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  • Writer's pictureAshley Cardy

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

I have a deep love and respect for history and have had for as long as I can remember. It doesn't matter the time period - I love it all! But I have an extra soft spot for WWII historical fiction. I think that love was born over my grandma's kitchen table where I sat with Oreo's and apple juice and listened to my grandpa tell me stories about when he was in the Canadian Air Force during the war. He had photos, pieces of shrapnel. I never tired of hearing those stories. As I grew older that translated into a love of WWII historical fiction novels. Another thing I adore is mystery novels and Agatha Christie, so when I came across Death At Greenway, I knew that I needed to read it right away! Set against the beautiful backdrop of Agatha Christie's holiday home and taking place during WWII, it explores a topic I have not read about in fiction yet - the child evacuees that had to leave London during this time. Filled with atmosphere, mystery and the beautiful exploration of female friendship, I could not put it down. I adored this book, and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery, atmosphere and well developed characters that definitely work their way into your heart. Now, without further ado, let's get to the interview with the author of Death At Greenway, Lori Rader Day!

Ashley: Hi Lori! Before we begin chatting about your novel, are you able to tell us a bit more about yourself?

Lori: I’m Midwest born and raised, love to read, certified dog person, and prefer my hot tea served English with milk.

Ashley: When did your love of reading begin, and when did you realize that you wanted to become an author?

Lori: I loved to be read to as a child and became a big reader when my mom took me to the public library. I do remember realizing, at age six or seven, that authors existed, that the name on the book was the person who created the stories I loved. I realized there were people doing this, which meant—hey, I’m a person! Maybe I could try. I didn’t get very far for a long time, but always wanted to be that person.

Ashley: What books have had the biggest impact on you throughout your life?

Lori: The first books I loved were the Ramona Quimby books, then Judy Blume’s teen books and Lois Duncan’s creepy teen books. My favorite all-time kid book is the From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsberg. As a writer, I suspect I’ve been chasing the adult story of that mystery adventure all along. I got into Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark around age eleven, and both have had a life-long effect on the way my writing career has gone. I won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for my second novel, Little Pretty Things, and Agatha Christie was a source for my latest book.

Ashley: For our readers who may not have read Death At Greenway yet, can you share what it is about?

Lori: Death at Greenway is based in part on the fact that Agatha Christie’s beloved holiday home in South Devon, England, was used to house child war refugees during World War II, children evacuated from their homes in London to escape—they hoped—bombs. When I learned this fact, I knew I wanted to read that story. The problem was, no one had written it yet.

Ashley: Death At Greenway is told mainly through Bridey’s point of view, but we also have multiple other characters that share their point of view in chapters peppered throughout the novel. I really enjoyed this – it allowed me to learn more about their motivations and to see things that were happening in the novel from different points of view. Why did you choose to tell the story in this way, and what do you think the story would have lost without these multiple points of view?

Lori: In some ways, I think I may have been hedging my bets that I could “claim” an authentic British, 1940s voice in a single character. I was hesitant to try, to begin with. But also, as I researched, I discovered information about the real people who had been involved in this episode and the people who lived at Greenway, on the estate, who worked in the house for the Mallowans (Agatha and her second husband). The research was rich, and generative, so that I could start to understand some of the hardships these people had gone through before they arrived at Greenway, so much story potential that I didn’t want to leave behind. For instance, the butler had, as a child, lost his mother young and had spent some time in a boys’ home when his father went to the workhouse (for debts). I didn’t think a man who had suffered such things would be cold toward these children arriving to this luxury house—he would be kinder to them than I had imagined upon hearing a BUTLER was running the household. He was also a veteran of the first World War. I knew he would have things worth saying, and the story of Death at Greenway would have been much thinner without him.

Ashley: Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery! I am slowly working my way through reading all of the Hercule Poirot series and I just love it! I did not know that Greenway was, in fact, used during WWII for children that were sent out of London. What inspired you to tell this story?

Lori: I discovered this historical episode in a nonfiction book about Agatha Christie, a throw-away fact in about six or seven words, not even a full sentence. I was reading in bed, and I sat up, I was that excited. One of my all-time favorite movies from childhood (and now—I still sing one of the songs to my dog) is Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It’s an early Disney movie, one of the first that uses live action mixed with animation, and it stars a young Angela Lansbury as an apprentice witch who is forced to take in evacuated children from London. So my first thought was: Bedknobs and Broomsticks at Agatha Christie’s house! Now, as I researched, I discovered the children at Greenway were very young—not great for the story I imagined, not great for a crime novel. So I had to find someone else within the the history to take on adventure and intrigue. The two “hospital nurses” Agatha Christie mentions in her autobiography were otherwise lost to history, so they took on the role. Bridey and Gigi, two young women named Bridget, who may not be what they seem.

Ashley: When Bridey finally gets around to reading some of the Mistress’ books, she notes that “The books were full of ghastly stories, but she was strangely comforted by them. Murders on trains, in river boats, on a golf course…” What are your favorite Christie novels?

