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I Belong


Fall Carnival: Feral by Holly Schindler

Fall Carnival Event

Welcome to the Haunted Forest.  This isn’t your average scary attraction where people jump out at you and “Boo”!  No this is a much more realistic version of scary.  You see not all that long ago, a body was found in these woods.  No one really knows what happened to the innocent girl.  She was found beneath a tree with all the local feral cats feeding on her body.  Some say it was an accident, others aren’t quite so sure.  So as we walk through these woods try not to stray too far from the path, and if you happen to see any cute cuddly cats roaming around I wouldn’t get too close.  Are you ready to be scared out of your wits?

Feral

*Enter to win a signed Hardcover of Feral and a Skype visit (1 winner each) at the end of this post*

*Don’t forget to enter the grand giveaway for your chance to win 2 books featured during the Fall Carnival Event!!! Click HERE for your chance to win!*

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DFT: Pretend none of us has ever heard of your book before and you were trying to get us to purchase it, what would your pitch be?

Holly: The short pitch is that FERAL is a creepy classic psychological thriller—and a book about recovering from violence.

The longer pitch is that like psychological thrillers, FERAL features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, but the emphasis is really on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action.  The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain, as she attempts to move forward following a brutal gang beating).  Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting.  The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state).  The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley.  Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche.  Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too.  The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

DFT: The whole thing with the feral cats was pretty creepy and now whenever I see a stray cat on the street I cringe just a little bit.  Where did you get the idea to have feral cats be such a big part of the story?  Also I’m curious do you happen to hate cats?

Holly: I’m actually a big animal lover—right now, I’ve got a horribly spoiled dog, but I grew up with two cats that I adored.  One of them was born feral.

I purposefully drew several parallels between Chicago and Peculiar—and I knew I wanted a gang of wild creatures to follow Claire through Peculiar, just as a gang had followed her down an alley in Chicago.  I’m a lifelong Missouri girl, so I’ve been to rural areas that were just teeming with barn cats; I knew I wanted feral cats to be the wild creatures tailing Claire.

The feral cat element is definitely a case of me making choices as a writer that worked for the book, and isn’t any reflection of how I actually feel.

DFT: One of my favorite things about your book was how you blended paranormal elements with real life psychological problems.  Did you have to do much research while writing the story?  Was it difficult to intertwine these very different elements?

Holly: Research is really tricky.  There’s a point at which you have to push everything aside and let your imagination take over.  (For example, I knew that we had a town in Missouri called Peculiar, but I didn’t do any research into what the town is actually like.  Peculiar as it appears in FERAL is a complete fictionalization.)

You’re right, though—intertwining reality and paranormal elements was tricky.  Part of that trickiness stems from that fact that this was also my first time with an unreliable narrator.  (It does my heart good, though, when I see reading status updates that say something to the effect of: “WHAT IS GOING ON???”  I feel as though I did my job pointing the finger at a slew of different possible outcomes.)

Feral

DFT: I found Claire’s backstory very interesting and upsetting at the same time.  I know we live in a world where gang violence is a huge problem but it was gut wrenching to read about it through Claire’s eyes.  What made you decide to include this in the story?  Did you draw inspiration from any real life events?

Holly: No aspect of FERAL has been “ripped from the headlines.”  Actually, FERAL started out as an MG mystery.  In the original version, the protagonist was out to solve the cold case of a young girl who died years ago at her school.  When I revised, the book became too gritty for MG—and I knew it needed to be a YA.

But bumping the book up into an older category meant that I had to invent a new main character—the old protagonist really was specifically thirteen.  (And we just aren’t the same people at seventeen that we are at thirteen.)  Brainstorming a character sketch for my new protagonist led to the discovery of a brutal backstory: Claire survived a gang beating in her hometown of Chicago.

That beating really just brought everything into focus.  I knew that rather than a straight mystery, the book needed to be a psychological thriller, and that recovering from violence was the theme.  Even after the book was acquired at HarperCollins, my editor and I went through a few rounds of rewrites, all of which brought the recovery theme to the forefront and brought the book more squarely into the realm of the psychological thriller.

