Hi there! It's Daniela, and today we are accompanied by the one and only Em Bailey! When she is not reading or writing, Em is listening to podcasts, biking, or getting lost. Her new book The Special Ones will seriously send chills down your spine once it hits the bookshelves this Tuesday. Aside from The Special Ones, Em has written the novel Shift earning her an Inky Award and the title of “Notable Book” by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. There is no doubt in my mind that The Special Ones will also be an award winning novel. Now, let’s get to it!
Oh, and don't forget to check out the giveaway at the end of this interview. You can win your own copy of The Special Ones!
Daniela: Hi Em! Thank you for joining us today! Your second psychological thriller The Special Ones is coming out on Tuesday. Can you give us a little insight into what we should expect?
Em: Thanks for inviting me! In The Special Ones you can expect a creepy, twisting tale where you are never quite sure who is to be trusted and who is not trying to hide who they really are.
Daniela: To be completely honest, this book gave goosebumps, which is rare.
How did you come up with such amazing plot?
Em: I am so glad to hear it gave you goosebumps! That was definitely my aim. The idea for the book formed slowly. I have always been fascinated by the psychology of cults – why certain people are drawn to them and what kind of person becomes a cult leader. I had read a number of books about infamous cults from the 1970s and started wondering how technology might affect the way a cult was organized and structured today. I also wanted to try and get into the head of someone who once fervently believed in the ideals of cult they belong to, but who now wants just as fervently to escape from its confines.
Daniela: One of my favorite parts of the book was when you took the reader inside the head of "him." How exactly did you know what to write during those chapters?
Em: That was actually really hard. I kept finding that I would slip into writing from the perspective of a ‘normal’ person and I’d have to remind myself to think like a psychopath. What helped a lot was reading The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson in which he lists the most common psychopathic characteristics. I wrote these out and stuck them next to my desk as a reference. It made me very tense writing the ‘him’ sections. I’d often find myself frowning or gritting my teeth and it was always such a relief when I could swap back into Esther’s voice.
Daniela: During the writing process, where you inspired by any horror movies or TV shows?
Em: Here’s a weird confession: I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to watching horror movies. I can’t even read anything scary if I’m alone in the house and it’s dark outside. Most of the research I did for this book (conducted during daylight hours only) focused on first person accounts of living in, and escaping from, cults. I also read a number of very harrowing accounts of children being kidnapped by psychopaths which I wouldn’t recommend. Growing up, two movies that really affected me were Carrie (the original version) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (a very old Australian movie based on a novel by Joan Lindsey). They both have really strong psychological components - especially the psychology of teenage girls - which I think has influenced my own work to this day.
Daniela: To what character do you relate to the most and why?
Em: Hmm, that’s tricky. Because most of the book is written from Esther’s point of view, she is probably the easiest character to understand. I admire her sense of responsibility and her toughness and I think she’s pretty hard on herself, which is something would many people can relate to. She’s made a couple of very bad decisions in her life, but I think she believed at the time she was doing the right thing. I know that scenario all too well! I also have a soft spot for Lucille, although most readers seem to dislike her. She gets treated very badly in the farmhouse and I think her anger is completely justified. I feel a lot of empathy for her.
Daniela: I really liked the rustic living conditions of the farm. In fact, the farm literally kept me up at night. I just couldn't stop reading! What prompted you to choose this kind of lifestyle while the kids were under capture?
Em: As a kid I was always really intrigued by the idea of living in a simple, old-fashioned way – making your own clothes, baking bread, milking cows etc. I was completely obsessed with Little House on the Prairie and it recently occurred to me that the farm is probably slightly inspired by those books. I knew from when I first started planning The Special Ones that I wanted the cult to be an odd juxtaposition of old and new. The ‘special ones’ are supposed to appear to the cult members as if they are living this idyllic, simple, pure lifestyle, far-removed from the stresses of modern life, but in actual fact they are being constantly monitored and controlled by technology.
Daniela: So what other books would you recommend to my fellow thriller/horror fanatics?
Em: At the moment I’m reading a lot of classic, ‘old-school’ horror fiction. I really love Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House is one of the scariest things I’ve ever read (keeping in mind that I am a total wimp, of course!) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle has got a fantastic psychological element running through it. I’m working my way through a collection of stories by M.R. James. They are a little old-fashioned now, but he certainly knew how to construct a scary tale. The Mezzotint in particular really freaked me out. I also recently read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver which slowly builds into something fantastically spooky.
Daniela: From what I have gathered, you used to write children's books. What made you start writing psychological thrillers instead of books about fairies and fantasy?
Em: I still do write for younger children! Luckily for me I have fabulous publishers who are happy for me to write for different age groups. “Em Bailey” is the pen name I use when writing YA. My titles for younger readers are published under my real name, Meredith Badger. It’s great to have this flexibility because I like coming up with story ideas for diverse readerships.
Daniela: Since this is your second horror YA novel, can we expect more? Can you tells us anything about what comes next?
Em: I am in the very early stages of working on my next YA novel, which will (most likely) be a ghost story/thriller with a strong psychological bent. Can’t say too much at this stage though but hopefully it will give you goosebumps too!
That’s it for today’s interview with Em, but don’t leave just yet. We’ve got an amazing giveaway for our readers. Just click on the image below and enter to win your very own copy of The Special Ones. The contest ends on Tuesday, June 11th, and the winner must live in the United States.
Whatever you do, don't forget to come back here next week, when Daijah will be hosting the incredible Claire Lazebnik. Plus, we'll have our biggest giveaway of the month! You don't want to miss it!