Shari: It’s spooky season, and I am so excited to share this interview with Fleur Bradley, author of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, and the recently released thriller Daybreak on Raven Island!
Hi Fleur! Welcome to MG Book Village! I’m such a fan of your books, so I am really excited to chat with you today about your new spooky novel, Daybreak on Raven Island! The book is out now, making it a perfect read for Halloween season. What would you like to tell us about Daybreak?
Fleur: For my previous book, Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I was inspired by the Stanley Hotel here in Colorado. When it came time to write the next book, I wanted the setting to be super scary, so I instantly thought of Alcatraz.
Daybreak on Raven Island is set on Raven Island, a fictional version of Alcatraz. Marvin, Noah and Tori miss the ferry off the island after a field trip, and have to spend the night. There’s an abandoned prison, a lighthouse, a morgue, and a whole lot of ghosts. The three kids have to work together to solve a decades old mystery surrounding a prison break, plus a murder mystery…
It’s Alfred Hitchcock for kids.
Shari: Daybreak has three main characters, who are all going through their own struggles, and aren’t even close to being friends at the beginning. Can you tell us how Tori, Marvin, and Noah came to be your main characters, and how you created three character arcs within an overarching suspense-horror-mystery?
Fleur: The characters took a while to flesh out. I wanted three kids who basically would not sit together in the cafeteria, and show how they actually make great friends. Noah has a lot of anxiety and is the new kid at school, Tori is dealing with a lot of anger because her brother is in prison, and Marvin really wants to make a scary movie but misses his best friend who just moved away.
As a writer, I know I’m getting somewhere with the characters when I start to enjoy spending time with them. Tori, Marvin and Noah each have distinct arcs, so they feel very real to me.
Shari: Daybreak is a horror story, but also a mystery with historical aspects. What was the inspiration for this story, and what did you enjoy most about weaving these aspects together?
Fleur: I took the (real-life) 1962 Alcatraz escape of three prisoners as my inspiration. Those three men made it off the island and were never seen again, and I wondered: could they have made it alive? How?
With Daybreak on Raven Island, I had fun imagining what could’ve happened. Creating an imaginary island based on a real one allowed me to make it what I want, while still nodding to the original prison break and Alcatraz’s history.
Shari: Did you read a lot of mysteries and horror books as a kid, and what do you enjoy most about writing spooky mysteries for kids?
Fleur: I mostly read Roald Dahl as a kid, so not a lot of whodunit type mysteries. They just weren’t as available. When I was about twelve, I read my way through the children’s department at the library, and a very kind librarian gave me Agatha Christie books (since there was no YA at the time). I fell in love with the genre.
I love the puzzle of a mystery, both as a reader and a writer. I like trying to figure out the whodunit and spotting the clues as a reader; as a writer, it’s fun to guide the reader along to the solution of a mystery. With Daybreak on Raven Island, I really focused on blending strong character arcs with a fun, scary mystery to solve.
As for horror, I love reading it as an adult, but really didn’t read any as a kid. But I loved horror TV shows like The Outer Limits, Tales From The Crypt, and The Twilight Zone, so lots of horror influences there. And Alfred Hitchcock, of course.
Shari: Young readers will truly love Daybreak. What message do you hope will stick with them after reading?
Fleur: I hope kids take away from the story that it’s good to share it if you’re struggling with something. Often, we carry problems around and feel like others won’t understand. It’s through sharing that we’re stronger, because then we’re not alone.
Shari: My students and I loved Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. How was writing Daybreak different, and what projects are you working on next, if you can tell us?
Fleur: I always imagined that Daybreak on Raven Island is the book that readers move on to after Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, so it reads just a little older. It was fun to make it extra scary, and really go with the horror elements in the book.
Next up, I’m writing another scary mystery, but for younger MG. I’m editing it now, and then it will go out on submission. I’m really excited about this book, but it’ll be a while before it’s out in the world!
Shari: I can’t wait for that! What are your favorite books to read this time of year? Do you have any spooky recommendations for our readers, if they have enjoyed your books?
Fleur: I’m really enjoying scary MG this time of year… Well, any time of year, really.
I’m reading Lindsay Currie’s The Girl in White right now (so good!) and Erin Petti’s Thelma Bee in Toil and Treble, loving that book very much. I’m looking forward to Ira Marck’s Spirit Week next month. I’m part of a group called Spooky MG, and the writers put out some amazing books. Whenever I run out of books to read, I check to see if any of my Spooky MG authors have anything new out.
Shari: I love the Spooky Middle Grade website! (https://spookymiddlegrade.com/) I have referred to it several times when looking for spooky books for my readers! Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your writing?
Fleur: Check out my website www.ftbradley.com or follow me on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.
Shari: Thank you so much for joining us today, Fleur, and sharing about your fantastic new book!
Fleur: Anytime! I hope you enjoy spooky season…
Fleur Bradley is the author of the (scary) middle-grade mystery Daybreak on Raven Island, and award-winning mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking/Penguin Random House).
Her story The Perfect Alibi appeared in Mystery Writers of America’s middle-grade anthology Super Puzzletastic Mysteries, edited by Chris Grabenstein (HarperCollins).
Fleur regularly does school and Skype visits, as well as librarian and educator conference talks on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, she now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two daughters, and entirely too many rescue animals.