Author Interview: Katherine McKay on "My House Eats People"

Ana: Katherine, an excerpt from your novel “My House Eats People” was submitted in the ABNA 2010 contest. You provided us with a truly scary and original storyline: the narrator’s house was slowly eating the family members - day by day, the child would come how to find that another family member had simply… disappeared. If that wasn’t creepy enough, the piles of junk and clothing in the house start to form into moving creatures that stalk the house at night in a state of apparent torment. Can you tell us more about your novel and where it goes from the end of the excerpt? What sorts of themes do you explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience?

Katherine: Well, that's an interesting question. I never set out to write a book about a house that eats people! The book was meant to be set somewhere else entirely - not only another house, but also in another dimension. But when I was writing the beginning, I had the idea of "wouldn't it be funny if the parents didn't just disappear - they disappeared from their own house?" Then I casually went on and wrote a different book entirely...until the input of two agents (and plenty of other people online) resulted in not one, but two, re-writes! The second, and I hope final, re-write is going on right now.

So what's going to happen now, at last, is that the house is the centre of the story and becomes a monster the kids have to fight. Hopefully it will terrify kids but make them laugh at the same time, never becoming TOO dark but still living up to the scary opening chapters!

Ana: There's a lot to be said for scary children's stories - I think a lot of readers crave a good scare, no matter what their age! What was your inspiration when writing your novel? Were you influenced by a specific author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre?

Katherine: No particular writers...although I loved reading as a child, it was more straightforward adventure stories such as Enid Blyton. I'm probably more influenced in terms of story by TV programmes such as Buffy or the new Dr Who. I've always wanted to write books though! Children's books have become so exciting in the past 10-15 years. Once I accepted that you don't have to be as good as someone like Philip Pullman, I thought - why not have a go?

Ana: When I first read the excerpt for “My House Eats People”, I was reminded strongly of Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline”, with the overall theme of being truly unsafe in a place that is traditionally considered our haven - if you’re not safe in your own home, then where can you possibly go for respite? If you could compare your novel to any other existing work, which one would it be and why?

Katherine: Actually doing these re-writes, I'm most influenced by "The Sea, The Sea" by Iris Murdoch! Not in style, talent or intelligence because she was a Cambridge professor, philosopher and amazing writer - but the theme and the sense that anything could happen.

Ana: Is this your first or only finished work, or have you written other novels? If you have written other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Katherine: I wrote a book over ten years ago - a 90's book about twentysomethings being neurotic - yawn! But with my two re-writes, I've got plenty of stuff I can recycle in future books! I'd definitely want to write a sequel to this book. I've also got an idea for a ghost story set on the mudflats of the East English coast - not the most glamourous setting!

Ana: Haha, I think many classic gothic novels could be improved with the addition of mud! I was first introduced to your novel through the Amazon Breakthrough Award contest of 2010. What prompted you to enter the contest, and what were your overall feelings towards the contest in general?

Katherine: I entered by chance, having seen it mentioned on another website. I thought I'd be disqualified because my book is technically a children's book. On the other hand plenty of adults have liked it too!

Ana: Are you currently published or self-published? Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? If you’re not currently published, how can readers “sign up” to be notified when your novel does become available?

Katherine: I'm not published yet. However, after many ups and downs, and failed hopes, I have just signed with a major British agent, so I'm incredibly happy about that! Providing he likes my re-write, my book will be going to publishers in a few months' time. Of course there's a long way to go but having an agent has given my hopes a real boost.

Ana: Katherine, thank you so very much for being willing to participate in this guest blog interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Katherine: No, just to thank you for being so interested and for running your website. And I'm sorry, I don't have any photos that don't make me look like a crazy witch - although I'll keep looking!


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