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Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Duggan

When Arkham Asylum is no more, where does Gotham keep it's most infamous and dangerous criminals? Writer Gerry Duggan talks about "Arkham Manor," and a new side of Batman in a new and different Wayne Manor. 618c0SXjJBL

Charlie Chang: You are writing what is arguably one of the most original and interesting stories happening in the Bat universe right now. What is your favorite thing about writing this book?

Gerry Duggan: My favorite thing is that I am able to play with these characters in a little bit of a different setting and...costume. Meaning they are the characters you know and love and some of them, Batman, in particular has a new mask. So he's had the Matches Malone disguise as an old character and his way of immersing himself in the criminal underworld. Well, he has a character now that will allow him to observe the criminally insane in Gotham. It might be a little overdue but the moment is right because there is a murder mystery now in the new Arkham. We don't know if an inmate is able to kill patients at will or whether it is a staff member. Something is going wrong in the new Arkham Manor. The great thing about the name Arkham is that when you hear it you immediately think, "uh oh, what's gone wrong?" It's an unlucky star-crossed name, the Arkham family has been doing this for the good of Gotham so in that way they are like the Waynes but they're the unlucky Waynes.

CC: Gotham in and of itself is already such a terrible place to live where terrible things happen and it feels like at the epicenter like a constant thread is Arkham (Asylum). When you bring that many bad people into one place, something is bound to go wrong right?

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Exclusive Q&A with Meghan Hetrick

Meghan Hetrick is one of the many artists bringing the Vertigo’s miniseries Bodies to life by taking the reader across four different time periods, with four detectives and four dead bodies. Meghan talks about what it’s like to work with so many different collaborators. 51WIfzgJ1iL

Charlie Chang: Bodies is such a beautiful book and you're there to contribute to one part of this book. It's got to be so cool to work with one writer but also alongside a bunch of really talented artists.

Meghan Hetrick: Yes!

CC: Can you talk about the early stages of conceptualizing this book?

MH: I really only had control of Shahara in terms of design but everybody really did their own work on this book. So they really came up with the look for their sections and the artists really really nailed what they were trying to do. Shelly (Bond) and Si (Spencer) could not have picked better artists. Not to toot my own horn [laughter] but the rest of the artists have done absolutely beautiful work.

CC: The whole book is great and even though each section is so different artistically, it all still works together.

MH: Thankfully! [laughter]

CC: Did you get to see what the other artists were doing or were you working in your own silo?

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Guest Post: C.C. Payne, Author of "Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair"

Lula-bellIn honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, C.C. Payne, author of Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair, shares the books that helped her through some rough days in middle school.

Hey! I’m Lula Bell Bonner. That’s my picture right there on the cover of the novel, Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom & the Challenges of Bad Hair—not that I think I'm cool or anything—nobody thinks that. I'm in the fifth-grade, where I'm trying desperately to fit in but (sigh)... it’s not going so well.

See, fitting in at school is a very delicate art form. For starters, it requires the right lunch, the right clothes, the right friends, and relatives who don't show up unexpectedly. I have none of those things.

My Grandma Bernice (who showed up at school this morning WITH HER CURLERS STILL IN HER HAIR!) says that’s okay, because we're not made to fit in; we're made to stand out. But she’s wrong. Standing out or being different in any way is bad—very bad. It causes other kids to make fun of you, laugh at you, and humiliate you until you no longer want to just “fit in”; you want to disappear.

C. C. Payne here. Like Lula Bell, I often wanted to disappear as a middle grader. Like Lula Bell, I was bullied—though there was no official word for it back then, no anti-bullying campaign, and no training for educators or parents on how to handle such situations. My teacher overlooked my torment under the heading of “Kids will be kids.” My dad told me it shouldn't matter if some people didn't like me. My mom’s solution was to “kill with kindness,” even going so far as to have me look up my bully’s phone number and dial it with trembling hands and with the intent of inviting her over (!!!). Thankfully, no one answered. After that, I never again complained. Instead, I silently swallowed my humiliation, pain, fear, and dread. But that was about all I could keep down. Since my stomach was constantly upset, I ate very little—I became even thinner. This caused rumors that I was anorexic—as if I didn't have enough problems. No one understood.

