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I’m Kat, an author from North Wales, and I write young adult thrillers/horror. My latest is Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls, and it tells the story of Ava, who gets tangled up in a series of gruesome murders in her small town where superstitions about witchcraft and vengeful ghosts are rife. You can find out more about my books and where to buy them here.

If you missed last month's newsletter, you can catch up here.

Pictured: Me and my new midway-blonde hair. It'll be different again next month.
A daffodilish photo for you (or tete-a-tetes in my garden to be pedantic) seeing as St. David’s Day has just been. This year it aligned perfectly with pancake day to form one delicious glutinous mass of pancake and Welsh cakes. I hope you celebrated it accordingly.
What’s coming for you…
In this newsletter, you will find:
  • book news, updates & events 
  • an interview with Jennifer Killick, MG horror author extraordinaire
  • what’s on my radar: books, TV, movies, music
Book news, updates and events
As promised in last month's newsletter, I have a foreign cover to share with you – this is the Russian cover for Wicked Little Deeds/Burden Falls, and the title over there is ‘Sadie’s Ghost’! I love it, and hope you do too.
I also sent off my latest novel to be read (finally! YESSS) so my brain is in a weird state of limbo where it hasn’t quite figured out I can take a break now. While that’s going on, I’m using the time to make notes and outline my next project. I’m also getting out of the house more, which makes a delightful change. I went to Betws y Coed in Snowdonia last weekend and visited one of my (many) favourite cemeteries — it inspired the cemetery in my debut novel, Blackfin Sky, and has an excellent tree twisting and looming over it, and a storm-beaten footbridge next to it which is very photogenic.
The handsome man pictured above is my husband. Say hi, Ian.

Events-wise, I’ve been quieter in February while I finished off my new manuscript, but I did stumble out of my virtual cave to take part in Josh Winning's 80s Fantasy Film Club. Hosted by Josh, and with Chelley Toy and Eddie’s Video, we talked about one of my favourite movies from childhood: Willow! You can watch that back here and check out Josh’s future film club live chats for more 80s fantasy fun.
I’ll be adding more events to my events page as they’re confirmed/available to watch online, so keep an eye out there.
Interview with Jennifer Killick

Jennifer Killick is the author of forthcoming MG horror-comedy Dread Wood, as well as Crater Lake, the Alex Sparrow series, and middle-grade sci-fi adventure Mo, Lottie and the Junkers. She regularly visits schools and festivals, and her books have three times been selected for The Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge. She lives in Uxbridge, in a house full of children, animals and Lego. When she isn't busy mothering or step-mothering (which isn't often) she loves to read, write and run, as fast as she can. Her favourite things are books, trees and fluffy slippers, and her favourite place in the world is her home, where Jennifer can sit at the end of her garden, by the river, with tea and cake, coming up with story ideas in her pyjamas. Find out more about Jennifer and her books by visiting her website.

About Dread Wood

The brand new must-read middle-grade novel from the author of super-spooky Crater Lake. Perfect for 9+ fans of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps.

It's basically the worst school detention ever. When classmates (but not mate-mates) Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a SATURDAY, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary.
What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keeping humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute . . .? Cut off from help and in danger each time they touch the ground, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they're all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge . . .
Dread Wood will be published by Farshore on 31 March, and you can pre-order through various online retailers here.


Kat: Readers of your Crater Lake books will find the same brilliant mix of humour, scares, and adventure in Dread Wood. In addition, you always have such relatable, fun characters at the heart of your stories. How do you choose your characters and friendship dynamics?

Jennifer: Thanks so much! I usually start with a very well formed main character, and then I build the group around them. Crater Lake began with Lance, and his friendships were all based on shared history, and bonds formed over many years. For Dread Wood, I started with Angelo, who is loosely based on my husband and my earliest impressions of him when we first met, which was in Year 7 – although it wasn’t called Year 7 then, because I am very old. I wanted him to appear very aloof to others, and for him to be incredibly independent and resistant to friendships. The other characters who end up forming his friendship group know barely anything about each other at the start, and are all in very different places in their school and social lives. The task in Dread Wood was to take people who are practically strangers with no warm feelings towards each other, and make them form a tight bond very quickly. With every series, I plan the characters but also allow them to develop naturally as I write.

Kat: You balance horror and comedy so well in your books — why do you think horror and comedy go so well together, and how do you find that balance?