Lori: I love The Murder of Roger Akroyd, And Then There Were None, all the best-of, but there were a few I read specifically for this book that I have grown to love. Dead Man’s Folly is the book that uses Greenway as location, with place and people renamed, and it was great to read that book to hear how Agatha described the lands, the paths, the boathouse on her own property. I’m a Marple fan, primarily, but I also liked reading N or M? which is a Tommy and Tuppence book Agatha wrote about the WWII years. It was helpful in that I got to understand better what British people worried about during the war, namely “the fifth column,” or British sympathizers of the Nazis helping to sneak them into the country. Greenway is near the English Channel (not a great place to evacuate to, really), so that would have been a real fear for that region. Strangers would not have been as welcome as they might have been elsewhere.

Ashley: Near the beginning of the novel, we see Bridget meeting Mrs. Arbuthnot at the train station for the first time as they are there to take child evacuees out of London and to the country side. Mrs. Arbuthnot says “Now I’ve raised a few of my own, and when the time comes to part with them, I’m afraid it will be difficult. Be gentle but firm. This is their child’s last chance for safety, and they must understand the sacrifice, though difficult to bear, is necessary.” I cannot imagine being parted from a child at this time – hoping that someone else can keep them safe, often when your spouse was already away fighting in the war. I think that, when looking back on this time, it is easy to overlook what the women and children had to go through as well. What did your research process look like for this novel, and what are some things that you think people would be surprised to learn about the evacuees and the people that looked after them?

Lori: No one can imagine being parted from a child during war, but of course there are families facing this very thing right now, in Ukraine specifically but also much closer to home. Parents sacrifice everything to get their children to safety at times like this. They only hope their kids can make it out alive.

My research was bookish and dusty. I spent a lot of time in the online archives of old newspapers and inside a geneaology site that had old documents electronically linked such as the 1939 Register, the census taken at the beginning of Britain’s war response to count where everyone had gone, now that so many people had been moved and removed. I also was lucky enough to get into contact with one of the children evacuated to Greenway, a woman named Doreen who is now nearly 84 years old. We became pen pals by email, which has been the biggest delight of the entire process. What I learned from her was that her war experience had been so safe and protected within this group and at Greenway (and other locations, after Greenway) that she didn’t HAVE a war experience. She only felt loved and cared for, which is an evacuee story you don’t often get in books. I knew I had to make sure that was captured in my story. What I was surprised by in my research was that the river below Agatha Christie’s house was an area of staging for what we have come to know as Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings, and eventual victory. This area and these real people would have been there on the ground as the necessary was done to win the war and save the world from Nazi rule.

Ashley: At one point in the novel, Bridey reflects that “It was possible to hear one’s death coming just like this. Bridey squeezed herself deeper inside of her skin and tried not to imagine her Mam pulling the children to her, how scared she must have been to see it coming.” I am forever in awe of the people who kept daily life going during the war – taking care of the children, working in factories, making sure the men that went off to war had something to come back to. The constant threat of bombings, the sound of the fighter planes, the uncertainty if you would see your loved ones again. It would have been near impossible to keep going, and yet so many people did. I love to read the stories of the people who do not really make it into the history books. What are the rewards of writing about the more obscure people in history, and what are some of the challenges?

Lori: The challenges for writing obscure people who were in fact REAL people was immense! I don’t know what I was thinking! Finding information, or at least enough that you could begin to capture their actual lives and what they worried about, was difficult, but also gave me some of my best research victories. In fact, putting the real names to some of these people was challenging. The butler and cook, a married couple who worked for Greenway, were nearly lost to history, but I found them and researched their actual lives. I hope I came close to capturing what they might have been like. Confirming historic fact that no one could offer me when I asked—that’s the biggest reward for me, in addition to gaining a friend in Doreen. Returning a few memories to Doreen as I asked her questions about her childhood so that she could share this book and her memories with her children and granddaughter.

I also got to stay three nights at Greenway as part of my research, and that was, obviously, a highlight of my writing career. My husband and I lived at the house like Agatha and Max, walking into the village, traipsing all over the grounds.

Ashley: As I don’t want to give spoilers, I will keep this next question slightly vague. One of the characters in the novel states that they are “catching history while it’s happening, capturing the everyday so that history doesn’t leave out small lives.” As mentioned in one of my earlier questions, I love reading stories about people that sometimes get lost in the history books. What is one lesser known historical event or figure that you would love to write about?

Lori: Thank you for pulling out that thread of the story! It’s not at all how I thought about this story as I set out but organically, that’s how it progressed.

I would love to write about some of the people who took part in the Works Progress Administration’s programs for writers and artists during the Roosevelt years. I might still write this book… I also think someone could write a killer book about the Pullman porters and maids. They could solve a crime! A Black historical writer should write that book. I would love to read it!

Ashley: There is a quote that I loved in the novel that says, “On and on, one person saved might mean another and another who lived. There was an invisible thread pulling through them, tying them together, wasn’t there?” I think it can be easy to forget that we are all connected. That life is better when we come together and help and support one another. I imagine as an author you have to have support and encouragement from people close to you as writing is such an in depth and time consuming process in which you are sharing parts of yourself right along with your characters. Who is someone that encouraged you to follow your dreams and had a lasting impact on your life?

