Author Interview | Dawn Kurtagich
For the month of October I’m hosting Spooks and Tea where we aim to consume as much horror, or spooky, books as possible.
I also wanted to do something a little different and fun this year so I reached out to a few authors to see if any would be interested in taking part, most of them agreed to do a Q&A with the Book Club! I have never felt more blessed.
If you’re a member of Books and Tea you’ll have been given the chance to ask these authors questions, as well as getting to see their answers early.
A bunch of us read Dawn’s work last year so I knew I had to reach out to her in hopes she’d take part and I’m pretty sure I cried a little when I got her reply saying not only yes, but also a giveaway for the members too. I’ve had Dawn’s answers sat in my inbox for a while now but I just couldn’t face editing this post on mobile whilst I was in Seoul and Tokyo so here I am jetlagged and determined to get it live for you now! Keep reading to see what we asked Dawn.
Dawn Kurtagich is a writer of creepy, spooky and psychologically sinister YA fiction, where girls may descend into madness, boys may see monsters in men, and grown-ups may have something to hide. Her debut YA novel, THE DEAD HOUSE, was called “an evil and original story” by bestselling author R.L Stine and “”…a haunting new thriller…” by Entertainment Weekly. Her second novel, AND THE TREES CREPT IN (US) / THE CREEPER MAN (UK) received two starred reviews and was called “A must-read for horror fans everywhere!” by bestselling author, Susan Dennard, while Kirkus called it “frightening and compelling”.
By the time she was eighteen, Dawn had been to fifteen schools across two continents. The daughter of a British globe-trotter and single mother, she grew up all over the place, but her formative years were spent in Africa—on a mission, in the bush, in the city and in the desert.
She has been lucky enough to see an elephant stampede at close range, a giraffe tongue at very close range, and she once witnessed the stealing of her (and her friends’) underwear by very large, angry baboons. (This will most definitely end up in a book . . . ) While she has quite a few tales to tell about the jumping African baboon spider, she tends to save these for Halloween!
Her life reads like a YA novel.
What made you decide to embark on your career as an author?
Four words. “Dare to be yourself” I had been writing for years—I loved it. But I only truly pursued it after my (now) husband said those four words to me. What do you love? What is your passion? What is your reason for being here? To tell stories. It was simple, and profoundly difficult. But that was the start.
Is your favourite genre to read different from the genre you write?
I love Juliet Marillier novels (she writes historical fantasy), as well as Kazuo Ishiguro, who writes literary fiction. I love a good comedy, and a great thriller. I’ve enjoyed some amazing crime novels and cosy mysteries. But my true love will always be horror!
If you could write a book with any horror author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Good question! Mark Danielewski, probably. I think it would be a cerebral and psychological mind f*ck.
Do you think you’ll ever branch out from horror/thriller? Or will there always be a bit of it in your future work?
I will, yes. But my work will always be dark.
With YA Horror being a rather small range, how have you found the writing and publishing process for this genre?
I’ve found it absolutely amazing. There are actually a lot of horror fans, but we’re used to being sidelined. I don’t know why that is. Stephen King and Dean Koonz have proven that there is an amazing readership, and I’m part of several online horror communities and we are always thirsty for more. Horror is universal, like love and romance. As for publishing, my experience has been incredible. There are so many wonderful things you can do in horror, both in terms of the book and the story itself, but fun things like swag and promo too. It’s a big landscape with so much potential for real fun.
Additionally, are the any other horror authors you’d love to see more people reading?
I’d love to see more people read horror in general. A lot of feedback I’ve had is that readers who don’t like horror have taken a chance on my books, and books like The Merciless by Danielle Vega, and have discovered a budding love and growing appetite for the genre. We love scary movies—and scary books can be even more engaging.
We have some budding writings in Books and Tea Book Club and they’re wondering how do you tackle getting past feeling insignificant? Are there any tips for finding and building an audience?
I’m afraid that feeling insignificant never really goes away. No matter how “far along” you get, you will always encounter people “further along” than you. The best thing is to ignore the outside world and to love the process. One thing that keeps me grounded is the “this is my secret project” trick. I keep my work for myself while I’m drafting. It’s mine and mine alone. No one can see it or judge it. So I can fly free. For building an audience—if you think too much about the audience part, it becomes counterproductive and people can sense it, and you’ll lose them. It’s a complete cliche, but so true—just be yourself. Care about your audience and have fun (talk to them!) but don’t care too much.
Im trying to watch 31 Horror movies in 31 days; are you a fan of horror movies too, if so which do you think everyone needs to watch?
I love that idea! I’m a huge film nut. I recommend The Tale of Two Sisters, The Triangle, Shutter (the original), In the Mouth of Madness, The Prince of Darkness, and A Dark Song.
Which horror monsters could you see yourself beating in a fight? Which do you fear the most?
The most challenging to defeat would be a monster of my own creation! I think I could take on Cthulhu. Like, a little, baby, micro Cthulhu.
From the settings of each of your books, which do you think you’re more likely to survive in?
Probably TEETH IN THE MIST!
What prompted the title difference between the US and UK for And the Trees Crept In?
Different markets have different requirements and tastes. The original title of the book was The Creeper Man. But my editor pointed out that in the States, a “creeper man” might sound like a paedophile, and that was definitely not what this book is about. So she asked for other ideas. I passed on a few. And the Trees Crept In was chosen as the winner! As for the UK, my publishers loved the original title, and “creeper man” doesn’t have the same connotations in the UK, so it stuck.
Did you enjoy writing with mixed media in The Dead House? Was it hard to plot the “facts” from the different sources?
I loved it, but it was highly challenging and exacting. Every little thread has to be connected, every time stamp has to be confirmed, every change in one part of the book had massive, rippling effects on the rest. I worked very hard to make sure everything was cohesive, and then I had an amazing eagle-eyed copyeditor who make 1000% sure everything made sense!
I’m very excited about Teeth in the Mist (publishing next June), what type of research did you have to do for it (for example, into witchcraft, deals with the devil, visiting creepy locations to get the atmosphere right)? Are there any interesting things you found out but ultimately didn’t make it into the book?
Thank you! So, so much research. I read about Welsh history, from 1500 and 1900 dress, cuisine, dialect, politics, superstitions and more. I visited Welsh landmarks and learned about the kings and rulers and battles and local folklore. I did the same for London, another location in the book. I researched many witch hunts, with a particular focus on the Lancaster witch, and I read the John Dee biography and learned about alchemy and the “language of the angels”. An awful lot didn’t end up in the book—and that’s the way most of the time. But what I learned enriched the story nonetheless, I think.
For anyone not familiar with the legend of Faustus, how would you sum it up nicely?
A silly man makes a bargain with the devil: his soul in exchange for a thousand years of life, wisdom and (in some cases), riches. Bad idea, silly man. Bad idea.
Lastly, do you have any future bookish plans in the work or is Teeth in the Mist consuming your world at the moment?
I’m working on three YA novels (all three in proposal stages), an adult novel (in revisions), and a middle grade (drafting). I’m hoping to be able to write the sequel for TEETH IN THE MIST as well!
I hope you enjoyed reading this! I really enjoyed finding out about the research for Teeth in the Mist and my plan for tomorrow, or well later today, is to watch some of the movies Dawn recommended as I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen Triangle from her list.