Tag Archive for Rod Serling

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!

Announcement: My Return to Series Publishing

Publishers Weekly recently reported:

Jean Feiwel of Feiwel and Friends has acquired an early-middle-grade series, called Shivers, by James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones series, and the recent novel Bystander. The first in the planned four-book series, which Feiwel calls “Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone for kids,” will pub in spring 2013. The deal for world rights was negotiated by Rosemary Stimola at Stimola Literary Studio.

So I guess the cat is out of the bag.

I don’t know whether it’s superstition, false modesty, and just good sense, but I don’t like talking about a book before its written. I think it’s bad form and bad practice. In sum: Shut up and write it.

But, hey, this is very exciting. As you may know, I wrote the Jigsaw Jones series for many years. These days it doesn’t look like Scholastic, the publisher of those books, is interested in continuing the series beyond the 40 books that have already been published. I’ll always feel a degree of sadness about the fate of Mr. Jones.

There’s a burn-out that comes with series publishing. I was writing 4 Jigsaw Jones books a year. Next, next, next, next, etc. So it was liberating to attempt new types of writing with Feiwel & Friends, my first real experience with hardcover publishing. I wrote picture books and three novels: Six Innings, Bystander, and my YA debut, Before You Go (July, 2012). I spent a full year writing Before You Go, and it gave me great pleasure to really take my time with a book, and write a personal story that was wholly outside any considerations of the marketplace.

But at the same time, I began to miss the fun and feedback of paperback publishing.

A number of years ago, I wrote five “slightly spooky” stories that were collected in the book, Ghost Cat. These stories were experiments for me — an aside from the Jigsaw Jones books, and frankly outside my established comfort zone — stories about impossible things, ghost cats, dark basements, monsters, imaginary friends with bad ideas — and essentially explored magic realism, the stuff of dreams and nightmares. For those stories, I made a point of keeping them from becoming too scary. Today I think that three of the five in that collection were actually pretty good. I felt like I was onto something, but for a very long time it seemed as if no one else shared that perception. Now that’s changed in a big way.

I’m looking forward to returning to those readers ages 6-9, trying to make them think, and make them feel. And hopefully that feeling will be, “That was so scary, and so exciting, I can’t wait to read another!”

I’m honored to be supported on this project by my agent, Rosemary Stimola, and the team at Feiwel & Friends. Together we’ll work to make this a well-written, entertaining, popular and frightening series for chapter book readers eager to enjoy that kind of shivery experience. It will be nice to have something new for the Jigsaw Jones fans I meet on my many school visits.

Can’t wait. I’m getting started . . . this week!

Oh yes, I should also add that I’m deep into a new hardcover book, set in a middle school. This book also represents a departure of sorts, as this old dog keeps trying out new tricks. My goal is to continue publishing hardcover books every year or two — if it’s not too much for me to hope for such good fortune — while I write “Shivers” in paperback.