Poltergeeks is one of the first titles from Strange Chemistry, a promising new YA imprint. It’s about 15 year old Julie Richardson, who’s trying to deal with being an everyday teenager, as well as being a witch.
Julie is being taught and trained by her mum, which puts even more of a strain on the usual teenager-daughter relationship, and of course, being a teen, Julie tries to take on more than she should.
The joy of this book is that it’s not like the usual YA urban fantasy book – there’s no swooning romance or teenage angst, and thankfully not a vampire in sight! It’s based firmly in reality, where witchcraft is about the ability to harness the power inside, and it’s actually quite easy to believe that this could be going on around us, unseen.
The action starts early on in the book, when Julie comes across an elderly lady thrown out of her house by a poltergeist. It’s soon apparent that there are powerful forces focusing on Julie, and when her mum’s life is put in danger, she has to learn a lot more about her powers and her heritage.
There’s a good balance in the book, of humour, adventure, magic and darkness, and is highly recommended.
I’ll pass over to Sean, who was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Your YA title, Poltergeeks, is published in October – could you tell us a little more about it?
POLTERGEEKS is the story of Julie Richards, teen witch. Her mum is a witch – a very over protective witch, actually. Julie’s father has been dead since she was four years old so she never really knew him. Her best friend is super science nerd Marcus Guffman – they’ve been friends since grade school and both are fairly low on the social ladder at Crescent Ridge High School. The book begins with Julie and Marcus witnessing a little old lady being literally tossed out the front door of her house by a poltergeist and Julie doesn’t take too kindly to spirits laying the boots to little old ladies in her neighbourhood, so she decides spring into action. This leads to an adventure fraught with massive danger, mind-blowing family secrets and the very real possibility of Julie’s mother winding up dead, not to mention Julie and Marcus as well.
Where did the inspiration and ideas come from?
My inspiration for POLTERGEEKS comes from my love of all urban fantasy. That said, the book started off with a title, believe it or not. I distinctly remember coming up with the name and saying to myself that it would make a cool young adult book – if only I could figure out a plot to go with it. So I did a bit of a bullet point outline and then I began to write. It became the little manuscript that could. 🙂
There’s a lot of paranormal fiction out there for teens, how did you aim to make yours stand out?
While most paranormal fiction features a strong female protagonist, what makes this book far different is there is no “nice girl meets mysterious/dangerous bad boy love triangle.” POLTERGEEKS is 100% vampire and were-thing free. The romance is very innocent and unconditional because it’s a voyage of discovery as most first loves are. The relationship between Julie and Marcus builds because Julie has to learn that she actually loves Marcus very much and she doesn’t realize it because he’s always been a fixture in her life. His many sacrifices for her combined with some competition from a Goth girl named Marla teach Julie a valuable lesson about unconditional love. My book is different because it takes place in Canada – Calgary to be specific. Despite the fact that this is an urban fantasy; it’s a very real book with believable characters and a rollercoaster of a plot.
Poltergeeks features witchcraft – did you stick to established ‘rules’ or make up your own?
I borrowed some aspects of witchcraft from a few sources, but in terms of world building, my rules were my own, so it’s actually less about the rules of witchcraft and more about the rules of magic. In POLTERGEEKS, I establish that magic exists in everyone because it is fuelled by the individual’s spirit. If you draw too much on your spirit, you’ll literally burn up – so I cite spontaneous human combustion as a likely practitioner who pushed too hard, too fast.
You’re not new to writing – can you tell us a little about what else you’ve written?
POLTERGEEKS is my fourth book. I have two books in my Valerie Stevens series; SHADE FRIGHT and FUNERAL PALLOR. In these books you have a snarky female practitioner who works for the government in a benign sounding ministry called “Government Services and Infrastructure.” She slams evil in book one – a black mage named Mago plans to kill everyone in Calgary as an offering to summon Satan. In book two, we’ve got zombies, necromancers and head banging fun. My third novel is UNSEEN WORLD – about a 40-something curmudgeon with super powers, a May-December romance and a very bad demon called Grim Geoffrey.
When did you start writing?
I started writing every day back in 1978 when I was in grade five. I started writing to get published more than twenty years ago when my now grown son was in diapers and there was no Internet.
What made you move into the YA genre this time?
The challenge. I wanted to see if I could do it – that’s sort of how I motivate myself to explore other genres and age groups. POLTERGEEKS has been a blessing. It’s the book that found me an agent and got me a two book deal with Angry Robot Books new imprint STRANGE CHEMISTRY BOOKS.
So what lies ahead for you, what are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m finishing revisions on the second in the POLTERGEEKS series – STUDENT BODIES. It’s a very dark book where Julie must come face to face with the responsibilities associated with her place in life. There is death, there is heartache. There is ice cold terror. As well, my agent is shopping an urban fantasy called TIM REAPER – he’s basically a grim reaper in human form – the UF version of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. And I need to do revisions on the first in a YA post-apocalyptic trilogy – book one is called THE NORTH. It’s six months after the zombie apocalypse and a rag-tag group of teens in the Canadian Militia are going hatches down to bust out of the zombie filled city to the north country and the promise of a new start.
Tell us a little about you as a reader, what do you like to read, and what are you reading at the moment?
I read every day. I have a great love of military history. I enjoy reading science fiction and fantasy. I’m currently reading BLACKWOOD by fellow Strange Chemistry author Gwenda Bond. It’s a fab read. 🙂
When not writing or reading, what else do you like to do?
I love to cook. I hang out with my spouse. I bug the hell out of my grown up son. I’m a big antique car lover and I also try to motivate my very lazy cats. 🙂