COVER REVEAL for The Nightmare House by Sarah Allen

Shari: Hi Sarah! I’m delighted that you asked MG Book Village to be part of your cover reveal for your new MG horror book, THE NIGHTMARE HOUSE, which is due out in August 2023. I’m dying to know more about your book! 

Sarah: Hooray!! This is the spooky book of my heart and I can’t wait to share it with everyone! Here is the fancy and official publisher’s description:

Penny Hope used to be brave, but that was before she met the Fear Maker. Years later, he still haunts her nightmares—a tall, thin man with red eyes, in a haunted house in the woods, who devours human souls and leaves their eyes hollow and empty. Penny’s beloved grandma tells her to write down these nightmares as poems in her notebook. But then Penny starts seeing blank-eyed people in the waking world, too. She’s the only one who notices.

As more people around her fall prey to the Fear Maker, Penny must gather her courage once and for all to save the souls of those she loves. With the help of a magic garden and a new friend, she ventures to the Fear Maker’s house. But the house is a labyrinth of shadows and tricks—and the Fear Maker’s fun is just beginning. Can a pocketful of sunflower seeds and a notebook filled with poems be enough to defeat a master of nightmares? And if Penny sets foot in the Fear Maker’s house, will she ever leave?

Shari: Oh wow, that sounds so eerily compelling! How would you describe your main character, Penny Hope, and what quality does she possess that will help her most in this story?

Sarah: Oh my sweet Penny! Penny cares a lot, and is afraid a lot. She loves poetry, which she learned from her Grandma. And really, her winning quality is in her name! She’s able to cling to just a penny’s worth of hope and use that to fight her battle against the Fear Maker.

Shari: Can I just say I love that so much! I already can’t wait to meet Penny! Where did the idea for the Fear Maker come from, and what was the most fun (or most challenging) aspect of writing a monstrous villain?

Sarah: The Fear Maker was a lot of fun and very cathartic to write. I’ve dealt with anxiety for a lot of my life and I thought it would be incredibly satisfying to personify the fight against fear and anxiety. To make the creator of anxiety an actual monster you can take up arms against. And it was! I often think of the ending of the movie Labyrinth, and in a lot of ways, writing The Fear Maker was my way of looking my fear in the eye and saying, “You have no power over me.”

Shari: What drew you to writing a horror story? Did you read a lot of horror growing up?

Sarah: I’ve gotten this question from several friends and family, since this book is such a departure from my first two! I’ve always had a bit of a spooky streak in me, and one of my favorite authors growing up was Roald Dahl. I must have read The Witches a hundred times. Another favorite as I grew up was Neil Gaiman. If readers feel like this book fits nicely alongside theirs, I will be thrilled and honored!

Shari: Please tell us about the cover of your book, and who designed it? Did you have any involvement in the process?

Sarah: Yay!! I’m so excited to squee about this. The cover artist is the incredible Angie Hewitt, who you can find on Twitter and Instagram. My editor sent me clips from Angie’s portfolio and truly my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe how perfectly her work fit the feel of Nightmare House. She even had haunted, blank-eyed characters already in her work! I gave an enthusiastic heck yes and from there, Angie and amazing cover designer Mallory Grigg did their thing and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I feel very, very lucky in my cover artists.

Shari: It’s time for the big reveal!

Shari: When I saw this, my jaw dropped! It is so delightfully creepy, and the color palette really makes it stand out! What were your thoughts when you first saw it? Is there an element that stands out for you or that you particularly like?

Sarah: I literally squealed with excitement when I saw it! I got Coraline vibes, which is exactly what I hoped for. I am obsessed with the spooky title font, and the fact that Angie got Penny’s Van Gogh sunflower notebook on there! I knew this cover was going to be a tough balancing act, because it is squarely middle grade, but I didn’t want it to come off as too youthful or…twee? Angie pulled it off perfectly.

Shari: I agree – it is truly fantastic! While we wait until next August to read this spooky story, where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?

Sarah: I am available all the places! I try and keep my website up-to-date, I’ve got a quarterly newsletter that will be going out at the end of this month, and I’m on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and basically all the socials @sarahallenbooks! I love when readers reach out 🙂

Shari: I’m very excited to read this book, especially since I loved your debut, What Stars Are Made Of! Your second book, Breathing Underwater, is on my shelf waiting to be read – soon, I hope! Thank you so much for letting me be part of the cover reveal and chatting with me today.

Sarah: Truly my honor and pleasure! Thanks for all the work you guys do here at MG Book Village. Some of the best books being published are middle grade and we need places like this to talk about them! 

Sarah Allen is a poet and author of books for young readers. Her upcoming middle grade horror, THE NIGHTMARE HOUSE, releases in August of 2023. Her first book, WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF, was an ALA Notable Book of 2020 and Whitney Award Winner, and her second, BREATHING UNDERWATER, was a Jr. Library Guild Selection for 2021. Born and raised in Utah, she received an MFA in creative writing from Brigham Young University, and now lives in the Des Moines area. She spends her non-writing time watching David Attenborough documentaries and singing show-tunes too loudly, both of which do an excellent job of fending off her own Fear Maker. You can learn more on her website or find her on all the socials @sarahallenbooks.

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