Lori: My parents didn’t have any idea what I was up to, but were supportive nonetheless. Confused, but supportive. My grandmother Annie was really supportive of me and my stories, always asking for my version of things, even though she’d been there, too. Since taking writing more seriously, I’ve enjoyed the support of a lot of people, but my husband is the one who pays the health insurance so that I can attempt the job full time. That coverage was especially helpful with a little bout of breast cancer I recently survived, and he was there for me through all of that.

Ashley: In that same vein, what do you think we lose by being disconnected from others and a sense of community?

Lori: Humans are pack animals, like dogs, who survived together. There are theories that the use of stories and art to humans (older than agriculture) is that we learn how to live from them, literally. Modern life keeps us isolated in lots of ways but that’s why we still enjoy reading the stories other people tell, because we are connecting and learning how to live, how to survive what the characters get through. Cool, right? So technically, if we get so isolated that we don’t connect in any way, we lose our tools for survival. Maybe that’s already happening. It’s a hard world to live in, but what other choice do we have? What we gain is each other and a chance to be something more than ourselves. I think it’s worth the risk. I didn’t want to bake bread or put on a free concert on Facebook, but I sure appreciated that other people did, and when I was in another lockdown with cancer, I enjoyed the benefits of my community to a huge scale, a humbling scale.

Ashley: There are so many amazing quotes and lines in this book! Another one I loved was when Gigi says, “There’s truth in stories, and stories in truth.” What truth do you hope readers take away from this story?

Lori: Thank you! You’re pulling out some good ones. The truth I wanted to capture was Greenway’s role in the war in regards to these children and then more generally, as I learned more. But then as I learned more and more about how affected the average citizen of Britain was by the war and its long-lasting effects (rationing went on for years after the war, for instance), it was so different than the stories we tell about WWII from the American perspective. Our involvement was much shorter, and all our stories are victory-based. But there was (and is) real suffering when leaders play war games. Generally: Men make war, and women and children suffer it. These children were away from the parents for four years. Doreen went back to her parents thinking she was being adopted. Many children suffered bad care, even abuse, and for what? We always lose more than we gain.

Ashley: Gigi states that she is “interested in other people… Their oddness, the things they think bog standard that no one else would recognize. It’s thrilling to know what people feel, to know who they really are.” Do you feel this way when it comes to creating your characters?

Lori: I do! I love imagining these weirdos who didn’t really exist (or who did, but I can only guess at). When I get at the reality of a character, the thing that explains who they are, that’s such a great feeling as a writer.

Ashley: What makes a standout character to you?

Lori: I love a character who feels real and lived in. Their lives are messy. They make bad decisions. They’re selfish sometimes. They’re scared of things they shouldn’t be scared of. But they have to push past all that, and we get to watch.

Ashley: Bridget has suffered a terrible loss, and she reflects that “She should be feeling their loss every moment of every day, the loss of their voices, their laughs, their shining eyes, but there were some days she forgot, and when she recalled like now, sometimes in the middle of enjoying herself, of being alive, she wondered how she could have dared keep going.” I really appreciated the exploration of grief and loss throughout the novel. It was beautifully and expertly woven into the story while still maintaining a sense of hope. What are some of the challenges of writing about such a complex topic in such a realistic and emotional way?

Lori: The danger is that, as a human, you’ve experienced your own grief. Writing about it dredges it up. But writing also helps me get through the bad times, too. In the case of Bridey, her grief was how I saw into her. I had just taken to my house for lockdown (a few weeks before everyone else I knew) and I wasn’t feeling all the people on Facebook making bread and putting on free concerts. I didn’t feel expansive and generous. I had just canceled three months of book tour events for The Lucky One, and all I had was a bad draft of Death at Greenway. So I sat at my desk for revision, and thought, “I don’t have the Blitz spirit.” Talk about my research getting into my head. I realized that was Bridey’s predicament. She didn’t have the Blitz spirit, either, but why? Her loss didn’t make her an expansive person, either; she had things she wanted out of life. She didn’t want to care for other people’s children in the country, but it was a means to an end for her, and as it turned out, the beginning of her ability to live on. Revisiting all that is a lot, emotionally, and I’m sure reading this book is a lot, too. But why do we read, if not to live through hard times and see the other side with these characters, so we can see the way for ourselves?

Ashley: In such traumatic and trying times as this period was for so many, I feel it would be understandable for people to protect their loved ones and family above others even if they do want to help others and do their part. This, I imagine, would lead to perhaps morally grey or “selfish” choices being made. It is said in the novel that “What had come of the notion that they were all in it together? Had they become so worn down they couldn’t take care of one another?” In times of great turmoil, what is more important when looking at the actions of an individual – action or intent?

Lori: Intent is great, but it’s hard to see intent when there’s no action. Action, even imperfect action, might help another person, and might inspire others to act, too.

Ashley: Are you able to share anything about what you are currently working on?

Lori: It’s early days, no title, but here are some key words: contemporary novel, family secrets, cold case, submerged car. It’s really different from Death at Greenway. I’m a moving target! I’m done with the first draft, and now I have to dig in to revisions and figure out what I got wrong and what to call it.

Lori has some exciting things coming up, and I cannot wait! If you would like to keep up to date with Lori as well, visit her website at and on Instagram and Twitter at @LoriRaderDay.

