Thursday, September 20, 2018

Blog Tour / Interview: Nancy Gray, Author of Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf

"Mrs. Rose walked in front of them and said, “First of all, congratulations on all of your parts.  Since this is a Halloween play, I chose the rolls based on who could portray their parts in a suitably ominous way.  Remember, these are fractured fairy tales, so nothing is supposed to end well.  And, the common element in all of them will be the big, bad wolf.”

Patrick stood up and gave a quick bow.

Jane thought, “Show off…”"

Mrs. Rose continued, “The main theme is Little Red Riding Hood, but as you can see, there will be elements from other stories incorporated.  While she’s going to grandma’s house, she’ll run into Snow White being chased by the woodsman, and themes from other stories as well, as she continues to get lost further and further in the woods.”

-- From Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf by Nancy Gray
Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her middle grade series Spine Chillers. She also published her YA fantasy series Blood Rain. Her short story “Chosen” appeared in Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Author Quest: a Penguin Special from Grosset & Dunlap. Her work also appears in various anthologies.

Nancy Gray has been writing for over ten years. Gray lives in South Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys books, video games, anime, manga, and horror.
Her latest book is the mid-grade horror, Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf.

Book Description:
Jane is ecstatic when she gets the role of Red Riding Hood in her school play, but she didn’t realize that they’d be using the stuffed wolf prop as the Big Bad Wolf. That tattered old prop has always scared her and, lately, she has been having strange dreams about it that make it seem like it’s something more.
Jane will have to get help to save herself from the hungry spirit that has haunted her people and her nightmares before it consumes her, or worse, escapes the prison of the last creature it took to sate its horrible appetite.
Welcome, Nancy.  So excited about your second book in the Spine Chillers series. Big Bad Wolf is looking like it’s going to be just as exciting as The Scarecrow. So can you tell us where this book takes us?
Nancy: This book will take you into the mind of the main character, Jane, where she is chased by a cannibal spirit determined to consume her body and soul. Jane has nightmares about a gray forest that she instinctually knows but can’t place from where. It is the hunting grounds where the spirits of her ancestors have wandered. She is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, the role from her school play, but something wolf-like and wild is chasing her and her cape stands out like blood against a white canvas. Jane will have to be clever and seek help to escape from the nightmare creature that haunts her dreams and will have to come to know her heritage to banish the spirit before it’s too late. 
Are the same characters in Big Bad Wolf that was in The Scarecrow? If no, can you tell us about them?
Nancy: There is a cameo from Sophie in the beginning of the book. She tells the main character, Jane, that she won’t be able to see her play because she’s visiting her cousin at the farm. It’s assumed that Sophie’s story is going on at the same time as Jane is encountering her own monster. 
Jane is part of the drama club. This year she has finally gotten the lead role in a play. The play is about fractured fairy tales and she is playing “Little Red Riding Hood.” Jane’s dream is to one day be an actress on Broadway. After she accepts the role, she finds out that they will be using the taxidermy wolf in the prop room beneath the stage as the wolf in the play. Something about the wolf scares her. After that, she has nightmares where she is being chased by the wolf. Jane soon discovers that Native American legends are more than just stories and her bloodline means more than she knew.
Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?
Nancy: Many things have improved over the years. It’s almost painful to look back at my old work knowing how bad it actually was. My grammatical errors have gotten better. I don’t repeat words as much. I had an issue with putting the wrong punctuation at the beginning of dialogue that I fixed recently.   
Stylistically speaking, I don’t feel the need to change the perspective of the story to someone other than the main character. This was a style that I used a lot in my early work, but I found that it detracted from the action of the story. Also sometimes a reader doesn’t like the secondary character as much as the first. By changing perspectives they have to go through an entire chapter wishing they got back to what happened to the character they identified the most with. Generally this is the first character they are introduced to, so I’m glad I don’t make this mistake anymore.
And finally, I think I actually do have a style now. I tend to describe things while leaving enough to the imagination of the reader to fill in the blanks. I also try to make my writing straightforward, but I don’t talk down to my audience. I don’t feel the need to use overly flowery language to describe a scene, but I don’t shy away from big words either. I feel like as a writer I can always improve, but at least I can already see major improvements.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
