Interview with Majanka Verstraete, author of the Weirdville series






Majanka Verstraete begged her Mom to teach her how to read while she was still in kindergarten. By the time she finished fifth grade, she had read through the entire children’s section of her hometown library.
 

She wrote her first story when she was seven years old, and hasn’t stopped writing since. With an imagination that never sleeps, and hundreds of possible book characters screaming for her attention, writing is more than a passion for her.
 
She writes about all things supernatural for children of all ages. She’s tried to write contemporary novels before, but something paranormal always manages to crawl in.
Majanka is currently studying for her Master of Laws degree, and hopes one day to be able to combine her passions for law and writing. When she’s not writing, reading or studying, she likes watching “The Vampire Diaries” and “Game of Thrones,” spending time with her friends, or playing “World of Warcraft.”

Visit her website at http://majankaverstraete.com.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I’ve always wanted to write something like the Weirdville series – scary chapter books for kids. When I was younger, I devoured the Goosebumps series, and the Fear Street books. The Fear Street books had one thing in common: the main characters all lived in Fear Street. I always dreamed of creating something like that, a town where scary things happen to ordinary people, and where nothing is impossible. Weirdville was born.

The first book in the series had to be something special, so I started wondering about some of my own fears when I was a kid. I settled for dolls in the end, because I still find them scary, even today (especially porcelain dolls, with eyes that follow you everywhere). But I didn’t just want to write another story about a haunted doll. I wanted the kids to be the actors – instead of having things happen to them, they had to take charge, had to act. So I wrote The Doll Maker, not only making the kids main characters, but also the heroes of the book.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?


Writing chapter books is tough. People think it’s easy because most books are 10,000 to 15,000 words, which is a lot shorter than adult novels. But you need to tell a story in a short amount of time, and your story needs to fit your audience. Writing for kids in particular is tough because one kid may be terrified of dolls, but another kid won’t be afraid of them at all. You have to make the books scary, but you can’t make them too scared. Freak them out a little, but don’t give them nightmares for the rest of their lives. It’s tough finding that balance.

In my books, I tried to do this by feeding on basic fears we all have as a child. In The Doll Maker, the main character is not only afraid of dolls, but also afraid something will happen to his sister. House of Horrors is all about exploring fears, from the fear of being chased by a wicked witch to the fear of being bullied. Fright Train focuses on the main character’s fear of traveling by train on his own.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is Evolved Publishing, a small indie press. So far, I’ve loved working with them. The editor took my books and my writing to a new level, the covers are amazing, and now they’ve even worked on audiobook versions of my books. What more could an author want?

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

There were a lot of things that surprised me. I had no idea how editing worked with this particular publisher – it’s a rigorous process – how we’d handle the cover art, or how the book would have to be formatted, and so on. It’s been a great experience full of surprises.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I submitted the fourth Weirdville book to my publisher earlier this year. It’s titled Drowning in Fear. I’m now working on the manuscripts for number five and six in the series, The Clumsy Magician and Grave Error. If all goes well, Drowning in Fear will be released in July, The Clumsy Magician in September, and Grave Error in December.

My picture book, Valentina and the Masked Mummy, will release on June 2nd (so less than a month!). I’m working on edits for it right now.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I usually hang out on the AbsoluteWrite forums. They’re forums for writers, and a great place to meet fellow authors, or learn all about new publishers, or magazines looking for submissions.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

That you shouldn’t be afraid. No matter how bad things get, you shouldn’t be afraid. Like the main characters in my book, you’ve got to hang out. Don’t give up. Fight back. No matter what life throws at you, you can face it.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog! It’s been a blast to reply to your questions. 

About the Books:

Derek’s little sister wants one of those creepy-looking dolls, staring at him from the strange new doll shop in town, and what his sister wants, she gets. Now they’re stuck with a doll that looks so human, it gives Derek the creeps.

When Derek tells his friends, Martin and Jamie, about the new shop with creepy human-like dolls, they want to see for themselves. That has “bad idea” written all over it, but he takes his friends there anyway.

They meet the mysterious doll maker, who reminds Derek of Dr. Frankenstein, and who brainwashes Martin into buying one of those scary dolls. Derek and Jamie push and pull Martin out of the shop, but something isn’t right with their friend. He’s shivering all over, and he has no memory of what happened in the shop.

Martin’s condition worsens every day, and Derek’s sister grows more and more obsessed with her new doll. Derek and Jamie have to find out what’s going on, and fast, because...

...the doll maker seems linked to a bunch of mysterious disappearances, and the last thing Derek wants is his sister, or his friend, being next on the doll maker’s list.
This book is only $0.99 (eBook) and serves as a great introduction to the series! 


Purchase at Amazon.



When her parents allow her to go to the fair, Jacky is over the moon. The fair is most famous for its haunted mansion, the House of Horrors, and her friend Ben can’t wait to try it out. Her best friend, Cass, is a little more reluctant, but then again, Cass has always been a chicken when it comes to getting scared.

Jacky and Cass are determined to act tough, so when Ben suggests they try out the House of Horrors, the girls tag along, even though the place gives them the chills.

As soon as the three of them enter the spooky monstrosity, the ride comes to a screeching halt, and the horror begins.

The lights fade, and a hooded figure appears and tells them they’re stuck in a twisted game of cat and mouse. He will show them their worst fears, and if the kids manage to face down those fears, they’ll have a chance of getting out of the House of Horrors alive. If they don’t, well....

Thirty minutes to go. Thirty minutes to face their nightmares... and the clock is ticking.


Purchase at Amazon.
 


Charlie’s parents drop him off at the train station so he can visit his grandma in Weirdville. It’s a cold winter evening, so when his usual train is cancelled at the last second, Charlie wishes he’d stayed home.

An hour later, shivering from the cold, he climbs onboard the next train to Weirdville, even though he’d rather not. It looks like something straight out of the nineteenth century, as if it used a time machine to arrive at the station.

His shivering doesn’t stop, for soon after Charlie boards, he realizes just how right he was to be wary of this strange train. Something is seriously wrong with all the people onboard. If only he could figure out what was going on. If only he could get off the train.


Purchase at Amazon.

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