About the book:
A teen girl starts hearing the same voices that drove her sister to commit suicide in this creepy, suspenseful novel.
Everyone thinks Sophie’s sister, Nell, went crazy. After all, she heard strange voices that drove her to commit suicide. But Sophie doesn’t believe that Nell would take her own life, and she’s convinced that Nell’s doctor knows more than he’s letting on.
As Sophie starts to piece together Nell’s last days, every lead ends in a web of lies. And the deeper Sophie digs, the more danger she’s in—because now she’s hearing the same haunting whispers. Sophie’s starting to think she’s going crazy too. Or worse, that maybe she’s not….
I got to interview Ms. West (hooray!) and got a little insight into what makes her a writer, as well as a few questions I was dying to know about The Murmurings!
1) What essentials do you rely on when you’re writing? (coffee, chocolate, music, etc)
Well, coffee plays a big role. I wish that weren’t the case, but somewhere along the line, I developed the need. I’m also a pretty snacky writer. Something to crunch every ten minutes or so is always a good thing. I wish I could listen to music when I write, but I’m far too easily distracted. That’s more of a pre-game habit. I also, strangely, need an elastic band for my hair. I’m forever rearranging it – half up, all the way up, fully down, braided, sometimes I just tie my bangs up into a tiny spray above my head. It’s perhaps a nervous habit, I’m not sure. But when I don’t have an elastic band around my right wrist, I feel a little naked.
2) Is there a genre of book that you tend to gravitate to (paranormal, contemporary, etc) and what are some favorites from those genres? Favorites in general?
I tend to gravitate toward fiction, but after that, the range is vast, I’m thrilled to admit. I of course adore YA and love pretty much every genre and subject matter from that category. I especially love novels for which I can’t quite locate a category. If it’s contemporary with a touch of romance, awesome. If it’s paranormal with elements of contemporary, lovely. I feel the same way about literary fiction, even about the classics. I have so many favorite works and favorite authors, I could talk about it for days. This list is far too short, but it’s a start anyway: Poe and Dostoevsky are forever favorites, Bernard Malamud and William Faulkner. On the contemporary end of the spectrum: Lorrie Moore, Mary Karr (actually poetry and memoir), Tobias Wolff (memoir and fiction, also), Yiyun Li, Victor LaValle, of course Stephen King. In the YA world … ah, so many works I love!! Far, far too many to identify.
3) I think our Selective Collective members will agree with me when I say scary movies scare the pants off me! Do you enjoy them or avoid them like the plague (like me!)? What are some of the scariest you’ve seen?
I love love LOVE scary movies. But here’s the difference: I like the scary movies that are more ghost/paranormal in theme. I have a really difficult time with slasher flicks. If it has to do with a home invasion or anything along those lines, I can’t handle it. That is a whole different type of scary. But give me THE SHINING any day. I also adore anything Guillermo del Toro seems to touch. PAN’S LABYRINTH is one of my favorites. That falls more in the dark fairy tale category, but I love playing with the idea of questionable evil and making it difficult for the viewer/reader to determine what exactly they should be afraid of. The first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY scared me to death. THE RING ruined many a night’s sleep. Oh, and a friend recently introduced me to this amazing Jee-woon Kim horror film called A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. It blew my mind.
4) Paranormal/thriller aspects aside, in The Murmurings Sophie deals with the grief of her sister’s death – something, sadly, teens occasionally have to deal with. As a teen, were there any books you read that involved teens dealing with grief/death? Are there any today that you would recommend for teens to read who may be dealing with this?
Such a good question. The only books I remember reading in adolescence that dealt with this sort of difficult reality had much less to do with grief and much more to do with the plot surrounding the death. If a character experienced a tragedy, they experienced it as a result of a difficult life, a difficult time in history, a painful upbringing. Because the grieving process was never really addressed in the books I picked up, I actually found these books incredibly difficult to read, and I had a hard time processing the emotions I was feeling after I was finished reading. I’m quite certain books existed that would have helped me through that sort of content, but for whatever reason, I didn’t come across them. I absolutely think there is a wide variety of YA material out there now that handles this sort of subject matter beautifully. Nina LaCour’s HOLD STILL comes to mind immediately. But so much of YA deals with the grieving process on a variety of fronts. In a way, adolescence is one long stage of grieving the loss of youth and grappling to understand what comes next. That’s a painful time. So adding the element of death and dying to that already difficult concept is a nuance that, thankfully, I think many YA authors are already adept at tackling, though it’s never, ever easy. Many genres address the grieving process, and I think it’s important to see it in a variety of literary contexts and environments.
5) The Murmurings introduces “Seers” and “Takers” – which both sound super creepy/awesome, btw! Can you give us a little insight/background on what these are and how you came up with them?
Why thank you! I don’t want to give too much away, as Sophie’s journey through the novel involves finding answers to the very questions you’ve just asked, but I can tell you that the origins for the murmurings themselves came from some real life murmuring I heard in an apartment I was living in during grad school. My boyfriend (now husband) and I had just moved into this great, old apartment, and I was unpacking one night while he was asleep and heard what sounded like someone muttering in my ear, though I couldn’t make out what was being said. My husband heard it the very next morning, same experience exactly, and thought I was talking to him from around the corner. We exchanged our stories then, and realized that clearly something else was living in that apartment with us. We have two cats, and they wouldn’t go into the closet that was next to the area in the living room where we’d heard the murmurings. When we moved out of the apartment, we asked the property manager if anyone else had ever experienced some strange activity. We kept it pretty vague, but the property manager knew exactly what we were talking about. So apparently, we hadn’t been the only ones. I’d actually been toying for a little while with the themes that crop up in THE MURMURINGS (ideas around what constitutes a more disturbing experience: the inability to trust one’s own senses or the belief that one’s senses are actually showing them that something that horrific indeed exists). So when I heard the real-life murmurings for myself, I guess I had no choice but to write a book about it. 🙂
Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity to chat!
Must say, I LOVE her response to question #4 – totally agree with her about everything she says! And that’s a really terrifying tale to question #5… I would’ve moved out the second my boyfriend told me heard voices too!
Check out the other parts of The Selective Collective to discover more about The Murmurings:
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