Nancy: I proof my own work initially, but I do have some grammatical issues that sometimes I don’t notice. So I send my work to those better qualified. I’m fortunate that many people in my family are skilled when it comes to grammar and can double check my work. My problems aren’t huge problems, mostly comma usage and repeating words too often. I feel grammar is important in my finished work especially since it is geared towards middle school children. (Apologies if my grammar isn’t excellent during these questions. I am writing this while prepping for a hurricane to hit my state.) 
Anyway, I ask members of my family to proofread my stories and then I send my stories to my friends to test read. The test readers help me make sure that the scenes flow together well and that I don’t have any continuity errors. I highly recommend that you do this for your own work because sometimes it’s hard to spot grammar or continuity errors on your own. Your mind can sometimes just skip over them because you know what you meant to say. 
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Nancy: Yes! It absolutely does! Some people still buy a book based solely on the cover. One of the most satisfying things that came from this series was seeing my ideas come to life through the covers of the books. Samrae Duke is my artist for Spine Chillers: Big Bad Wolf. I love her attention to detail. Her style is very interesting as well. She captures a dark, foreboding feeling but also combines it with fantasy elements that sort of pull the person in. It makes them want to know more. She is a great artist and is a pleasure to work with. Hire a good artist for your cover! It’s very important. One of the best things about self publishing is you actually can. With traditional publishing the cover is out of your hands.  
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
Nancy: When I was very little I wanted to be a veterinarian or a marine biologist, until I found out how I felt about blood and about the thought of losing an animal. After that I focused on marine biology. 
When I said that I wanted to be a marine biologist, what I actually meant was that I wanted to be one of those people that dives with the underwater life or gets into a shark cage to observe them up close. Of course, that isn’t exactly what most marine biologists do. When I found out the truth, that most marine biologists do a great deal of lab work, I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer. 
I stuck with that goal and graduated with a media arts degree and did indeed become a graphic designer for a little while. Initially I enjoyed it, but I found that my passion was for writing. I then became a homemaker and during my free time I decided to write. I’ve been writing now for ten years. 
Do your novels carry a message?
Nancy: Well they all tend to have a similar set of themes. I wouldn’t say they carry any sort of hidden message but the theme of good versus evil is definitely within them. Many also have the theme of battling one’s inner demons and overcoming or discovering flaws within oneself. There is also the theme of growing up and having to deal with your own problems your own way. 
This is a good message for children in middle school because it’s a time when they are in between two worlds. They are just out of elementary school and have more independence, but not quite ready for the challenges of high school. It’s a very difficult time, and the transition can be scary. With news about violence in school and the fact the world is a scary place in general middle school feels even more dangerous than it used to be
With these books if there is any message it’s that you are strong enough to stand up to what frightens you. While things might not end happily ever after, you can still overcome more than you might think you’re capable of if you use your talents to overcome your fears.  
Can you tell us a little about the next book in the series?
Nancy: I can tell you a little, but I’m going to try to avoid spoilers. The next book in the series is called Spine Chillers: The Beast of Black Pond. The main character is a boy named Duane. He has always been considered odd and made fun of at school because loves writing horror stories and reading horror comic books. For a school assignment he decides to write a horror story about the nearby pond where a few students have drowned in the past. When he investigates the pond, something terrible happens. The creature responsible for the deaths of the children attacks him and seems determined not to leave him alone until he becomes a victim as well.
Is there anything you’d like to tell your fans?
Nancy: I would love to hear from you if you have any comments or suggestions! Please, follow me on my facebook page, WriterNancyGray, and my website I’ll keep you posted on the new books coming out for the series and I’ll do my best to answer any questions that you have. It means a lot to me that you support me by reading my books. I hope they were as much of a pleasure to read as they were to write.  Thank you so much!


  1. Thank you for having me as a guest on your website. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my books!

  2. I was a test reader for this book, but I am really looking forward to my own copy with the fabulous cover art! This is a great story, with well developed characters and some really neat Native American legends re-imagined in a creepy and fantastic way. I highly recommend it!