read a lot! So although I can’t
say that I sit in front of my computer as a full-time job, I think I can say
that I’m a full-time writer.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
do a lot of research. I enjoy prowling through antique stores for curious
objects or photographs that might spark an idea, or hiking around in new
environments to use as settings.
My dear
friend, author Tamara Thorne, and I sometimes take road trips. We visit haunted
hotels, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, all for background and
I don’t know if it would
be considered a quirk, but one thing that I won’t do is have an animal come to
harm in anything I write just to further the story. I get very upset when a
writer kills of a dog or cat to show the danger or ratchet up the tension. Early
in my career I wrote a story in which a cat disappeared in the vicinity of a
killer plant. I still regret that.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m originally from
Kitchener, Ontario. Shortly after I was born my family and I moved to
Baranquilla, Colombia. We arrived in the United States when I was five and we
lived on an island near the Gulf coast of Florida. As a child I wanted to be a
storyteller or a mermaid when I grew up. We eventually moved to Palm Springs in
the California desert so I scratched mermaid off the list and focused on
Anything additional you want to share with the
The advice I usually give
to working writers is finish what you start. I have several manuscripts that
are sitting in a file folder because I didn’t push through when I hit a weak
spot. Once that happens I start second-guessing and lose momentum. A prolific
writer I respect told me to get the story on paper even if it isn’t exactly
what I had in mind, then go back and get it right.
The advice I always give
to young writers is to take every opportunity you can to travel, meet new
people, learn about new cultures and try new things. Life experience is a
wonderful muse.


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