Author: Holly Schindler
Publisher: HarperTeen, 432 Pages (August 26th, 2014)
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Order here: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Book Depository, Amazon UK
Synopsis: The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
FERAL AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER:
FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller. While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.
Author Guest Post:
What was the easiest and hardest part of writing FERAL?
The book started out as an MG mystery; the original protagonist set out to solve a cold case that centered on her own middle school. This was actually the easiest part of the process: crafting the original murder mystery. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but I will say that while the circumstances surrounding Serena’s death changed when I bumped it up from MG to YA, the actual cause of death (and a few aspects of Serena’s personality) remained the same.
During revision, the book became grittier and darker. So much so, the book no longer felt like an MG; I knew it needed to be bumped into the YA category. But my main character didn’t work anymore for the YA category. She was pretty specifically thirteen—and who we are at thirteen is not who we are at seventeen. I needed a new protagonist. So I began to brainstorm: Who is this new protagonist? Where has she come from? What are her hopes and fears? As I searched to answer these new questions, I discovered a rough backstory: she’d survived a gang beating in her hometown of Chicago.
I don’t necessarily have to be in a dark place to write dark material. But I will say that writing the beating scene wasn’t easy. There were times that the scene felt, as the old saying goes, like pulling teeth. The details came slowly, through successive rewrites. But once I finally felt like I’d done that scene justice, I found that addressing Claire’s relationship with her best friend, Rachelle, was equally tough. Claire doesn’t say so out loud, but she resents her friend—the gang beating was meant as retaliation following Claire’s successful attempt to save Rachelle from being wrongfully accused of distributing drugs at school. Claire’s resentment—her bare, honest feelings about the situation—come through in some emails she writes Rachelle but never sends. Some of those emails were every bit as tough to write as the beating scene.
So the easiest part was the murder mystery—the toughest were the scenes and details surrounding Claire’s beating in Chicago. But as a writer, you’ve got to expect each story to come with plenty of tough parts. You’ve got to address them head-on. Along the way, as I dealt with my own tough passages, it became clear to me that FERAL was not a straight mystery, or even horror, as I’d also once suspected—it was a psychological thriller. The true genre and purpose of the book became clear as I faced the toughest aspects of Claire’s story…
About the Author:
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK(Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT(both YAs).
Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY,also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. KirkusReviewscalled THE JUNCTION “...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”
Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com
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