Except for Judy Blume. Her honest portrayal of the pack-mentality that often comes with bullying in the novel Blubber, let me know that I wasn't alone. Wanting to “fit in,” the protagonist, Jill, goes along with the other girls as they bully an overweight classmate, whom they've nicknamed Blubber. Thirty years later, I still believe that Ms. Blume is one of the best friends a middle grade girl—and her parents—can have.

Author Ellen Potter is another worthy friend. 12-year-old Owen, the protagonist of her novel, Slob, is an overweight genius. Naturally, Owen’s classmates—and his gym coach—find these traits unforgivable and Owen finds himself a victim of bullying. Even so, he doesn't feel sorry for himself. No, Owen copes exceptionally well—demonstrating intelligence, resourcefulness, and good humor.

Of course, bullying doesn't only affect those who are overweight. In Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Auggie is a fifth grade boy with severe facial anomalies, who, despite being different, dares to want the same things we all want: acceptance, friendship, and belonging.

All of these books provide understanding, comfort, hope, and courage—not to mention laughter—to those in need, to those who are different, to those who fail to fit in, because they're made to stand out—to shine.

Kelly Barnhill's Recommended Halloween Reading

Witches_boyWitches, wolves, and a very sharp knife--Kelly Barnhill, author of The Witch's Boy, shares her five favorite Halloween reads for middle graders.

When autumn drifts into the forests and prairies of Minnesota, it is easy to believe in ghosts: the shadows become long, all spindly legs and needle-like fingers; the desiccated leaves whisper in the darkness; the skeletal trees scratch at the thinning sky. When I was a young child I used to hunger for scary stories, but my hunger was never so great as it was in autumn. A terrifying tale leaves a peculiar mark on the soul. I recommend these unsettling stories for your late-night reading. They are sure to leave a mark. Possibly forever.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken Because the universe is cruel and capricious, I never managed to connect with this book as a child. It is a pity, because it has all the things that my dark little heart would have adored: evil governesses, malevolent men on trains, wicked schemes, bees, cruel twists of fate, resourceful children, orphanages, and wolves. Also: Mortal Peril. Which never gets old, really.

The Witches by Roald Dahl It is, when it comes down to it, very similar to several family vacations I remember from my youth: a hotel filled with child-hating witches who are concocting a scheme to turn the nation’s children into mice and subsequently setting the exterminators on them.

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge I read Well Witched as an adult, though it was the eleven-year-old version of me, still holding court in my brain, who insisted that I stay up deep into the night reading this sinister tale of kids who steal coins from a wishing well—and the witch who makes them wish they hadn’t. I would suggest starting this book during full daylight. And maybe leaving the lights on at night for at least a week.

Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen Now this is a book with odd similarities to a Certain Other Book about a wizard’s school, but Yolen’s slim volume came out several years before the first of the Potters, and both magical worlds are distinct and unique from one another. What sets this book apart is the terror of the dark wizard’s plot—attacking the wizard’s school with a terrible beast. And what’s worse is that the beast is a quilt. With teeth. And each square of the quilt is the soul of a wizard that has been devoured by the beast. I know, right? Terrifying.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” And so begins a tale of a boy who escapes death—indeed his whole family has just been murdered—and finds safety in a graveyard, under the protection of a kindly vampire and a new family of ghosts. The macabre mixes with the mundane, allowing the journey of childhood to be seen as exactly what it is: a dark, dangerous road, fraught with peril, confusion, and pain, where those who love us will help us when they can, but we must be brave enough to face the darkness on our own. This is why children love scary books, by the way. Because nothing is as scary as childhood itself. Nothing at all.

R. L. Stine: "My Time of Year"

HauntedmaskHalloween provides plenty of material for R. L. Stine, creator of the Goosebumps series. The author discusses the inspirations behind his many spooky tales.

Halloween is my busy time of year. I'm always traveling to bookstores and schools and libraries, scaring kids (which is my job). I've probably written more Halloween stories than most authors. I've written about haunted masks and inhabited costumes, eerie pumpkin patches, parties that turn into screamfests,  and jack-o-lantern people who invade from another planet.

Weirdo Halloween. Headless Halloween. The Five Masks of Dr. Screem.

Yes, those are Halloween titles that I have to take credit for.

Perhaps the most popular of all my Halloween books is The Haunted Mask. That book—and the TV adaptation of it—comes up whenever I speak to groups of kids or adults.

Someone always asks, "Where did you get the idea for that book?" Strangely, it is one of the few books I have written that began with an incident from real life.