It’s strange—you don’t cringe as the author when you’re writing brutal or violent scenes.  You feel the weight of it, because you know it’s important.  But you don’t have to peek through your fingers (like I’ve actually done before at horror movies), because you’re in control of it.  You’re not going to see something that’s too much for you.

DFT: Rich was such a constant character that was always there for Claire.  No matter how crazy she seemed to be he was always willing to help her and I loved that about him.  I kept hoping for their relationship to become romantic, but it never did.  Was there a reason you never took their relationship further?  Did you ever consider making him a romantic interest for Claire?

Holly: I love the two of them, too.  But I did make a conscious choice not to explore a romantic relationship between them.  There’s just too much going on with Claire.  She’s not in a place where she can explore anything romantic as FERAL plays out—and I think Rich is aware of that, too.

DFT: You have written a couple of books featuring psychological difficulties.  Why did you decide to take this route in your writing?  Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

Holly: I think the mind is just fascinating.  We really know so little about it.  With A BLUE SO DARK, I was digging into the possibility that mental illness and creativity are somehow linked.  The creative “ah-ha” moment—that “vision” of an artistic project’s end result—operates somewhat like a hallucination (in each case only one person can “see” the vision, although clearly, the hallucination is powerful enough to alter one’s sense of reality).  Sometimes—and I’m speaking as a layperson, here; I have no clinical background in psychology—it seems as though creativity and some components of mental illness operate similarly; we’ve had so many “mad geniuses” in the artistic community, it often seems as though there may very well be a connection.

I’m also fascinated by the way in which our minds can convince us of so many things that aren’t real.  Untangling the real from the unreal is a big part of FERAL, as well.  Soon after coming to Peculiar, Claire discovers the body of a classmate, learns of an urban legend regarding a ghost in the basement of Peculiar High, even sees spirits of the town dead in the persistent fog.  What’s real?  What can she believe?  What can the reader believe?  It’s a constant push-and-pull throughout FERAL.

DFT: If it is possible without spoiling anything can you tell us what your favorite scene to write in the book was?  What was the hardest scene to write?

Holly: The hardest scene (the scene I reworked the most) was definitely the first time we see Claire, during that awful night in Chicago.  My favorite’s a bit of a spoiler—but let’s just say something happens toward the end of the book between Claire and her friend Rachelle.  Claire’s got a lot of residual hard feelings regarding Rachelle—she feels as though she was beaten because of her attempt to save her friend.  Though she knows it’s illogical, she blames Rachelle—at least in part.  But something happens at the end that begins to bring Claire and Rachelle back together.  That may be one of my favorite parts of the book.

DFT: Since Claire is a journalist in the story I was wondering if she was covering a carnival event taking place in Peculiar what would the basis of her story be about?  What would be the title of her story?

Holly: I think she might cover the fun house.  So many things in a fun house challenge your sense of what is real or not real.  And mirrors factor into the big reveal at the end of FERAL.  It’s funny—a mirror’s reflection isn’t objective.  We’re interpreting what we’re seeing.  It’d be different if mirrors could flat-out tell us all the truth (as they almost do, in a way, at the end of FERAL).  Since Claire finds her own truth in a mirror, I think she might call her piece “If Mirrors Could Talk.”

DFT: Since FERAL was a standalone I was wondering if you might be able to tell us what we can expect to see from you next?

Holly: I think my voice isn’t particular to any one genre or subgenre.  Already, I’ve published YAs and MGs, contemporary realism, romance, and a psychological thriller.  I really love the fact that the juvenile categories (especially YA) give me the opportunity to stretch my reach into all sorts of different genres.  One thing you can always expect is that I’ll be moving into still new topics and categories, trying on different writing “hats.”

This, That or The Other Carnival style!

Hand Dipped Corn Dog, French Fries, or Corn on the Cob? Corn dog.  Definitely.  With mustard painted down the sides.

Ferris Wheel, Tilt-a-whirl, or Fun House? I have terrible vision (20/700!), and tend not to do well on wild carnival rides.  Especially anything involving heights.  So I’d stick with the fun house (keep my feet on the ground).