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  • Writer's pictureAshley Cardy

I am so happy that I get to share with you all another spooky middle grade that I absolutely love! The Clackity is so special - it is a spooky, beautiful and emotional story about learning to believe in yourself. It explores what bravery really means. The atmosphere is top notch, Evie is so loveable and the monsters are truly terrifying. I highly recommend this novel to middle grade and adult readers alike - I truly believe everyone can take something away from this book. And, as it is spooky season, is there a better time to read it?? Now, let's get to the interview with the author, Lora Senf!

Ashley: Hi Lora! Before we begin chatting about your novel, are you able to tell us a bit more about yourself?

Lora: Of course! I live in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I have eight-and-a-half-year-old twins who are smarter than us (thankfully the kids haven’t figured that out yet). I also work full time so writing happens in whatever time is left over.

I am an avid reader of all things spooky and scary so you can often find me with a book (or three…). I also like to do other crafty and creative things, but am not terribly good at any of them. I really like weather when it’s doing something interesting and my non-writing dream job is to be a storm chaser.

Oh, and I can still do cartwheels. That really has nothing to do with anything. I’m just bragging.

Ashley: When did your love of reading begin, and when did you realize that you wanted to become an author?

Lora: I truly don’t remember not being able to read, and I’ve loved books my whole life. I’ve wanted to be an author from the moment I realized an author was something one could be. I wrote a lot when I was young, gave up on it for a very long time, and returned to it just a few years ago. Seeing The Clackity out in the world and in the hands of readers is a lifelong dream come true.

Ashley: What books have had the biggest impact on you throughout your life?

Lora: I suppose I can speak more to authors than individual books. John Bellairs—who wrote gothic horror for kids—was my introduction to spooky books and my first favorite author. Shirley Jackson and Ursula K. LeGuin were early favorites for their short work (of course I later discovered their novels). At a young age I fell in love with the beauty of Ray Bradbury’s prose and he remains one of my go-to comfort reads. I discovered Stephen King when I was waaay too young and have probably read more by him than any other single author (which is easy to do because he’s been so prolific)—his books always feel like going home. And, of course, I have to mention Neil Gaiman—Coraline and Ocean at the End of the Lane are two of my very favorite books. Coraline was especially important to me as it opened my eyes to what middle grade horror could do. In some ways, because of its weirdness and legitimate scariness, it gave me permission to write The Clackity.

Ashley: The Clackity is your debut novel! For our readers who may not have read it yet, can you share what it is about?

Lora: Sure!

Twelve-year-old Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor, the seventh-most haunted town in America (per capita). Her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert and otherworldly advice columnist, doesn’t have many rules. One absolute, iron-clad rule is to stay out of the abandoned abattoir at the edge of town. Evie obeys – until she doesn’t, following her aunt to the slaughterhouse one bright June day. When her aunt disappears into the abattoir, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature that lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity promises to help Evie get Desdemona back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier, and who has unspeakable ties to the abattoir. To find them both, Evie crosses through the abattoir to a strange neighborhood of seven houses. She must make her way through them, one by one, until she reaches the seventh house, and her aunt. The task sounds simple enough, except these aren’t regular houses, and she’s being followed by a dead man.

Save her aunt, escape a dead serial killer, and get them all back to The Clackity before the sun sets. None of it is going to be easy, especially with Evie’s panic attacks, but the strange neighborhood plays by its own set of rules, and some of them might just be in Evie’s favor.

Ashley: Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Lora: The Clackity started as a random text from my sister that just said, “Haunts from Heloise.” Those three words left me gleefully envisioning a sort of otherworldly Dear Abby who would solve paranormal problems in outlandish ways and who had a paranormal advice column in a small-town newspaper.

Not long after, I was on a road trip with my family and we stopped in my husband’s hometown of Butte, Montana. There was a building he just had to show me. It turned out to be a rather cool (and I am 100% certain haunted) abandoned abattoir, and it was love at first sight. By the time I finished trespassing and got back in the car, a story was forming.

Evie was the final piece to the puzzle. Once I “met” her and understood her, everything came together.

Ashley: I am always interested in learning about the routines and process that different authors have while writing their books. What did your research and writing process look like for this novel, and what are some things about the process that surprised you the most?

Lora: Because this story takes place present day in a fictional, magical town, I didn’t do a whole lot of research. I did a bit for the lessons Evie’s librarian friend, Lily, gives her but honestly that was about it.

As for process, I would love to say I have one but I really don’t. I work full time and have third-grade twins, so I write where and when I can. If anything surprised me, it was how easily this story came out of my head and on to “paper” (I technically draft on a computer). I think that’s because I didn’t overthink it. I don’t plot or outline much and just went where Evie and her story wanted me to go.

That said, writing the sequel was a different experience entirely. I had a full-blown crisis of confidence at about 85% of the way into the first draft. Knowing she would be honest with me, I sent the unfinished manuscript to my agent and told her I needed to know if it was working or if it was a garbage pile that needed to be burned. She assured me it was working and I just needed to finish it. I respond embarrassingly well to external validation, so that was the push I needed to complete the draft.

Ashley: Evie is smart, creative and innovative. I adored her and enjoyed seeing her evolution throughout the novel so much. She also has a deep love of the library and a natural curiosity. At one point in the story, Evie reflects that “There were some other kids in town I knew, and a couple that I even liked, but honestly, I liked the library better.” What is one of your earliest memories of the library, and why do libraries still mean so much to you today?

