Guest Post by Cynthia Murphy
If I could travel back in time and speak to ten-year-old me, I’d tell her about how twenty-six years in the future, our love of Point Horror would kickstart a young adult writing career.
She would ask me what took so long.
I have a wonderfully clear memory of being in Year 6 and writing what would now be called fanfic of ‘The Cheerleader’ by Caroline B Cooney. I was obsessed. I found my appetite for reading early in life and, once I had exhausted my local library of all the Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High books on their shelves, I discovered Point Horror. I wish I could remember the first one I read, or how I came across them, but once I got my teeth into the collection, I made it a mission to collect every single one. I’d save up for them, ask for them as gifts and swap them with classmates who had the same predilection as me. I just couldn’t get enough.
They ignited a love of being scared. There’s nothing better, when the world gets too much, than to lose yourself in the life of someone who is having a way worse time than you are. In fact, with the way the world is at the moment (yes, 2020, I’m talking to you) I can see why YA horror is making a resurgence – it’s escapism at its finest. Point Horror meant I could open the pages of a book and walk beside ghosts and vampires, be on the run from a killer or stalked through a dark gymnasium. I could find dead bodies, receive threatening notes, suspect friends and love interests…and then hide the book when it all got a bit too much. Often face down under the bed, because that way the monsters couldn’t get out.
Fast forward to 2019. My writing bestie sent me a surprise in the post, a baseball tee with, coincidentally, the cover of ‘The Cheerleader’ printed on it. I’d been in a writing slump and in with the package was a note to say it was to help me get my writing mojo back. I started looking at recent YA with interest. There had been a couple of successful horror novels but, as a genre, it had been dominated by sparkly vampires and then gone slightly stale. But what if I could revive it? What if I could replicate my beloved Point Horror books in a twenty-first century way? It seemed a little silly and maybe too big of a task, but that almost made it achievable – it was more of a dream than a plan. I had an idea and by November 2019 I had written it, had nine offers from literary agents and signed with the wonderful Stephanie Thwaites at Curtis Brown. We sold the manuscript in January 2020 and I was thrilled to have found a home at Scholastic.
The home of Point Horror.
It’s all been a bit of a dream since. My love letter to teen thrills, Last One to Die, is being touted as ‘Point Horror for the social media generation’. I did what I jokingly set out to do, helped along by a lot of love, patience and very talented people.
Oh, and one magic t-shirt.
Last One to Die, Cynthia Murphy’s debut YA novel, is published in January 2021 by Scholastic