It was approaching Halloween time, and my son Matt was five or six. I was watching him from the doorway to his room. Matt was trying on a green rubber Frankenstein mask. He pulled it down over his head—and then he couldn't get it off.

I watched him tug and tug, but the mask was stuck. And I thought, What a great idea for a story.

I know. I know. I should have helped him pull the mask off—shouldn't I! I guess I didn’t win the Good Parent Award that day. But the idea for The Haunted Mask began to form in my head, and I couldn't wait to start jotting down ideas.

The story turned out to be about a girl named Carly Beth, who is tired of being bullied and teased and considered the biggest 'fraidy cat in school. She buys the most frightening Halloween mask she can find. Unfortunately, it turns out to be haunted.

It tightens around her face, sticks to her skin, becomes part of her. And then when she realizes the mask can't be removed, it begins to change her personality. It turns Carly Beth evil.

Often, people tell me how traumatized they were by this story. Many have told me they couldn't wear a mask for years after reading the book or seeing the TV show. So I guess I did my job well.

I'd like to tell you more about The Haunted Mask. But I have yet another  Halloween story deadline upon me.

Anyone have any good ideas?  

Lois Duncan: Why I Write Horror

Twisted_WindowIn anticipation of Halloween, Lois Duncan revisits the inspirations behind her horror thrillers including The Twisted Window, Gallows Hill, and more.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t plan to be a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 10, painstakingly pecking them out on my mother’s manual typewriter, and at age 13 I actually started selling them. When I was 20, I wrote my first full-length book, a sweet romance titled Debutante Hill. It was by necessity a young adult novel, because what did I know to write about other than teenage issues that reflected my protected childhood? That book was published and won a national award, and without any conscious intention for it to happen, I found myself a “niche writer,” known for her gentle love stories.

However, the time soon came when I found that restriction boring. I had outgrown my niche, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I began to take cautious risks, like placing my characters in dangerous situations and then extracting them safely with a platonic kiss at the end. My publisher was not happy with my changing what was then considered the “established formula” for my youth books. So I found another publisher, one who would let me write mysteries as long as they weren’t “edgy.”

But I wanted to be edgy. I kept pushing beyond my limits, with scarier situations and more sophisticated plotting. So again I had to change publishers. But now I was having fun and kept on pushing, and suddenly—overnight, it seemed, although it had been many years coming—I found myself being described as “Lois Duncan, the Matriarch of Young Adult Horror and the Macabre.”

Here was I, gentle, grocery-shopping, laundry-running, mother-of-five, revealed to the world as a woman with a terrifying dark side! My husband and children were stunned, but I was delighted. Writing was now not only my career and my passion; it was a game. With every new novel I tried experimenting with something different. In Killing Mr. Griffin, my protagonist was a teenage psychopath. With I Know What You Did Last Summer, I used a double-identity twist, (which worked well in the book but was omitted from the movie). The theme of Stranger With My Face was astral projection; Gallows Hill was based upon reincarnation; and Down a Dark Hall, (soon to be a major motion picture), was a ghost story.

But probably the most challenging story I ever tackled was The Twisted Window. This was an experiment with viewpoint, inspired by the fact that witnesses to a crime will appear in court and convincingly describe very different recollections. It occurred to me that the same is true of readers. They are totally influenced by the statements of the viewpoint character. But what if there were two viewpoint characters, and each saw the same thing and interpreted it differently? Would it be possible to keep spinning the reader’s responses to events in the story to coincide with opposing beliefs of each viewpoint character? It would be like gazing at the same scene through a twisted window so that things appeared one way and then abruptly appeared otherwise.

That is the reason The Twisted Window has been classified as a “horror book.” There’s no violence, no gore, no multi-fanged vampire. In fact, there’s not even a villain. The horror is the fact that readers have to keep switching their beliefs from chapter to chapter.         

Such crazy-making can be the greatest horror of all.

Gena Showalter's Recommended Halloween Reading

ZombieheartsGena Showalter introduces her latest book, The Queen of Zombie Hearts, and shares what's on her Halloween reading list.

