Kathie: Hi Ally! I’m so glad to have a chance to talk to you about your upcoming debut novel, GHOST GIRL, which will be coming out on August 10th from Katherine Tegen Books. Can you give us a brief synopsis of it, please?
Ally: I’m so excited to talk to you too! Thank you for having me! Ghost Girl is a spooky middle grade book about Zee, a tow-headed, stubborn, storytelling girl and her best friend Elijah. When a storm comes through town delivering a new principal with strange ideas about your dreams coming true things start to get spooky. In order to understand what’s happening Zee and Elijah team up with Nellie, bully turned buddy, and the three of them will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.
Kathie: I absolutely loved the role that the library played in this story (surprise, surprise!). Can you tell us where the inspiration for this part of the story came from?
Ally:Yes I can! It’s a combination of two libraries. One is the Newburgh Library in the Hudson Valley. I grew up near there and always loved when we would go because that was, as I called it, the Big Library. It had three floors which blew my mind when I was little. The second inspiration is the library that I currently work at in Brooklyn! The physical building, with the lower decks and the wings like the covers of a book, is based on the Central Library at Brooklyn Public Library.
Kathie: I think Elijah is my favorite character; he is a devoted friend, helps unite Zee and Nellie, shows a quiet strength when it’s most needed, and so desperately wants his one wish to come true. Which character or relationship did you most enjoy writing, and which was the most challenging for you?
Ally: I loved writing Elijah so I’m so happy to hear that he resonated with you. He came so easily to me, and I thought he was a good opposite to Zee. Where she’s all noise and bluster, Elijah is quiet and careful. I think a lot of his personality is based on my father. I found the way Zee and Elijah offset and then balanced each other was one of my favorite relationships to write. The most challenging was Nellie and Zee, simply because I hate bullies, which both girls at times are guilty of, and writing their increased agitation was hard.
Kathie: I love how the villain, Principal Scratch, convinces the town that he’s trustworthy and that they were able to manifest their most desired wishes. If you would have one non-serious wish that would come true, what would it be?
Ally: Oh! That’s a good question. I suppose if I could have one non-serious wish come true is that I would continue to be able to write spooky books for kids.
Kathie: There are few middle grade horror stories, and yet we know so many young readers love them. Did you enjoy scary stories as a kid? Why do you think we don’t see more being published, and why do you think young readers are so drawn to them?
Ally: I love this question because I love talking about the importance of what I call safe-fear. I adored scary books as a kid. One of my all time favorites was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! I still remember most of those stories. I vividly remember the first time I read the Monkey’s Paw and how chilled I was by the knock on the door at the end. If you haven’t read it, please go google it. I think a lot of the reason that we don’t see more scary stories being published is because of adult gatekeeping. I remember meeting an author I admired recently and when I explained that my book was middle grade horror she wrinkled her nose and said such a thing shouldn’t exist. I was crushed. I think kids are drawn to scary stories because they already know the world is scary and I think when adults try to be gatekeepers for kids they are denying that children have the same wide berth of emotions as adults. They just don’t always have the tools to manage them. And that is where scary stories step in. It’s a safe kind of fear. It isn’t happening to the reader, they just get to follow along. It allows a kid the opportunity to step into something scary and feel those feelings and then, be the hero at the end! Scary stories are the place where kids learn that sometimes life is scary and that’s OKAY.
Kathie: If you saw a young reader in the library holding your book and deciding whether to check it out, are you the type of author who would go up and speak to them, or quietly smile to yourself and wait to see what they do? If you did speak to them, what would you say to convince them to try it?
Ally:I would definitely wait to see what they did and then, if they did check it out, I would ask them why. And chances are good it would be because of the amazing cover that my illustrator Maike Plenzke created!
Kathie: Are you working on another writing project right now, and where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
Ally:I am! I just turned in a new round of edits to my editor on a new stand alone spooky book called This Appearing House. It is about a girl, Jac, and her best friend Hazel, who get trapped in a haunted house. But it’s also about illness, fear, trauma, and acceptance. I can’t wait for people to read it. It’s slated to be out Summer of 2022 by Katherin Tegen Books. The best place to find out more about my writing and whatever shenanigans I’m up to would be at my website at allymalinenko.com
Kathie: Thanks, Ally, for spending some time with me today. I hope this book will find those young readers who love a scary story just in time for the fall spooky season.
Ally: Thank you so much for having me Kathie! I loved talking with you about spooky books and why they matter! And yes, I joked with my husband that this year Spooky Season starts on August 10th the day Ghost Girl is out!
Ally Malinenko is a poet, novelist, and librarian living in Brooklyn, New York, where she pens her tales in a secret writing closet before dawn each day. Connect with Ally on her website at www.allymalinenko.com