Jennifer: Horror comedy is my favourite genre because it’s all about having fun. I love the slow creep of suspense and the thrill of being jump-scared. I love rooting for characters as they fight for their lives. But, I also don’t want to be so scared that it becomes an unpleasant feeling, and I think that’s especially true for younger readers. Humour is the perfect way to diffuse tension and fear, to allow the characters and readers to take a breath and regroup. And I love laughing, so it adds to the fun. When I’m writing, I usually feel my way through and follow my instincts as to where to break up the horror with a lighter moment. I also take the lead from my characters, and if I imagine one of them throwing a joke in at a certain moment, I go with it.

Kat: The creepy Latchitts are excellent villains! What do you think are the key ingredients for a good villain?

Jennifer: I find villains so hard to write without slipping into cliché! I think what helped me with creating the Latchitts was knowing that Dread Wood was going to be a series from the start, which meant I had to really think through every detail and know their motivation across potentially several books. Knowing what drives them and what their goal is has made it much easier to make them fully formed. So I think villains need a clear motivation and aim, along with a back story the author knows inside out. I get inspiration for lots of the creepy touches from horror movies I’ve watched. I find that if a movie is really successful, there will be a few key images from it that will live on in my mind, indelibly printed there whether I like it or not. I think about what makes those images so memorable and disturbing and use them to inspire scenes and villains in my own writing.

Kat: I have a wary respect for spiders and really enjoyed all the spidery info in Dread Wood. What was the best/weirdest fact you learned in your spider research?

Jennifer: Wary respect is a brilliant way of putting it! I’m the same – I appreciate spiders, but I don’t really want them on me. Some of the documentaries I watched during my research had me backing away from my laptop, but they also made me see spiders differently. Trapdoor spiders are amazing. They live in underground burrows with lids, so nobody knows they’re there. But when they sense prey, they pop out of their little trapdoors and grab it before it’s even aware of what’s happening. I was also surprised to learn that some spiders can shoot hairs out of their abdomens to disable attackers. And the weirdest thing I learned is that jumping spiders actually look quite cute, if you can get past the instinct to recoil in horror and actually look at them.

Kat: What’s next for you?

Jennifer: I’m very happy to say that next there is more Dread Wood. (Kat: YAY!!) It’s so lovely to be working on a series because I can really immerse myself in it – my head is pretty much constantly in Dread Wood mode at the moment. Book two will be coming out later this year, and we should have some news to announce about future books very soon. In terms of events, I’m really enjoying being able to visit primary and secondary schools in person again. And I’m hoping there will be a virtual event for Dread Wood at the end of March or early April.

On my radar
Books – First on my list this month is You Can Trust Me by Gina Blaxill – I’m reading this at the moment and it’s dark and twisty and totally gripping! It’s about a girl whose best friend drowns in a pool at a party after drinking a spiked drink that wasn’t meant for her, and hits shelves 7 April. Look out for an interview with Gina in my next newsletter, and in the meantime you can check out the book here.

I also have to mention The Shadow Glass, which I was lucky enough to read early - and it comes out in just a few days! This is a fantasy-adventure with all kinds of 80s film references and it took me right back to my childhood obsession with Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. You can read Josh’s interview from last month here if you missed it, and go grab yourself a copy of the book while you’re there – you won’t regret it.

There were 2 other books I read and loved last month: Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen and The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. In Skin of the Sea you get African folklore-inspired warrior mermaids on perilous quests, and in The Sun Down Motel you get a ghostly murder mystery set across two time periods in the same dilapidated motel — both very different, but both brilliant.
TV & Movies – It’s mostly been movies rather than TV shows for me this month: inspired by 80s fantasy film club, I’ve been revisiting a few old faves that I haven’t seen in years. As well as Willow, I watched Return to Oz (the wheelers are still terrifying and the film is actually even darker than I remembered), Predator (a bit meh on the rewatch, aside from that scene with the skinned corpses hanging in the trees)…

Music – This month I've found a few new (to me) tracks that have made it to my playlist, including A Moment Apart by Odesza  which is a mostly-instrumental track with an epic sound (great to write to!) and Demons by Hayley Kiyoko, which I've heard before but it's been kind of an earworm lately. It's the music I imagine as the ‘closing credits’ music for the novel I just finished, so check that out if you’d like to get a feel for the vibe :-) 
In next month’s newsletter look out for an interview with Gina Blaxill, author of You Can Trust Me, and lots more bookish news!

'Til then… 
Kat x
Copyright © 2022 Kat Ellis, All rights reserved.

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