Tag Archive for The one-eyed doll

What the Hey?! Some Guy Named “James Preller” Is Featured in an Interview at Kirkus — and It’s Pretty Good!

Tomorrow is Halloween, and author James Preller wants to scare your children—the safe, exhilarating type of scare, that is, which comes from a well-constructed set of spooky stories just for the younger set. He’s been doing this not just on Halloween but all during the year with Scary Tales, his chapter book series of ghost stories, launched last year and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.Chilling and thrilling and very often spine-tingling, the series offers up serious page-turners for students who enjoy reading frightening tales while on the edge of their seats. It’s a far cry from Preller’s Jigsaw Jones series of chapter books, which debuted in 1998, the beloved fictional detective stories for children that are still circulating in libraries. The latest and fifth book in the Scary Tales series, The One-Eyed Doll, was just released. It brings readers hidden treasures, deserted houses, and a creepy one-eyed doll, who moves and tells stories. Needless to say, it’s a good fit for Halloween—or, really, any time of year.Next year, Preller will also see the release of a middle-grade novel, one that follows 2009’s Bystander, which the Kirkusreview called “eminently discussable as a middle-school read-aloud.” The Fall, as you’ll read below, addresses bullying, but not for the sake of jumping on the bullying bandwagon. That’s to say that as soon as many schools kicked off anti-bullying crusades in recent years, we suddenly saw a flock of books about bullying in the realm of children’s literature. But Preller isn’t one for the “bully” label.Let’s find out why.
The Scary Tales series started in 2013, yes? How much fun has it been to scare the pants off of readers?
 
OneEyedDoll_cvr_lorezWriting “scary” has been liberating. A blast. In the past, I’ve mostly written realistic fiction. But for these stories I’ve tapped into a different sort of imagination, what I think of as the unpossible. The trick is that once you accept that one impossible element—a zombie or a ghost in the mirror—then the story plays out in a straightforward manner.All storytelling has its backbone in realistic fiction.
So many kids, even at a surprisingly young age, are eager to read scary stories. I tried to fill that gap. “Scary” thrills them. It makes their hearts beat faster. Yet I say to students, “I’m sorry, but nobody gets murdered in these books. There are no heads chopped off. No gore.” To me, the great sentence is: The door knob slowly, slowly turned. That delicious moment of anticipation, of danger climbing the stairs. I’ve tried to provide those chills, while still resolving each book in a safe way.
You do a lot of school visits, as I understand it. What do you see the very best teachers and librarians doing (best practices, if you will) that really get children fired up about reading? 
In its essence, teaching is enthusiasm transferred. The best educators seem to do that naturally—the excitement, the love of discovery. It leaks into everything they do. I think it’s about a teacher’s prevailing attitude, more than any specific activity.
Speaking of school visits, I assume you still visit schools to discuss Bystander, especially given the subject matter. How have middle-schoolers responded to that book in school visits? 
DOLL_Interiors_07The response to Bystander has been incredible—and humbling. Many middle schools have used it as their “One School, One Book” community reads, which is such an honor.I attempted to write a lively, unsentimental, informed, fast-paced story. I hope that I’ve given readers something to think about, while leaving them to draw their own conclusions. I didn’t write a pamphlet, 10 steps to bully-proof your school. Robert McKee, in his book Story, says that stories are “equipment for living.” I believe in the power of literature to help us experience empathy.
What’s next for you? Am I right that there’s a new Scary Tales coming out in 2015, as well as a new novel? Working on anything else you’re allowed to discuss now? 
I have an ambitious hardcover coming out next year, titled The Fall (Macmillan, Fall 2015), in which I return to some of the themes first explored in Bystander. We’ve seen “the bully” become this vilified subcreature, and in most cases I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. Bullying is a verb, a behavior, not a label we can stick on people to define them—especially when we are talking about children. Walt Whitman wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”The book is told in a journal format from the perspective of a boy who has participated in bullying—with tragic results—and now he’s got to own it. A good kid, I think, who failed to be his best self. To my surprise, the book ended up as almost a meditation on forgiveness, that most difficult of things. The opening sentence reads:

“Two weeks before Morgan Mallen threw herself off the water tower, I might have sent a message to her social media page that read, ‘Just die! die! die! No one cares about you anyway! (I’m just saying: It could have been me.)”

I was guided throughout my writing by a powerful quote from the great lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson: “I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

THE ONE-EYED DOLL. Copyright © 2014 by James Preller. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Iacopo Bruno and used by permission of the publisher, Feiwel & Friends, New York. 

Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

This Is Tania, Featured in the next Scary Tales book, ONE-EYED DOLL

DOLL_Interiors_07

Quick excerpt from ONE-EYED DOLL (October, 2014), art by Iacopo Bruno:

     “Do you like it?”

     Tiana was pleased. She stood in her pretty new dress. A real smile on her face. Another glimpse of what she used to be like.

     “I asked Mama to make it for me,” she said.    

     Malik dug his hands into his pockets. His eyes moved from his sister to the doll in her arms. Their dresses were now identical. Blue-and-white checkered. Both girl and doll wore a red ribbon in their hair.

     “What’s wrong with your eye?” he asked. “It’s half closed.”

     Tiana shrugged. “Mama says it might be pink eye. Or maybe I got a spider bite. Now I look like Selena. Don’t you think?”

     She smiled a Mona Lisa smile.

     “I guess you do. How about you leave that doll at home for once?” Malik suggested. “Come outside with me. We could shoot baskets. Play horse. Or we could pack a picnic, go fishing by the river. What do you think, Selena? I mean, Tiana!”

     Malik caught the error immediately. It was a simple mistake, calling his sister by the doll’s name. But it haunted him just the same.