Fishing Pond, Ring Toss, or Skee Ball?  Skee Ball!  I haven’t played in ages.

Funnel Cake, Pie, or Caramel Appel?  Oooh—funnel cake.

Hypnotist, Talen Show, or Concert?  I’m a giant music fan (I actually taught piano and guitar lessons while drafting my earliest manuscripts); got to be the concert.

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SONY DSCAbout Holly:

Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK(Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT(both YAs).

Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKYalso released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud.  KirkusReviewscalled THE JUNCTION “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”

FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller.  Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”

Schindler encourages readers to get in touch.  Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits.  She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com and http://hollyschindler.tumblr.com/

You can visit Holly around the web here: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Want to read more from Holly Schindler?

Playing HurtA Blue So DarkThe Junction of Sunshine an...Feral

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contest

This contest is provided by Holly Schindler!

One lucky reader will win a signed Hardcover of Feral & one lucky winner will receive a Skype visit with Holly Schindler!

Feral

Available August 26, 2014 from HarperTeen

About this Book:

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Click HERE to read an excerpt

Order from

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sig-DFT

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Fall Carnival: Feral by Holly Schindler, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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26 Responses to “Fall Carnival: Feral by Holly Schindler

  1. erinf1No Gravatar
    1

    I don’t believe in haunting or ghosts irl :) But this is probably why I love reading about it! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. VivienNo Gravatar
    2

    I don’t believe in hauntings.

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  3. Ashley CNo Gravatar
    3

    I definitely believe. Thanks for the chance!

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  4. KichaNo Gravatar
    4

    I’ve learned in life … never say never. I do believe there is another ‘plane of existence’ so to speak.

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  5. Ashley MNo Gravatar
    5

    I believe in hauntings

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  6. NikkiNo Gravatar
    6

    Yes I do. One of my dreams is to go ghost hunting.

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  7. AlexNo Gravatar
    7

    I absolutely believe! I’ve never had a supernatural encounter but nearly everyone I know has… maybe I’m just a magnet for ghosts.

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  8. CaitlinNo Gravatar
    8

    I don’t believe in hauntings. I used to be terrified of those things when I was younger, but it doesn’t seem rational anymore.

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  9. JillynNo Gravatar
    9

    I totally can believe it. There’s a lot of things we just don’t understand.

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  10. ashleyNo Gravatar
    10

    I believe in them for sure.

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  11. ashleyNo Gravatar
    11

    I believe in them for sure.

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  12. bn100No Gravatar
    12

    Don’t believe in them

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  13. Michelle LeeNo Gravatar
    13

    I do not believe in real life hauntings and think they are just superstitions. I don’t have any personal experiences. However, you never know…

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  14. Joy FNo Gravatar
    14

    I think they are just superstitions but I love reading about them.

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  15. Elizabeth S.No Gravatar
    15

    I definitely believe!!

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  16. Alisha SNo Gravatar
    16

    I think they are just superstitions but who knows for sure. :)

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  17. Kristen HeylNo Gravatar
    17

    I believe in ghosts especially since water goes off by itself with nobody in the bathroom where I work.

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  18. LindsayNo Gravatar
    18

    I believe in ghosts

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  19. StephanieNo Gravatar
    19

    Honestly, I’m not sure if I believe in them or not… I guess it depends on the day.

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  20. Nay DeniseNo Gravatar
    20

    I believe in hauntings! Not like the ones on tv and in movies, but in a less of a “you’re going to die” sense.

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  21. Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature)No Gravatar
    21

    I kind of believe, but I really want to experience something just one time!

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  22. JennNo Gravatar
    22

    I’m really not sure what I believe.

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  23. Grace Radford/Anna PettNo Gravatar
    23

    I’m pretty sure they’re just suspicion, but then again who knows.

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  24. Kate I.No Gravatar
    24

    I absolutely believe. That’s one of the reasons I dig reading about the paranormal and supernatural!

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  25. EmilyNo Gravatar
    25

    I’m really not sure!

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  26. ShannonNo Gravatar
    26

    I don’t really believe in hauntings and such, but I can never definitively say no! I WANT to believe in them though ;)

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