Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Today, I’m honored to welcome my friend and awesome author, Holly Schindler, whose latest YA novel, FERAL, arrived this past August.

Here’s the flap copy for FERAL:
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.

Here’s what Holly had to say about FERAL and thrillers and supernatural elements and other things. And after the interview, some cool links!

Joy: FERAL is a psychological thriller.  What were some of your influences in this genre?

Holly: I’m a giant vintage movie buff.  Love old horror flicks (if it’s black and white and features a creature rising out of a lagoon or growing hair on fast-forward or even a few vampire cowboys, I’m totally in).  I also love Hitchcock (REAR WINDOW might be my favorite). 
FERAL really is a psychological thriller in the classic sense.  The book features Hitchockian pace and attention to character development.  While FERAL incorporates elements of other genres—horror, mystery, paranormal—the primary focus is on the “psychological,” or the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain.  (As a side-note, my first book, A BLUE SO DARK, also focused on some psychological issues—in that book, I tackled mental illness and creativity.  Isn’t the mind just a mysterious and magical place?)
We don’t really see much right now in the way of psychological thrillers, especially at the box office.  Trying to brainstorm a few more modern psychological thriller movies I’ve seen and loved, I get to WHAT LIES BENEATH or MEMENTO, then start to stall out…But I saw those ages ago, in college!  It’s a genre I’d love to see more of, frankly.
Speaking of WHAT LIES BENEATH, though—that’s a movie that really makes fantastic use of the water metaphor.  It shows up often in psychological thrillers (PSYCHO’s shower scene, for example) as a symbol for the subconscious or unconscious mind.  The water metaphor is used in FERAL too—in the form of an ice storm that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state.
Basically, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—even those feral cats…

Joy: The title clearly refers to the cats which play a large role in the plot.  Interestingly, this is not the first YA novel I’ve read that uses them as part of a thriller—The Turning: What Curiosity Kills, by Helen Ellis (Sourcebooks) created a very creepy story with them.  But as for you—what drew you to incorporate felines in the way you use them in this novel?

Holly: Part of it turned out to be me playing with some of those conventions of the psychological thriller…A few reviewers have smartly pointed to the ferals as a nod to Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. 
But a big part of it is that I also wanted Peculiar to be full of parallels to Chicago.  I wanted Peculiar to be no escape at all.  I needed a gang to be relentlessly pursuing Claire.  As a lifelong Missouri girl, I know firsthand how the feral cat / barn cat population can explode in rural areas, and I thought it was the perfect rural “gang.”  
One of the cats—Sweet Pea—also turns out to be a way to show readers visually what Claire thinks of her own body, post-beating.
In addition, the word “feral” means “wild” and “savage”—which is a perfect way to describe the beating Claire survived in the Chicago alley, and the scene in the woods when Serena’s body is discovered, and Claire’s nightmares, and the way the ghosts in the town fog behave…“Feral” is a description of where Claire is mentally as the novel progresses…

Joy: What are the most challenging elements of writing a thriller, particularly one that doesn’t shy away from violence and gore?  What have been the most enjoyable moments?  What drew you to incorporate a more paranormal element within crafting a thriller?

Holly: The paranormal element plays into yet another convention of the psychological thriller: the attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal.  Claire witnesses the spirit of the murdered Serena Sims falling into an old feral cat; she sees spirits of the dead in the town fog; but why doesn’t anyone else see the same things?  What can Claire believe in?  What can she trust?  The end of FERAL—and the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar—offer an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche.
Most challenging?  It doesn’t matter what the genre is—I always find that writing dramatic scenes are the toughest.  I have an incredible amount of respect for authors who consistent write action-oriented work.  It’s seriously tough stuff. 
By contrast, I always find metaphorical writing the most fun and easiest.  In fact, in some ways, FERAL is the most metaphorical book I’ve ever written.  The central theme is recovering from violence.  That’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too.  In the end, the entire book—everything that happens to Claire—is a metaphor for the frightening process of recovery. 

Joy: Why YA?  That is—why YA for this specific story and why YA for you as a writer?

Holly: I dove headfirst into my writing career when I got my master’s in ’01 (which was only possible because of incredible family support).  At the time, I was drafting only adult work.  But in order to pay my own bills, I was teaching music lessons: piano and guitar.  I was so surprised at how familiar my young students seemed to me.  So much like the kids I’d known when I was in school.  They inspired me to try my hand at writing in the juvenile market.
I always say it’s funny—I thought those students would give me some cash.  I never would have suspected they’d give me career direction, too!

Joy: Tell us something (or a bunch of stuff) we might not know about Holly Schindler:

Holly: I have a spoiled Pekingese (Jake) who likes to talk on the phone (not joking).
I have rotten eyesight (20/700 vision!), but now think of my glasses as another piece of jewelry.
I have been knitting the same sweater since 2007.
I have double-jointed elbows.  Good for yoga.  Bad for volleyball.
I’m a music nut, and met just about every hair-metal band of the late ‘80s / early ‘90s.
My first concert was Kiss—and the reason behind my belief that all author events should have more pyro.

Joy: What’s next for you?

Holly: I’ve written my next MG and YA, and will be branching out into new genres soon.  Stay up to date with the latest on Twitter: @holly_schindler and Facebook:

And here’s some more about Holly!

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, 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:
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Rafflecopter form for a giveaway of a signed copy of FERAL (running from Sept. 27- Oct. 13):


rhonda said...

It sounds very chilling a yay novel perfect for adults.

Hannah J said...

Psychological thriller AND metaphors? Where has this book been all my life?! Cannot wait to read; it sounds just amazing.

Christina C. said...

It sounds like the kind of book I've been wanting to read, plus I've seen the book around on Goodreads.

Kyla said...

I am actually looking forward to a lot of things in this book. The synopsis has really intrigued me and it left me wanting more. I am totally crossing my fingers for this one!

Ailla @Le Bibliophile~ said...

Aside from the thrilling cover and exciting synopsis? Well, the fact that it IS a psychological thriller gets me excited.Looking forward to it!

Ailla @Le Bibliophile~ said...

Aside from the thrilling cover and exciting synopsis? Well, the fact that it IS a psychological thriller gets me excited.Looking forward to it!

Ailla @Le Bibliophile~ said...

Aside from the thrilling cover and exciting synopsis? Well, the fact that it IS a psychological thriller gets me excited.Looking forward to it!