I didn’t have Halloween in mind when I started writing Alice in Zombieland or its sequel Through the Zombie Glass—I was actually inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass—but my publisher and I agreed that October would be the perfect month to launch each new title, and I’m beyond thrilled to complete the trilogy this month with the release of The Queen of Zombie Hearts. My zombie-slaying heroine, Ali Bell, and her crew of slayers are ready to get you into the “spirit” of the season (hint, new twist on zombies, hint). I hope you enjoy falling down the zombie hole with Ali, her sometimes Cheshire-like best friend, Kat Parker, and my own secret, favorite crush, Cole Holland, who at times might just seem a little bit mad. 

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole—Poison Princess and Endless Knight: Apocalypse now, baby! The end of the world has come, and the teenage embodiments of the Arcana cards must fight to the death…because only one can survive. 

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire: Murder and mayhem: All the girls at Vienna High dream of getting on “the list,” where the hottest girls in the school are named. But this year, if you’re on the list…your life ends.

See Me by Wendy Higgins: A fantastical world of leprechauns, fae, and human magic. A modern day teenage girl must come to grips with an arranged marriage to a handsome Irish boy, but as things start to go her way, she’ll realize some things aren’t what they appear to be.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto: I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet. But what embodies Halloween better than an eerie, romantic tale with touches of horror featuring a girl haunted by ghosts and a 157-year-old tragedy involving an intriguing young man who is long dead?

The White Rabbit Chronicles by me: If I don’t like my own books, I shouldn’t be writing. Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass, and The Queen of Zombie Hearts tell the story of Alice “Ali” Bell, who learns through a terrible tragedy that the invisible monsters her father always raged about are real—and she was born to slay them.  

Heather Graham's Top 5 Halloween Reads

Best-selling paranormal romance author Heather Graham gives us a spine-tingling reading list to help celebrate one of her favorite holidays. Her latest book, "The Betrayed," is on sale now.

51-KVC4lWFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays—as it was with my family. I grew up in an Irish household, so the stories abounded, and when they ended, there were more wonderful stories told by brilliant authors from way back—and during our own time.

Choosing the five I love most? Impossible! But I’m going to give it a try.

First, I’ve recently reread Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus—since I decided to make use of the historical “year without a summer” when Shelley wrote that story in one of my own, Waking the Dead. What I love about Frankenstein isn’t just the shivers—it’s Shelley’s tug on human emotion as we see the tragedy befalling the innocent—and the monster.

Then there’s Hell House by Richard Matheson. What can I say about such a master? Once again, characterization is key—and fear creeps down your spine as you read.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub—the book is both scary and heart-wrenching. As you can tell, “slasher” flicks aren’t my favorites—I love a lot of emotion with my fear!

For a vampire tale? They Thirst, by Robert McCammon. I couldn’t put the book down—and jumped several times in broad daylight.

Ghoul by Michael Slade. It’s tremendously…ghoulish!

Okay, quitting is hard. And I’ll cheat a bit by mentioning a few more. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, The Keep by F. Paul Wilson, anything by Poe and Lovecraft, and of course, there’s Dracula...

Finally, (forgive me) I can’t resist mentioning my own The Betrayed, out now and set in Sleepy Hollow at Halloween!

Exclusive Excerpts from Marjorie Brody, Ariel Swan, and Mark Edwards

UpandcomingUp and coming authors Marjorie Brody, Ariel Swan, and Mark Edwards share excerpts from their most recent releases.

Get a sneak peak at Marjorie Brody's Twisted. Download Twisted Excerpt

Read the first 46 pages of Mark Edward's Because She Loves Me. Download Because She Loves Me Excerpt

Get a sneak peak at Ariel Swan's The Nightingale Bones. Download Nightingale Bones Excerpt


Q&A with Christopher Rice Author of "The Vines"

TheVinesNew York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice sits down with author Blake Crouch, to discuss his new book, The Vines, and where his inspiration comes from.

Blake: I really loved The Vines. Your prose is so elegant and grounded, even while it’s building this world that lives between the lines of horror and fantasy. Obviously, the eponymous vines are your creation, but did you dig into the history of Louisiana’s plantation culture while you were researching the book? The character, Nova, mentions a database for slave narratives (The Lost Voices Project), and I wondered if that was a real thing?

Christopher: Well, for starters, thank you, Blake! I've never known a writer to turn down words of praise. But they mean more when they come from an author you truly admire. I read Run when you first released it and it knocked my socks off. As for The Vines and the tortured history of Louisiana's plantations, the Lost Voice Project does not exist at this time. The groundwork for it exists, however. Gwendolyn Hall, the scholar I mentioned on the acknowledgments page, is a real person, and she worked for years to assemble an exhausting database of slave names that had been lost to history.