Lora: My childhood libraries were so important to me. I was a voracious reader, and there’s no way my parents could have afforded my book habit if it hadn’t been for our public library that was walking distance from home. I think we went at least weekly, and I have clear memories of my mom walking us down there so I could return armloads of books and make the trek back home with just as many new-to-me titles.

I discovered my first favorite author, John Bellairs, at my elementary school library. Bellairs was my introduction to horror and I never looked back—I’ve been reading (and writing) spooky books ever since.

I still see libraries as sacred spaces and librarians as some of the smartest people on Earth. I am grateful these places and people exist to put books in the hands of readers, be those readers kids or grownups.

Ashley: A slaughterhouse is a dark and foreboding place in the best of times. What made you choose that as one of the settings for your novel?

Lora: I love a creepy, maybe (probably…) haunted place. The more abandoned the better. That building in Butte truly was one of the coolest, spookiest places I’ve ever been. I even met Bird and his flock there on the back wall. I knew it all had to be in a book—my book. We get back to Butte about once a year and on each trip I make a point of visiting “my” building. I always hold my breath just before it comes into view—I suppose I’m afraid someone is going to eventually tear it down or refurbish it and turn it into something benign.

Ashley: The atmosphere in this novel was haunting, beautiful and so magical. In your Acknowledgements you mention that the Town of Blight Harbor and the abattoir were inspired by your husband’s hometown of Butte, Montana. Are any of the other locations talked about in the book based on real places? If you could visit any one of the fictional locations mentioned in the book, which one would you most want to visit and why?

Lora: Blight Harbor is very much a made-up place, but I took inspiration from real life and art. There is definitely the link to Butte, MT, with the building that became The Clackity’s abattoir. That building is so important to the story and I’ll always owe Montana a debt of gratitude for it.

Much of the inspiration for Blight Harbor came from other writers I admire. There’s a little Ray Bradbury there, as his version of Small Town, USA, made a big impression on me as a young reader. I’ve also said I envision Blight Harbor as my own version of Stephen King’s Castle Rock—a place rich enough and magical enough any number of stories could be set there.

So, I suppose Blight Harbor itself is a place I’d love to visit. As for the dark sun side—the otherworld where most of Evie’s adventure takes place—I’d especially like to visit the fifth house. But I don’t want to give too much away about that for folks who haven’t read the book yet!

Ashley: There are so many things that I loved about this novel, not least of which is the beautiful and emotional exploration of grief. There is a quote in the novel that stands out to me in regards to this, and that is “Time made the missing different, but it didn’t make it go away.” This is so true, and also important. I lost my dad at the same age Evie is in the book, and I wish that I had had more books at that time that explored the subject. Why did you choose to explore this topic in your novel, and why do you think it is so important to talk about these tough topics, especially in the middle grade and young adult genres?

Lora: I didn’t set out to write an exploration of grief, even if that’s what ended up happening to some degree. I was really focused on writing a spooky book that centered a character with anxiety. But it quickly became obvious to me that if I wanted Evie and her anxiety to feel authentic to young readers (and I hope they do), I needed the source of that anxiety to feel authentic as well. It was important to me that Evie reads as “real” and that took bringing to light and addressing the big stuff that makes her who she is.

I also believe we writers owe it to young readers to respect that they aren’t simply “kids”—they’re human beings with all the experiences and emotions and complexities that come with being people. That means we have to trust them enough write for them in a way that reflects and respects those experiences in the best ways we are able.

Ashley: Another topic that I appreciated reading about was the fact that Evie has anxiety and panic attacks. As a person who has Generalized Anxiety and Panic disorder, I found your representation thoughtful, nuanced and realistic. When Evie is describing one of her attacks she explains it as “My heart pounded and panic fingers crawled up my throat and reached around my neck. My breathing got fast and shallow.” While people can experience these things in different ways, I really feel that you captured the reality and weight of these things while balancing that with hope. What were some of the challenges of writing these scenes, and what do you hope these scenes do for readers?

Lora: As long as I can remember, I’ve been deeply anxious. I know now what anxiety is and how to deal with it, but growing up in the 80’s no one talked to children about anxiety, so I was just a weird kid. I thought I was broken. On the outside I was brave, and willing to do stupid things to prove it. But truth was, I was afraid of everything EXCEPT scary books and movies and tv. Those were the places I practiced being brave. I wrote Evie, the main character of The Clackity for scared but brave kids (and those of us who used to be those kids) who deserve to see themselves as heroes.

The writing of Evie’s anxiety was challenging at first and there were plenty of times I had to go back and rework it. I had to really sit in the discomfort of contemplating my own anxiety—what it feels like, what my thoughts are, even what it sounds like to me—and make sure I was truly representing it as a whole body and mind experience. No two people are going to experience their anxiety in exactly the same way, so Evie’s version looks and feels like mine because that’s the version I understand.

Ashley: Bird helps Evie and encourages her when she thinks that she can’t go on. Rather than telling her what to do, Bird shows Evie that she is brave and strong on her own and helps her to find that strength even when she is scared. Who in your life does that for you?

