Special Halloween Cover Reveal: RISE OF THE ZOMBERT, by Kara LaReau — Plus: “Ten Creepy Things About Me,” by Kara LaReau

Hello, friends — and Happy Halloween! I hope you’re downright infested with holiday spirit. I’m in an especially spooky mood because I have a dark, creepy new middle-grade trilogy in the works, called the ZomBert Chronicles. The first book in the series, Rise of ZomBert, doesn’t come out until July 2020, but I thought today would be just the right time to reveal the cover!

Illustrator: Ryan Andrews. Editor: Sarah Ketchersid. Designer: Amy Berniker.

I also thought I’d share a few things about myself to really get you in the Halloween mood. Without further ado…

10 CREEPY THINGS ABOUT MOI

1. A Stephen King Connection

When people think of master of horror Stephen King, they automatically think of Maine, where many of his books are set. BUT Stephen King actually spent several years of his childhood in Connecticut…in my home town, Stratford. In fact, King has said that the setting for IT, Derry, Maine, is based on his memories of Stratford. The town of Lambert in the ZomBert Chronicles is also based on my hometown; you won’t find any clowns in the sewers in my books, but you might find something just as unsettling.

2. Horrifying Hometown Happenings

In case you think my home town is only fictionally creepy, allow me to acquaint you with some of Stratford’s real creepy happenings. In 1651, Stratford was the site of a witch trial and execution, 40 years before Salem’s infamous witch fever took hold. When the accused woman, Goodwife (or “Goody”) Bassett was taken to the gallows, it’s said she grabbed on to a boulder and left fingernail marks on it. It came to be known as Witch’s Rock, though no one knows where it is now. Stratford was also home to the Phelps Mansion, which was known for some serious poltergeist activity (sadly, it was torn down 40 years ago).

3. Ghostly visitors

One of my high school friends lived in a haunted house in the older part of town. He and his family experienced all sorts of eerie happenings, and even saw what seemed to be a young boy in old-fashioned clothes; at one point, their family even brought in some sort of medium to assess the “presence.” As a result, my friends and I were inspired to attend a talk given by famous ghosthunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, who lived in the town next to ours. Unfortunately, Ed and Lorraine weren’t very convincing, but we continued our interest in all things paranormal.

4. Ouija board

My friends and I would often try to conjure spirits using my Ouija board; one night, when we were teenagers, we really thought we’d made contact with someone, though now we’re sure it was all in out heads. (Or was it?)

5. Horror movie marathons

As a teenager, I also enjoyed hosting horror movie marathons at my house. I don’t know how or why my typically-overprotective mom allowed this, especially as some of the films were pretty dark and gory! One of the movies we watched, The Stuff, is one of the inspirations for my ZomBert trilogy.

6. The Truth is Out There

As I got older, I continued my interest in all things weird and spooky, so you can imagine how I felt when I first watched The X-Files. I was obsessed. I’ve never been one to collect things, but I still own quite a bit of X-Files memorabilia. (My favorite episodes? Season 2, ep 20, aka “Humbug,” and Season 4, episode 2, aka “Home.” The weirdest ones, of course.)

7. Queen Shirley

I still love Stephen King, and I’m now a big fan of dark, spooky mystery novels by authors like Kate Atkinson, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Ruth Ware. But the queen, for me, is Shirley Jackson. One of my favorite books of all time is We Have Always Lived in the Castle; I aspire to write a middle grade psychodrama in that vein one day.

8. Little Terrors

When I was pregnant with my son, I had all sorts of cravings, including guacamole, pineapple, and horror novels. I actually binged horror novels for the entire 9+ months I was incubating him! Among others, I re-read all the Stephen King classics, then read Ray Bradbury, H.P Lovecraft (who was born and lived in Providence, where I live now), Ira Levin, and Robert Marasco. My son is six years old now and loves guacamole and pineapple; time will tell if all that horror reading transferred to him as well!

9. Cousin Joyce

Everyone’s family is a bit…dysfunctional and weird, right? Well, I’ve come to realize that one story about my grandmother is particularly off. You’ll have to head to my website to read about it. (WARNING: it’s not for the faint of heart!)

10. Freaky Felines

Confession: I’m not a dog person, AT ALL. I love cats. In a way, my ZomBert trilogy is a love letter to all the cats I’ve known. The first cat I ever had as a pet, when I was about three, was named Lullabye. He was an outdoor cat and quite the hunter, and had a penchant for leaping into the air to catch dragonflies, which he’d then leave all over our lawn; I actually have a dragonfly tattoo in his honor. Another cat, Josie, used to leave headless frogs on our front doorstep, seemingly as trophies for us. I never truly appreciated these “gifts” at the time, but I’ve managed to incorporate them into the ZomBert Chronicles, along with all sorts of other freaky feline behaviors I’ve witnessed over the years. Cats really are the closest thing we have to aliens — as far as we know, anyway *cue X-Files music*

I hope this list has creeped you out in the best possible way, and that it’s gotten you excited to read Rise of ZomBert. Though the book doesn’t officially publish until July 2020, you can still preorder it now; if you preorder from my local indie, I’ll personalize and sign your copies when they’re ready! Just leave the personalization info in the Comments section of your order.

ALSO…a lucky few of you might just win an ARC of the book; head on over to my Twitter feed (@karalareau) to learn how to enter my ZomBert giveaway!

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press, and now works as a freelance editor through her own company, Bluebird Works. Kara is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and Good Night Little Monsters, illustrated by Brian Won; an award-winning chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers; a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill; and a new middle-grade trilogy called the ZomBert Chronicles, illustrated by Ryan Andrews. Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

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