B: I especially enjoyed the Louisiana backdrop. I grew up in the South (North Carolina) and you lived in New Orleans for years before relocating to Los Angeles. I think growing up in the South is like growing up in a massively dysfunctional family.  You end up spending the rest of your life trying to figure out how you truly feel about it. Or maybe I’m just projecting!  Do you find it easier or harder to write about the South considering you no longer live there?

C: You pretty much nailed it. I'd also use a junkie/addict metaphor in describing the South, because it offers things you can't find anywhere else in the country. Even if you reach a point in your life when you just can't live there anymore, you find yourself in other places searching for the things only the South can offer. (The food! I miss the food. Whenever I visit New Orleans, I give myself permission to eat pretty much everything in sight.) I have to say, it's easier for me to write about the South when I use a supernatural framework. Monsters and predatory plants allow me to portray my conflicted feelings about the place better than simple clashes between everyday people.

B: Who are your literary influences, passions, and guilty pleasures?

C: No lie, you're a big influence. Your ability to blend elements of thriller, horror and Sci-Fi without introducing so much jargon that you crowd out the souls of your characters – that's been a huge influence on me. James Lee Burke is another huge inspiration. I like to describe The Vines as a James Lee Burke novel with killer plants! But generally, I'm a fan of any book that can grab me by the lapels and not let me go until it's over. I love the sense of being transported through adrenaline-fueled genre fiction. Whether it's a crime thriller or an erotic romance, I want to be taken out of myself when I'm reading it.

B: How did this story originate for you? Was there a scene, a character, an image that served as the catalyst?

C: This was originally conceived as a California novel. I kept having these image flashes of Spanish soldiers coming across a ruined mission covered in these great tangles of vines, and I kept having this sense that a shaman of some sort had driven the vines to rise up and kill all the missionaries. But the idea wasn't growing legs and so I put it away. The reader response to The Heavens Rise, and the way I returned to New Orleans in that book for the first time in years, was so passionate I felt my next novel should be set in Louisiana as well. And then the whole thing just began to unfurl.

B: The Vines is your second supernatural thriller, following The Heavens Rise. How are you finding the genre of speculative fiction and what made you want to depart from your previous run of traditional thrillers?

C: I truly love it. It's an enormous freedom.  It feels like I've been shot out of a canon.. I think for the most part people can be disappointingly cruel to one another, because they're afraid of silly, vaporous things. Supernatural fiction gives us an opportunity to present our characters with a bigger threat than their own self-centered fear. We can either go The Mist route, and posit that they'll destroy each other in response, or we can go the route that you go in the Wayward Pines Trilogy, where people band together and rise up against forces that seem overwhelming.

B: Without giving too much away, the “creature” in The Vines is an interesting amalgamation of classic monster archetypes. Did you grow up watching monster movies?

C: It was all about Pumpkinhead. My mother and I watched that movie dozens, if not hundreds, of times when I was growing up. It's so wonderfully atmospheric and scary, and Lance Henricksen gives a great performance in it. It’s a great Appalachian retelling of the golem legend, in which someone seeking revenge calls forth a powerful supernatural creature and then quickly loses control of it. I miss horror movies like Pumpkinhead.

B: I think one of the big-time achievements of this novel is the deft weaving into the story structure of all the classic social conversations the South has been wrestling with (badly) since, well, forever: race relations, gay rights, new money, old money, no money. Was that a conscious decision to tackle these issues, or do you find they just inevitably present themselves whenever you make “the South” a prominent character in a story?

C: For me, it gets back to the whole idea that a haunting or a monstrous infestation should be crafted in such a way that strikes at the community's exposed nerves, that it churns up most of what's unresolved about the community.

B: What are you working on next? 

C: Universal Pictures has optioned my adaptation of The Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth novel in The Vampire Chronicles by you-know-who. And I'm also working on The Surrender Gate, which continues the world I introduce in my erotic romance novella, The Flame, which releases in early November. As for my next scary supernatural thriller, I've got tons of ideas. I'm confident the last scene in The Vines sets the stage for a great series, not necessarily a direct continuation of The Vines but a new world in which many books could be written..