[GUEST BLOG] Holly Schindler on How FERAL Changed Through Its Various Incarnations

This guest blog is part of the official blog tour for Holly Schindler’s Feral. Below you’ll find Holly’s post, links, and information on her books.

How Feral Changed Through Its Various Incarnations

I’m sure it’ll come as a surprise to anyone who’s gotten their hands on a copy of Feral and read the opening two chapters when I say that the book started out as an MG mystery. In my initial version, the protagonist was seeking to solve the cold case of a murder involving a former student at her middle school.

During the revision process, the book became increasingly darker, grittier – so much so, I began to suspect that I needed to bump the book into the YA category. It might sound like a simple task, but it actually involved a complete overhaul. Moving it into YA, I also began to realise the genre was changing as well (initially, I thought it’d wind up being a horror novel). I also couldn’t keep my protagonist, not in the original way I’d envisioned her. That main character was just so…thirteen. She didn’t fit in a YA scenario at all. I had to invent a new protagonist.

Brainstorming who my new main character would be, I discovered her backstory: she survived a brutal gang beating in her hometown of Chicago. With this discovery, everything started to fall into place. The central theme of the book became recovery, and the genre, it was clear, was neither straight mystery OR horror, but psychological thriller.

Like classic psychological thrillers, Feral features elements of other genres: mystery, horror, paranormal…but the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller/action. The novel also features a Hitchcock-ian 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 in this instance 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, as I indicated, Feral is a book about recovering from violence – we often hear about how lengthy or hard that process can be. But it can also be a terrifying process. The parameters and conventions of the classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler
HarperCollins Teen (CA: 18th August 2014; US: 26th August 2014; AU: 1st October 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And they continue to haunt her months later, in the terrifying nightmares that plague her. So when her father takes a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago will offer her a new start. But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realises something is wrong – the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it – for she was the one who found Serena, battered and bruised, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself – and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley…

Holly Schindler
A Blue So Dark
Llewellyn Flux (US: 8th May 2010)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked – and together may offer an escape from her fears.

Holly Schindler
Playing Hurt
Llewellyn Flux (US: 8th March 2011)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college – and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family. As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain – or finally heal their heartbreak?

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