Lora: My children. My husband. My family and my friends. I’m fortunate to have many people in my life who help me to be brave and strong even when I’m scared. Especially when I’m scared.

Ashley: The Clackity is such a seemingly large and insurmountable threat, and Evie isn’t quite sure she can defeat it. And it isn’t the only threat that Evie has to deal with. However, she comes to realize that she is braver than she thinks and that courage and bravery don’t mean you aren’t afraid. They mean that even though you are scared, you do it anyway. When, throughout the writing and publishing of this book, did you have to be brave like Evie?

Lora: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think of my writing and publishing journey as being one of bravery. I equate it more with patience, tenacity, and hard work. There are also things you have to learn as you go. Dealing with critique and rejection at every stage is certainly a skill that gets refined and galvanized over time. And a writer has to be okay with letting others into their story knowing sometimes others will leave their fingerprints on it. At some point along the way I realized Clackity wasn’t only mine any longer—it also belonged to all the talented people who helped turn my story into a book. And to readers, of course.

Ashley: The illustrations in this novel are stunning and creepy and add another wonderful element to the story. They were done by artist and illustrator Alfredo Caceres. It’s so incredible that someone can take what you picture in your mind and translate that into a tangible picture. What was that experience like and what do you feel that the illustrations add to the story?

Lora: When my wonderful editor, Julia McCarthy, told me she envisioned The Clackity being an illustrated book I was thrilled. I adore illustrations in books for all ages and was over the moon that my own book would include them. Now I can’t imagine not having them as part of the story.

I am so, so honored to work with Alfredo Cáceres on the Blight Harbor books and even more fortunate to now call him my friend. He’s so talented and an all-around good and kind human, and his cover art and interior illustrations for The Clackity perfectly capture the heart and darkness and whimsy of the story. Here’s why I’m convinced it was absolutely meant to be: Remember John Bellairs, that author I mentioned earlier? Well, turned out Alfredo illustrated covers for a number of Spanish editions of books by John Bellairs. It really felt like coming full circle in the best possible way.

As far as process goes, I had virtually nothing to do with the cover nor the interior illustrations—Alfredo understood the story so well and what you see in the final book is all him.

Ashley: One of the characters in the novel, The Story Thief, says, “All stories are keys to a truth. Sometimes a truth about the world. Sometimes a truth about love or fear. Sometimes, even, a truth about a lie. But all keys, all truths.” What truths do you hope readers take away from this story?

Lora: I’ve been asked variations of this question, but none put quite like that (also, I adore The Story Thief so am so happy to have him mentioned here)!

My answer doesn’t change much: For lots of reasons, I hope Evie and The Clackity reach young readers who will benefit from them in one way or another. But mostly I hope it because I think Evie—who has to work through internal as well as external challenges—can mean something to kids who don’t often see themselves portrayed as heroes. And for all those readers who don’t struggle with mental health issues, perhaps she will give them an insight into what it can feel like to live and function in the world for those who do. And, if nothing else, readers can ignore all that and simply read The Clackity for the spooky adventure it is.

Ashley: This novel is seriously creepy and got my heart pumping a little bit faster throughout. What are some of your favorite spooky novels that keep you up at night or get your blood racing?

Lora: Oh, so many! I love all sorts of horror and read it across all age categories. I’m especially fond of coming-of-age, kids-on-bikes, and small-town stories (which I guess is why you see all those elements included in The Clackity). Middle grade horror in general is a love of mine, and there are so many wonderful writers putting great work out in MG – Ben Acker (Stories to Keep You Alive Despite Vampires), Dan Poblocki (Tales to Keep You Up at Night), and Ally Malinenko (This Appearing House) wrote some of my favorite recent releases.

For adult horror I’m always going to pick up whatever Stephen King puts out there. Other adult writers I’ve really enjoyed lately are Chuck Wendig, Catriona Ward, Stephen Graham Jones, and of course Thomas Olde Heuvelt—he scares the heck out of me in the best way.

When it comes to graphic novels, I really enjoyed Michael Regina’s middle grade The Sleepover and for those who love really dark, adult horror you can’t beat James Tynion IV’s Something is Killing the Children (if I didn’t make it clear enough, it’s DARK so consider yourself warned).

Ashley: The Clackity has been included for consideration for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement In Middle Grade Novel. This is so exciting, and such an honor! What are some of the most surprising or meaningful experiences that have happened since the publication of The Clackity?

Lora: I can’t tell you what it means to even be on the recommended reading list for the Stokers. A lot. It means a whole lot. If The Clackity makes the short list and is officially nominated, I might never recover.

But the best moments—the moments that really touch my heart—are the smaller ones. I know that sounds like something a writer is supposed to say but, in my case, it is absolutely true. Hearing from parents that their kids love the book will make my entire week. Hearing from those kids themselves is even better. I got my first handwritten letter from a young reader and am probably going to frame it. Seriously. And, yes, I wrote them back that very night.

Ashley: Are you able to share anything about what else you are currently working on, and if we will ever see Evie, Des and Bird again?!

Lora: You bet! I’m happy to say you’ll see them all again. I’m currently in the editing stages for the sequel, The Nighthouse Keeper, which is scheduled to come out Fall 2023. There will be a third book as well, and I’m just getting started on that one.

