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Interview with Reade Scott Whinnem

I read THE PRICKER BOY when I was just beginning to write my own YA horror. I devoured Reade Scott Whinnem's book, and it helped to inspire some of the mood and themes embedded in my own WIP. THE PRICKER BOY shot to the top of my favorites list in no time.

So you can imagine my excitement when I got to talk with Reade for nearly an hour, discussing writing, reading, and the realm of horror.

On the perfect recipe for scary scenes:
“Everyone has a true ghost story. Either it’s something that happened to them, or it happened to their uncle or cousin. The scary part is that it’s never resolved. Your brain can’t rationalize the phenomenon.
“So I’ve found that what you DON’T see, what the writer leaves to the imagination, is often more upsetting and disturbing than what you do see. It just gets your imagination spinning. In the early drafts of the PRICKER BOY, I answered a lot more of the questions, and it was my agent who first said, “Let your reader have the freedom to draw their own conclusions.”
On the nightmare that inspired THE PRICKER BOY:
“I was so young when I had that nightmare, but it did stay with me. The Pricker Boy kind of became my own personal monster. Everybody has Frankenstein, everybody has their own Dracula, but the Pricker Boy was mine. As I got older, my family would joke about it. It’s just a part of my past that was always there. When it came time to write this story, and I needed a monster, he was the logical choice. The Pricker Boy was the perfect little-boy fear.”
On writing for young adults:
“In THE PRICKER BOY, there’s one scene where Pete starts picking on Ronnie, and the word “faggot” comes up. My editor and I went back and forth, trying to figure out how to best make the point we wanted to make – but we couldn’t just use that word for the sake of using it.
“When you’re writing for kids, it’s easy to be controversial. But I do feel that there’s something at the core of that scene…it’s like a lesson. People think that there’s no substance when it comes to writing for kids. But I don’t believe that to be true. I think that you can write for kids and have some real heart to the writing. You can make them think. We can’t be Pollyanna about the world kids live in. Kids see through that. If we try to sanitize their world, they will know it.”
On the YA horror genre:
“I would love to see more. I read Rick Yancey’s MONSTROMOLOGIST series, and I loved them. At times I felt he did things that were a bit much for a YA novelist, but I thought they were some of the best stories I’d read in years.
And THE HUNGER GAMES – I know those are science fiction, but there was a lot of horror in those books. Not paranormal horror, but definitely disturbing and aesthetic. It helps turn the pages.”
Reade’s journey to publication:
“It was the late nineties when I decided to really try my hand at “being a writer.” It wasn’t until 2004 that my first book was published. It took a long time. I was almost ready to give up, and I got this phone message form an editor in Virginia, saying that she loved my book and wanted to publish it. I was completely floored. From there, I lucked into finding an agent in New York – Kirsten Wolf, who is wonderful. When she agreed to represent me, I thought that I had misread the email. I couldn’t believe it. She found PRICKER BOY a great home at Random House.
Reade’s writing process:
“I teach high school, and that kind of takes over your life, so my writing time is during the summer. I’ve got a little office in the basement. Every day I get up and try to put in three or four hours, and if I’m lucky, at the end of the summer I have a very rough first draft – or I need to do complete rewrite. “
Reade’s upcoming books:
“[One of my manuscripts] is about these high school friends, and one of them disappears. Two of the boys who are left behind decide to get in a car on the first day of summer and take off across America to find her, even though they have no idea where she is. It’s the story of a road trip, and also the story of what caused this girl to run away. It’s a little bit horror and a little bit sci-fi.
"The other book I’m working on is set in Providence just before WWI. It’s a homage to H.P. Lovecraft and the kind of monsters he envisioned."
Advice for new writers:
"You have to get your ass in the chair. You have to sit yourself in front of that computer and WRITE, even when it feels like your writing is terrible. You have to keep pushing through. It’s a ritual, and if you can keep up the discipline of that ritual, you’ll succeed in creating something that you find beautiful."

Reade, thanks again for talking with YA Highway! And be sure to check out his novel THE PRICKER BOY - but leave the lights on while you're reading.

As a child, Reade Scott Whinnem spent his summers in the earthquake-ridden, ghost-infested woods of East Haddam, Connecticut. From an early age, his father instilled in him a love of Star Trek, comic books, and monster movies, thereby condemning him to a life of incurable geekiness. In addition to being a writer, he is an avid gardener, cook, and photographer. Both he and his wife are proud public school teachers. They live on Cape Cod, where they dig clams, correct essays, and when necessary, reassure their overweight cat that she is a devastatingly attractive feline.
Kristin Briana Otts

Kristin is an aspiring YA author with an abiding love for her dog, ghost hunter tv shows, and rainy days.

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  1. Is it just me or is just the TITLE scary?! *shudders* "The Pricker Boy" totally sounds something from a nightmare. Definitely adding this to my reading queue!

  2. Ooh, I loved THE PRICKER BOY! (So much so that I had to interview Reade after I read it, too! lol) Great to read more about him and his writing. I can't wait for his next book! (And now I want to read PRICKER BOY again....) Thanks for the great interview! :)


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Item Reviewed: Interview with Reade Scott Whinnem Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Briana Otts