Monday, September 29, 2014

Giveaway & interview with Holly Schindler, author of FERAL #ya #thriller

Today we're celebrating the release of Feral, by Holly Schindler with an author interview.

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.
On to my interview questions! Holly's answers are very detailed and provide a lot of insight into her writing process and the inside story of Feral. Read through, there are buy links and a giveaway below, plus the trailer.

Where / how did you come up with the idea for your story?  Did it suddenly pop into your head or were you brainstorming?

A middle school near my home has a couple of markers under some trees out front, honoring students who passed away while they were going to school there.  I was walking my dog, staring at the markers, when I got the idea for a mystery that took place at a middle school.  The first draft of FERAL was actually an MG mystery about a tween girl solving a cold case. 

The revision process began to make the book increasingly darker, though.  That’s when I realized the book needed to be bumped into the YA category.

Did you start with the main character, the world, or the overarching concept?

I started with the initial murder mystery.  The circumstances regarding Serena’s death do remain the same in the final published version.  But that’s one of the few similarities. 

My original protagonist didn’t fit anymore, once the book was a YA.  She really was thirteen.  And I needed a seventeen-year-old.  So I brainstormed a new main character—when I discovered Claire’s backstory, I knew the book needed to be a psychological thriller.

Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL incorporates elements of other genres: mystery, horror, and paranormal, but the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action.  The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). 

Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting.  The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and in this instance is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state).  The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley.  Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. 

Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too.  The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail. 

So the overall process was: plotting out the murder mystery, then finding my main character, then using the world of the psychological thriller to further explore and develop the central theme.

Pantser or Plotter?  Or in between?

Plotter when writing my first drafts (though I always suspect it will change, I have to know what my initial aim is, where I want to wind up, what point I want to make).  When I revise, I’m a pantser.  I let my book and my characters talk to me, tell me what they want to be, where they need to go.  That often means I move my books into different age groups and genres.  It often means I tackle different or additional themes than I had originally planned on.  But that’s a big part of what makes revision the most exciting part of the process.
[Host comment] I think that's the combination I'm aiming for, and I love revisions too.

Are you a fan of writing contests?

Absolutely.  I entered several as I was trying to snag my first book sale.  I remember I was several years into the pursuit when I submitted to Delacorte’s First YA Novel contest.  I didn’t win, but the book was returned with a note that said, “This has potential.”  For some reason, I latched onto that, and focused the bulk of my energy on revising and submitting that book.  It turned out to be my first published novel—A BLUE SO DARK, which released in ’10.

How did you find your agent?  How many query letters did you send?

I got my agent through an old-school query letter, actually.  That’s also how I sold my first two YAs, as well—I solidified those deals before I started working with my agent.  I’m a BIG believer in the power of a good query. 

As far as how many letters it took…I know my first published book was rejected over 80 times.  But I had drafted and submitted many other books before that.  If I was averaging close to 100 rejections per book, it had to have taken somewhere around a thousand rejections (to both agents and editors) to get my first yes.

And don’t think that revision stops once you get representation or sell a few books.  It doesn’t.  It took my agent a year and a half to sell my first MG (THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY) and a year to sell FERAL.  I’ve been through it so many times, rejection has become the least of my concerns, believe it or not.

What’s the best marketing tool you’ve found so far?

The blogosphere.  Skype.  Twitter.  Travel is expensive and isn’t necessarily effective.  I thoroughly enjoy interacting with my readers and encourage them to get in touch.  You can always reach me directly through the contact page on my website, or email me at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

What do you like best about your MC?

She’s tough.  Really tough.  A true survivor.

What do you like best about your main antagonist?

That he / she is not easy to identify.  Who IS Claire’s antagonist?  Serena’s ghost?  The spirits in the Peculiar cemetery?  The feral cats who follow her?  Or is it herself?

Anything else you like to share about your journey or launch, including links to giveaways or ways people can help spread the word?

You bet.  Here’s the Rafflectopter form for a giveaway of a signed copy of FERAL, running from Sept. 27- Oct. 13:


FERAL jacket copy:
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
Holly Schindler Bio:
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs). 
 Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud.  Kirkus Reviews called THE JUNCTION “...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” 
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller.  Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”

Schindler encourages readers to get in touch.  Booksellers, teen librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits.  She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at,, @holly_schindler,, and

FERAL Trailer:


  1. I love psychological thrillers and this sounds very intense. Thank you so much for sharing the development of this book with us!

  2. This book sounds amazing. I love intense psychological thrillers.