Lora has some amazing things coming up, and I cannot wait! If you would like to keep up to date with Lora as well, visit her website at and on Instagram at @lorasenfauthor.

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  • Writer's pictureTegan Pfaff

I’ve loved Book to Film adaptations even before I knew I loved them—The Wizard of Oz or Wizard of Boz as I used to call it as a toddler, then Wuthering Heights (even though as a child I knew their love was unhealthy, I thought I wanted to meet someone who loved me enough to haunt me). And then I watched all the fairy adaptations: Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and countless others. While I typically go into these films expecting that I will still love the book more than the movie or show, there’s a beautiful magic to diving into the story once more through a different medium. It’s almost like reading it again for the first time!

Cinematography like The Lord of the Rings and Memoirs of Geisha are truly breathtaking. The soundtrack in The Perks of Being a Wallflower captured the teenage experience of discovering music that makes you feel seen and present and connected. And it’s so exciting to see how actors will interpret our favourite characters (even as we try to forgive them if it just doesn’t pay off). But when it does pay off, they go on my list to watch on repeat and share with all of you wonderful, beautiful people.

As we head into Fall and start getting cozy in the evenings, I thought it would be fun to recommend some of my favourite Book to Film adaptations, as well as some that I’m really looking forward to in 2022 and beyond. Please share in the comments some of your favourites and most anticipated!

Old Favourites

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Published in 1844 by French author, Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo is a revenge story centred on falsely accused and imprisoned, Edmond Dantès. After many years, Dantès escapes and assumes the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo in order to exact revenge on all of those who wronged him.

My favourite film adaptation is the 2002 release, directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Henry Cavill (baby Superman), and Richard Harris (yes, that is Dumbledore, folks). The film has the perfect mixture between substance and fun, as it explores themes of justice and forgiveness, but also incorporates humour, romance, treasure, and sword fighting. Who doesn’t love seeing bad dudes get some delayed karma?

On IMDB, I noticed a lot of people mentioning that it’s very good, but that it doesn’t touch the book. I think the only way we could have an adaptation that even touches the quality of the book would be to see it made into a mini-series that can explore all the different characters and be truly faithful to the novel. I’d be down for that.

Little Women (1994)

I’m going to write as if you’ve somehow managed to never hear about this classic coming-of-age novel written by Louisa May Alcott. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read it, and how I devoured all the rest of the books in the series. You know how people talk about getting the warm fuzzies? This book does that for me.

I’ve watched ALL the film adaptations, except for the silent film, and while I feel like there’s something to love about all of them, my favourite is still the 1994 one. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching it. Maybe it’s because I listen to the soundtrack whenever I’m stressed out. Maybe it’s because for a short window of time I wanted to be 1990’s Winona Ryder. Or, maybe it’s just because it’s actually the best version? I cry every time I watch it and I’m not ashamed. Directed by Gillian Armstrong, the film stars Winona Ryder, Kristen Dunst, Trini Alvarado, Christian Bale, and Susan Sarandon.

I usually watch Little Women closer to Christmas time, but if you haven’t read the book yet, that gives you time to pick it up before watching the movie! Lucky you.

Jane Eyre (2006)

Published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte's bildungsroman novel explores the harsh childhood of Jane and her journey towards finding independence and happiness as an adult. I'm going to repeat myself here. Like Little Women, I've watched so many different adaptations of this novel. I really loved the cinematography of Cary Joji Fukunaga's 2011 version and the other worldliness Charlotte Gainsbourgh gave to Jane's character in the 1996 version. Honestly, I loved something about every single one (okay, except maybe the George C. Scott edition; I just couldn't vibe with that one).

If I had to pick just one adaptation though, it would always be the 2006 four-part mini-series by BBC, starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. First, their chemistry is excellent. Second, Ruth fits perfectly with how I envision Jane--innocent yet wise, odd yet captivating, reserved yet passionate. The benefit to it being a mini-series is that the script can lean into the different plotlines, as well as having time to show how Jane and Rochester's initial friendship develops into a passionate, soul connection type of love. Ah, swoon.

The Princess Bride (1987)

There's no such thing as a perfect mov--Oh, wait a sec. Here comes Rob Reiner and the beautiful, hilarious magic of The Princess Bride. The film stars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, and Christopher Guest.

While I have read the novel by William Goldman and remember enjoying it, I will always love the film best. Growing up, when I wanted to watch a movie with my mom, she would usually ask for Mulan or The Princess Bride. I watched it so many times during my childhood, I can still recite entire scenes, but I have a particular soft spot for the mawage, sorry, marriage scene. It really bwings the whole thing toogeder, you know?

The story centres around Buttercup and her love for farm boy, Westley. Westley leaves to seek fortune so they can start their life together, but is captured and presumably killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup, while still mourning, is chosen by Prince Humperdinck to be his bride. And with a name like that, he has the confidence to pick any bride! Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by Vizzini, the giant and rhyme loving Fezzik, and swordsman Inigo Montoya. Soon, the outlaws realize they are being pursued by a mysterious man in black. Just in case you haven't already watched this gem, I won't say anything more.

