Monday, October 13, 2014

YA Horror/Thriller Spooktacular Day 9 - Feral + Giveaway

With veteran authors it can be just as hard as debut authors to delve into a new genre, but today's author bravely joined the ranks of the YA horror/thriller genre with her fourth novel.  The lovely Holly Schindler is here for an interview and a giveaway of her newest novel, Feral!  Please give her a warm welcome!

Peace, Love, Teen Fiction:  I know it is horribly cliché but can you describe your newest book, FERAL, in up to 10 words?

Holly Schindler:  Claire survives violence, then learns a peculiar truth about herself…

PLTF:  Your previous books were contemporary as well, but this one has more of a horror element to it.  What was it like writing a book with a body count?

HS:  For anyone who’s gotten their hands on FERAL, I’m sure it would come as a surprise to learn that it started out as an MG.  It was a straight mystery about a tween girl digging into a cold case about a former student at her middle school.  When I started to revise, the book got increasingly darker and grittier—and I knew I needed to bump the book up into YA.
But that’s actually how the final, published version of FERAL came to be—it unfolded gradually through successive rewrites.  First, I bumped it up to YA, then I invented a new main character, then I played with different functions for feral cats, then I realized I wanted to hear directly from the dead girl (Serena), then I discovered Claire’s backstory (the beating in Chicago).  So my experience with FERAL is much different than my readers’—I experienced an increasingly darker novel each time I came back to it; my readers experience a full-blown darkness, jumping into it headfirst.  I’m sure it hits my readers, then, far harder than it hit me. 
I do have plans to write a straight mystery (rather than psychological thriller) as well as a straight horror novel as well.  I anticipate that the writing of those novels will be more of a plunging-straight-into-dark-material experience.  It’ll be interesting to see how it feels to go into a book knowing from the outset that I’m striving to make it bone-tinglingly terrifying….

PLTF:  How hard is it to write a book where the narrator may or may not actually be seeing the things she thinks she is?

HS:  It’s tricky—some of what Claire sees is pretty far-fetched.  But that’s truly how the mind works, isn’t it?  When we were little, couldn’t we all see the shadows in our childhood bedrooms at night and believe the boogeyman was in there with us?  That’s pretty ridiculous, really.  But the mind can do that—it can take simple surroundings and turn them into sheer terror…in FERAL, the mind is shown as being able to interpret the events around you in a way that forces you to address issues you’ve tried desperately to push aside.

PLTF:  The title of your book is FERAL; why did you decide to go with that title?

HS:  Feral represents so many things in the book: the feral cats, of course.  But the word “feral” can also mean “wild” or “savage.”  So “feral” also refers to the wild, untamed way the gang in Chicago pursued Claire.  It’s the way her dreams relentlessly haunt her.  It’s the way she’s being taunted by Sweet Pea.  It’s the way the feral cats come after Serena’s corpse.  It’s the way the town ghosts trail Serena, and the way Serena’s ghost hunts Claire.  It’s the realization that comes to Claire in a wild frenzy during the scene at the dance at the end of the book…

PLTF:  What’s next?

HS:  I’m currently revising my next MG—which is based, in part, on some family history.  I’m also going to be branching out into a completely new genre and new format.  I’m looking forward to making some fun announcements soon.  Be sure to follow me through social media to hear the latest.  

Lightning round:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how scary is your book?

I’d say as the book opens, it’s a straight-up 10.  The first two chapters are pretty brutal.  Then, we have a few chapters to breathe, to find out about Claire’s surroundings in Peculiar, to learn about the characters and the situation in this new town—and to establish connections between Peculiar and Chicago.  The fear-level is medium at that point—maybe around a 5.  Then, in a scene in the woods, we find Serena’s body—and the fear or level of gruesomeness begins to shoot up again.  It gradually builds, until we get to the scene in the basement during the dance.  For my money, what Claire realizes in that scene is every bit as frightening as the scenes at the beginning of the book.

If you were a character in your book, would you survive?

I’m a lifelong MO girl, so I’d like to think I’d be pretty well-equipped to survive creepiness in a rural Missouri town…

Favorite scary movie?

I’m a big fan of vintage movies.  Love anything black and white.  Big, big fan of Hitchcock—and that definitely shows in FERAL. 
FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller.  While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is 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). 
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 process in a dramatic, scenic way.

Favorite Halloween candy?

Anything chocolate.  And wax lips.  Always loved the wax lips.

What were you last year for Halloween or what do you plan on being this year?

My all-time favorite costume was when I was Cyndi Lauper, in the first grade.  This year, I’m wearing my Svengoolie T-shirt…

This or That:
Feral dogs or feral cats?

I actually grew up with two cats I loved dearly: one of them, Tuffy, was born feral.

Learn the truth or leave it alone?

It’s always better to know—learn the truth.  Definitely.


Gotta go with BONES.

Illinois or Missouri?

Lifelong Missouri girl definitely picks Missouri.

Tricks or treats?


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….
Find Feral on

Check out the book trailer!

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 LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud.  Kirkus Reviews called 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.” 

Find Holly on 

Holly has generously donated a signed HB copy of Feral to give away to one lucky winner!  The giveaway will be US and CANADA only and will run for two weeks.  All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I haven't read anything by her, but I really want to read Feral!

  2. I haven't read any of her books yet, but I have been hearing great things about Feral and am looking forward to it! Thanks for the giveaway :)

  3. great name for a book....I am intrigued.

  4. I have not read anything by Holly. However, after being introduced to this book, i'm looking forward to reading more books from her! Thank you for this amazing giveaway! :)

  5. Mary DeBorde
    Like Holly I adore cats and love vintage scary movies, Hitchcock being some of the best! Also I just finished reading Feral - It was AWESOME!!!! <3

  6. I am really excited to read Feral but I have never read anything by Holly. Thanks for the chance to win Feral!! :)

  7. I haven't read anything by her, but it sounds like a great Halloween read :)

  8. Sounds like a great Halloween read!

  9. I am so excited to read this book!! I haven't read any of her books yet but I will definitely be reading this one. Great cover and title too!!