What inspired you to write THE CREEPING? I’ve been asked this a lot since Simon and Schuster’s Books for Young Readers acquired my debut dark thriller, to be published summer of 2015. And I always feel a tiny flutter of unease spread through my gut at the question; I imagine a heaviness in the asker’s tone. Allow me to explain.
Two little girls pick strawberries in the woods. One returns without her memory. The other is never seen again. THE CREEPING begins twelve years later, as seventeen-year-old Stella does her best to ignore the fact that whatever happened to Jeanie, is lost in the never-never land of her brain. She and her best friend, Zoey, have a summer break full of cove days and parties stretching out before them.
That is, until all hell breaks loose. Amidst a wave of ominous events, Stella’s small town descends into medieval superstition and Stella fears that something sinister is at work, something spanning generations, longer than human memory can recall. Stella rushes to sort through the clues, which lead her deeper and deeper into the woods of her childhood.
Where did THE CREEPING come from? It’s easy to explain my inspiration for Stella and Zoey’s fierce loyalty to each other. While I was growing up I had friends who made me laugh until my face hurt; who kicked the color into an otherwise drab day; who I would have followed anywhere, risked anything for. But it’s much more difficult to explain where inspiration for the dark, creepy, and sinister comes from (maybe someday I’ll explore why on my blog). Given that THE CREEPING is a dark thriller – a novel about a mysterious disappearance, its aftermath, and the monsters we create – this is a problem for me.
Trying to answer seems like the best way of introducing myself.
It came from the woods.
When I was in the third grade there were bristly pine trees edging the rear of my elementary. School legend said that if a kid ventured in, she risked never returning. Still, we giggle-screamed our way running through, high on the terror and delicious make-believe of it all. During fifth grade camp, our counselors captivated shuddering eleven-year-olds with stories of ghosts haunting the trees around us. I had so much trouble sleeping after, that I scribbled my first short story with a flashlight under the covers.
In middle school my family moved to a house surrounded by forest. I’d sit in the backyard watching my baby brother play in the shade of the canopy. Every so often he’d freeze, stare spooked at the woods, and I’d hear a vague rustling. In high school my friends and I hiked through those woods, found a rushing creek to wade in, and disastrously attempted to sail a kayak down its current. As an undergraduate I went to a very old college. The campus was wooded and hilly and I’d run on its trails through a forest of eucalyptus where there was a long-forgotten lake. Overlooking the lake was an iron fence, walling in an ancient cemetery.
Everywhere I go, those trees and what they concealed follows me, needling my imagination with questions. What if you were lost in the forest? Do we become more savage in the woods? What could be hiding in them? Would anyone hear you scream? These are the same questions that haunt Stella throughout THE CREEPING and it’s in the woods that she ultimately finds answers.
These memories – the amorphous shadows, the lungfuls of dank air, the arthritic branches of sprawling oak trees, and the intoxicating wildness of being a kid playing in the woods – inspired THE CREEPING.
Now I live with my husband in Northern California and although I still run up into the hills, I’m more unnerved than I used to be by straying from the path and staring directly into the shadows of the trees. The line between what’s real and imagined is just a little too thin when you’re alone in the woods and people seem a little too wild.
|Alexandra Sirowy is the author of THE CREEPING, a debut thriller for young adults coming from Simon and Schuster’s Books for Young Readers in the Summer of 2015. To learn more, visit Alexandrasirowy.com or follow her on Twitter.|