Call the Midwife (2012)

I can't actually remember if I read the 2002 memoir by Jennifer Worth before I watched the television series or vice versa. However, what I do remember is that I read it and watched it while pregnant with my first child. I worked at a bookstore at the time and had access to all the new mom-to-be reference guides. I put down all the parenting books as I found them way too anxiety inducing and picked up Call the Midwife instead. Somehow, reading about the different experiences of childbirth and motherhood experienced by women in the condemned tenement buildings of the 1950's really calmed me down. Jennifer, or Jenny, worked as a midwife for Nonnatus House (pseudonym). The memoir reflects about Jenny's time at the convent as well different women’s unusual or traumatic deliveries.

Why did it calm me down? I'm not totally sure, but I think there are two main reasons. One, I found it tremendously comforting to compare our modern medical care system to what they were working with or without in the 1950's. Medical advances are such a balm to my anxiety! Second, I found this enormous sense of courage and strength in the pages. Women have given birth to children in so many extreme and dangerous conditions, and still continue to do so. We are so strong and amazing. But yes, medical advances really helped calm me down.

Still going since it's release in 2012, Call the Midwife has eleven seasons to enjoy. The cast and characters have changed a bit since the earlier seasons, but quite a few are still there to enjoy. Such as my favourite, Sister Monica Joan played by Judy Parfitt.

New Favourites

Emma (2020)

I've loved many of the adaptations of Emma (particularly the 2009 mini series starring Romola Garai), but the 2020 version is visually stunning, the costuming is next level, and has my favourite interpretation of Mr. Knightly to date. Johnny Flynn is able to navigate the oft lecturing Mr. Knightly without making him too austere, adding vulnerability, humour, and sweetness. Plus, he sings.

The film is based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel of the same name. Main protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, is beautiful, clever, and pampered. And as any well-meaning, but bored young lady is wont to do–she starts interfering and trying to be a matchmaker for the inhabitants of the fictional country village of Highbury. Of course, the matchmaking doesn’t go well, and through her mistakes, Emma eventually understands her own heart.

A Discovery of Witches (2018)

I’ve read the All-Soul’s Trilogy by Deborah Harkness three times. There’s something about the mixture of history, paranormal and romance that takes me right back to my teenage years. I thought I would be an archaeologist, visit a haunted estate in Scotland during a ground-breaking dig, and promptly fall in love with a rugged Scotsman along the way. Which, side bar, is actually the plot of Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley if you haven’t picked it up before. Minus some of the dangerous bits, it was basically my fantasy for an embarrassing number of years.

Now that we’ve gotten that tangent out of the way, I would highly recommend the television adaptation called A Discovery of Witches. The series premiered in 2018 and completed it’s third and final season, wrapping up the trilogy, in 2022. What’s not to love about a brilliant, extremely powerful witch that meets another brilliant, handsome Vampire? Beyond the love story between Diana and Matthew, the plot centers around their search for the bewitched manuscript Ashmole 782, thought to contain information on the origin of supernatural species. I love books about books and the adaptation doesn’t disappoint!

Mindhunter (2017-2019)

Okay, the next recommendation I’m a little salty about. They cancelled the show due to the main executive producer and frequent director, David Fincher, being too busy with other projects (Excuses, David! I don’t want your excuses). Mindhunter is a psychological thriller based on the 1995 true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The plot centers around naive and ambitious FBI agent Holden Ford and his partner, level-headed Special Agent Bill Tench. Together, they begin interviewing imprisoned serial killers in order to better understand, predict and catch criminals through profiling. They are joined in the BSU by psychologist Wendy Carr who helps them standardize their methodology and approach to the interviews. Plus, she helps feed a stray cat, so she’s automatically cool in my books.

The show is immaculate. The production level makes it feel like you’re watching a film rather than a television show. The acting is so good that your skin will crawl when they interview well-known serial killers such as Edmund Kemper and Charles Manson. I know there’s only two seasons, but I still highly recommend checking it out. I read the book afterwards and enjoyed it as well.

But seriously, David—come on!

Adaptations I’m looking forward to! (And you should be, too)

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (September 30th, 2022)

By the time you read this, I have good news, it’s out and you can watch it! Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, the horror film is directed by Damon Thomas and stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathy Ang and Rachel Ogechi Kanu.

Recommended for lovers of Stranger Things, the plot centers around best friends Abby and Gretchen. Everything is going great until high school (says just about every person on the planet), when Gretchen starts to change. But it’s not just normal teenage hormones! She needs an exorcism, y’all!

The trailer looks SO fun, and I’m stoked to watch it this fall season

Pinocchio (December 2022)

In December of this year, the long await stop-motion animated musical of Pinocchio will be released. Guillermo Del Toro is the producer and director, so expectations are high! Disney also just released a live-action film starring Tom Hanks. So now it’s a battle of the puppets! So far, I’m team stop-motion.

Red, White and Royal Blue (2023)

I read Casey McQuiston’s novel of the same name back in 2019 and I cannot wait to see it adapted to film. The book follows the secret romance between Alex, the son of the U.S. president, and Henry, the Prince of England. The two characters will be played by Taylor Zakhar Perez (The Kissing Booth 2 & 3) and Nicholas Galitzine (Cinderella, 2021). Yay!

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