Phil Hickes is the debut author of The Haunting of Aveline Jones, published by Usborne. It is a spooky mystery perfect for ages 9+. I was completely hooked as Aveline and her mother drove into town, first discovering the child sized scarecrows…I couldn’t wait to see where this adventure would take Aveline! I was so thrilled to be able to ask Phil Hickes some questions. His answers are brilliant, funny and insightful!
The interconnectedness of the characters and the House was perfect! Did this come naturally or take meticulous planning?
Thank you. I’m what’s known as a pantser, meaning that I don’t plan much and only have a loose idea of a story before I begin writing. This element of the book took shape over many rewrites, with much scratching of head, weary sighs, sleepless nights and the occasional eureka moment while standing in the shower or walking the dog. I’m delighted it came across well.
The child sized decoys around the town are spooky and the stuff of nightmares- were these always a part of your story? Was there some fun in creating them and imagining their components?
I’m obsessed with scarecrows so they were always going to play a role. I think they’re super creepy and also very creative and iconic. I wish we had more of them lurking in the fields still. But they ultimately became the thing that tied the whole book together. When trying to describe them, I tried to think of materials that people might actually use. It was harder than you might expect. Hopefully I’ll never have to build one in a hurry.
I love that Aveline has a firm favourite genre! Is she inspired by your own love of spooky stories and ghost stories?
Yes, Aveline and I share the exact same taste in books. What a coincidence! As long as I can remember, the supernatural has been my favourite genre. Of course from time to time I’ll read something else, but it’s not long before I’m back to something spooky.
The bookstore is a treasure trove and any book lovers dream to get lost amongst the shelves searching for their next book! Is it based on a true bookstore? Do you have a favourite bookstore?
Lieberman’s Second-Hand Books is an invention, but I hope readers will find something familiar, enchanting and reassuring about it. I’m sure many of us have been thrilled to stumble across a small, cozy bookstore on our travels. Some of my favourite bookstores are in Central London, small, specialist places with obscure, rare books. I also like the bookstores in Glastonbury, UK, which smell of incense and are full of books about magic, myth and legend. But ultimately, I love all bookstores. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of walking into one.
Aveline is set to come back for future adventures…is there anything you can share about what might happen next?
I’m delighted to confirm that Aveline will indeed be returning. The next one is a little different but in a good way I hope. It involves witches, standing stones and…I best leave it there, except to say it’s pretty creepy, it’s called The Bewitching of Aveline Jones and I can’t wait to share it.
How have you found your journey to publication?
Long. Frustrating. Depressing. Difficult. Maddening. Exciting. Thrilling. Exhilarating. All of these emotions and more. It’s a real rollercoaster, but I’m so glad I made the effort. From when I first began writing my own stuff to the publication of Aveline, I’d estimate it’s taken me about 10 years to get a book into print. Not that it should discourage anyone. Many authors get there much more quickly. But it’s fair to say that you need to be patient.
Do you have a special place where you do your writing?
Ideally, I’d tell you that I have a cozy little log cabin somewhere, with a wood burning stove and the perfect view of an eerie forest or blustery coastline. But more often than not I’m sitting in the nearest available chair with neck ache because my posture is so bad. I really must do something about that.
What do you hope readers will take away from The Haunting of Aveline Jones?
The thrill that comes from reading about scary events in cold, creepy places while being perfectly safe and warm. And that perfectly ordinary children are capable of extraordinary things. And that you never know what may be lurking in the shadows.
Do you have any messages about the importance of reading to share?
I know that my life would be extremely miserable without reading. Books are the fuel that spark the imagination. They’re an escape. An adventure. A learning experience. Reading can be a great comfort when you’re feeling unhappy. It can also inspire you to go off and have adventures of your own. And reading in bed, or curled up on the sofa, while the wind moans outside and the rain pitter-patters on the window, is surely one of the greatest pleasures in life.
What are you currently reading?
Ghostland (In Search of a Haunted Country) by Edward Parnell. After that I’ve got The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis lined up. I’m sure you can see a theme developing!
Thank you for these lovely questions, it’s been such fun answering them.
The Haunting of Avaline Jones was published by Usborne on 17th September 2020, and is available to purchase from all good booksellers.
Any opinions expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.