Dread Wood is Jennifer Killick’s latest middle grade novel and reviews are claiming it brilliant! We recently sent Jennifer a few questions and we love her answers!
You have been dubbed The Queen of Middle Grade Horror- what do you think about that title and accolade?
I absolutely don’t deserve it, but I absolutely love it! Tempted to have my own crown made up.
Where do your ideas come from?
Most of my ideas come from mundane day-to-day things, like dog walkers and crooked steps, that I over-think and my imagination goes into overdrive. I also get inspiration from science and nature documentaries, and the non-fiction books I read with my youngest son. There are so many weird, creepy, disgusting and brilliant things around us all the time, often without us realising.
How do you balance writing and family?
My family comes first, always, so writing consumes almost the entire time outside of that. I do lots of writing before the children get up, and often write in the evenings, too. I spend many nights lying awake working out plot problems, so if I’m first drafting, I almost definitely won’t be getting enough sleep. And of course even when I’m not physically writing, my brain is busy day-dreaming and processing ideas.
What fuels your writing?
Day-dreaming, night-dreaming, and conversations with children and young people. And in terms of snacks – tea, prosecco and cake.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely a morning person. I’m usually flagging by around 3pm and in bed by 9:30pm!
Every chapter of your newest book, Dread Wood, is a mini cliffhanger- how easy or difficult is it to build this into a chapter?
I just have to be very strict with myself. My rule when I’m writing is that there has to be at least one gasp moment in every chapter, whether it’s in the action, or a reveal of some kind. If it isn’t there then the chapter gets re-written or scrapped. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I realise I’m boring myself, and that’s a sure sign that something needs to change. Now that I’ve written a few books in that style, it’s become a lot easier.
How much fun did you have creating verbs out of nouns in Dread Wood? They were a lot of fun to read and made so much sense for the age of the characters.
So much fun! It’s something I do myself, so it was brilliant when my characters started doing it too. My favourite one had to be cut out though, because it wasn’t PG enough!
How do you develop your characters?
My characters are almost always inspired by real people. Sometimes I’m inspired by people I know really well, and sometimes by people I might have only met once, or just seen around but never spoken to. I like to have that image in my brain as a starting point, and then I sort of get to know them in my mind – adding quirks and features, and developing them over time. The final part of developing them can only come through writing their story though, so I leave room for things to change as the chapters unfold.
What comes first for you- the characters or the plot?
I usually form a concept first, from connecting various random things that have been churning around my mind for a while. Once I have a concept, but before I start plotting, I work out who my main character will be. When I’m reading a story what matters most to me is the main character. If I don’t care about them it doesn’t matter how gripping the plot is, I just completely lose interest in the story – I abandon many books for this reason. So I create a character that I want to put in whatever situation I’ve come up with, and then I build the plot around that.
Dread Wood is published by FarShore Books!