     “Selena doesn’t like those things,” Tiana replied. “She says they’re dumb.”

     Malik’s mood darkened. “Suit yourself.” He wheeled and made for the front door. “I’ve got something to do, Tee. I’ll be back in one hour. Okay? One hour. You and that doll can sit around all you want. Just don’t leave the house, you hear? Daddy’s home. If you need something, just wake him. But if I was you, I’d wait unless it’s a real emergency.”

     Tiana didn’t answer.

     She was already gone.

Final Cover Art: “ONE-EYED DOLL”

Be afraid, be very afraid . . .

Coming in October, in time for those traditional All Hallows Eve stocking stuffers!

 

OneEyedDoll_cvr_lorez

Sneak Peak: Cover for SCARY TALES #5, “The One-Eyed Doll”

When I think of the five books I’ve written so far for the “Scary Tales” Series — currently working on #6 now — I sometimes consider their relative “fear factor.”

I have been open about my debt to Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” Many people mistakenly think of TZ as a horror series. It was not, almost never. The stories were strange and always came with a twist. I’d call them intellectually ticklish. What I’ve tried to do with ST is capture some of that strangeness while still delivering the goosebumps.

This upcoming one, The One-Eyed Doll (September 2014), might be the scariest, creepiest of all. I’d put Home Sweet Horror in second place in terms of traditionally “scary,” Good Night, Zombie in third, with Nightmareland fourth. The least scary, but possibly most surprising, more in the thriller mode, is I Scream, You Scream. Of course, we all react differently. Some folks are afraid of spiders, others jump on chairs at the sight of mice.

When I started this series, I had big ambitions. I imagined — this is true — a painter working on a large canvas. I told my editor, “I don’t know if people will really see what I have in mind until I’ve done 20 titles, a color here, a splash there, because I want this to cross genre, move the “Horror” into Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, Realistic and even Historical Fiction. I am most eager to do some Sci-Fi with this series, because in space they can’t hear you scream. But that’ll have to wait for now.

Here’s the new cover. I am so grateful for the opportunity given to me by Jean Feiwel and Liz Szabla to write these books. Don’t they look great? Aren’t I lucky? And what do you think of Iacopo Bruno’s latest cover? I love it!

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #170: Seth from Iowa Is Scared & Happy About It

Here we go, folks. It’s time for Fan Mail Wednesday — and it’s actually Wednesday, a first for the entire staff here at Jamespreller.com!

I’m reaching into the big box of letters . . . ah, here’s one from Seth in Iowa!

Dear James Preller,

Hello, my name is Seth. I am a fourth grade student in Iowa. Our class is writing letters to our favorite authors. I chose you. You write Scary Tales. What do you do when you get stuck? Also, what book are you writing now? Here are some suggestions; Scary Tales: Slenderman’s Eye because it is really scary. My favorite book is Good Night Zombie. It is captivating! You keep me into the book and the characters. I liked your book because it’s scary and fun to read. What book did you make and like the most? I obviously like GOOD NIGHT ZOMBIE!!! It’s really scary. You also give me courage to read your books. You give me the chills when I read the books. You inspire me to read and write. Thank you for writing stuff like scary books!

Sincerely,

Seth

I replied:
Seth,

Thanks for your email. You just saved me fifty cents on a crummy stamp. And stamps don’t grow on trees. (Though trees grow on stumps, sort of. Nevermind!)

I’m especially happy to read your email, because you are one of the first readers to write about my new SCARY TALES series. I’m glad you enjoyed Good Night, Zombie, which is the third book in that series. I love that story, just wall-to-wall action and suspense. I’ve written two more in the series that are due to come out around June or so, I’m not really clear on the dates. It takes a lot of people to make a book, and now is the time for the designer, illustrator, editor, and copyeditor to do their part. Except for some proofreading, my job on those books is pretty much done.

Scary Tales #4 is called Nightmareland. It’s about a boy who loves video games. Unfortunately, he gets sucked into one of them and it’s up to his sister to find a way to help him escape. Yes, there are wolves. Yes, there are dangerous snowmen who guard a castle. Yes, there is fire and adventure. It’s a lot of fun. The 5th book will be called The One-Eyed Doll and my editor thinks it’s the creepiest one yet. Around here, I consider that a compliment.
EDITOR: “Your story is really creepy and gruesome.”

WRITER: “Oh, thank you very much. You don’t look so bad yourself!”

I currently have several projects in the fire. My focus right now is a new novel along the lines of my middle grade book, Bystander. Many of the same themes, but all new characters and situations. I’m writing, researching, and zinging along. It’s the first book that I’ve written in the first-person since my old “Jigsaw Jones” mystery series. Other two works in progress are both middle grade novels, a crazy one tentatively titled Zombie Me in the wild and wooly tradition (I hope) of Kurt Vonnegut, and a straight-on science fiction story set on a distant planet. In that one, I’m trying to bring “scary” into outer space.

There will be a 6th book in the Scary Tales series, but at this point I have no idea what it will be about. What is this “Slenderman’s Eye” you are talking about? Seriously, I’m open to new ideas, just as long as we are clear about one thing: I’m not sharing the money, Seth!

I don’t believe in writer’s block and don’t worry too much about getting stuck. My father was an insurance man who ran his own business. He had a wife and seven kids. As far as I know, he never sat around complaining about “insurance block.” Sometimes you just have to strap yourself into the chair and . . . make something up! I do think we experience “stuckness” when we are bored. That is, we are writing a story that has become boring to us. How awful is that? If you are bored by your own story, imagine how the readers might feel. At that point, you’ve got to sit back and try to figure out how to get your story back on track. Or dump it and start a new one.
The world does not need any more boring stories.

Thanks for writing, Seth!

My best,

James Preller