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Dread Wood - Jennifer Killick

I'm thrilled to be able to share this blog piece from Queen of 'child-friendly horror' (is that a thing!?🤣), the brilliant Jennifer Killick, as part of the blogtour for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Children's Book Award.

The first in a series of scary stories involving Club Loser, its guaranteed to keep you up and on the edge of your seat.

Heres what Jennifer has to say....

As a writer of children’s fiction, my priority has always been very clear to me: to create stories that appeal directly and completely to the young people of today. I don’t write for the child I used to be; or for the adults who work so hard to get books in the hands of readers; or in the hope that my stories will become future classics. I write for the children I meet every day, in schools around the country - some of them keen readers and some of them not. I want my stories to reflect their friendships and fallouts, their chat and their jokes. And through my characters I want my readers to enjoy the comfort of relating to shared fears, and struggles, and hopes. And that is why being shortlisted for the Children’s Book Award means so much to me. Knowing that my book has been chosen and voted for by young readers is such a wonderful feeling.

Dread Wood was inspired, as most of my stories are, by a whole host of random day-to-day objects and experiences that suddenly connected together in a way that I found exciting. I love taking traditionally wholesome things and twisting them into something disturbing. For Dread Wood this included the playground game ‘The Floor is Lava’, the nursery rhyme ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ and a group of normal kids trying to negotiate the challenge of starting secondary school.

Dread Wood High itself is based on my secondary school, and I’ve had the privilege of being allowed return visits to explore the grounds and corridors and work with the current students. The main character, Angelo, was inspired by my first impressions of a boy I met in Year 7 – a boy who was given many Saturday detentions and lived to tell the tale. The rest of Club Loser all feel very alive to me, too, based on real people, and hopefully relatable to my readers. All of them face their own unique set of difficulties and deal with them the best they can.

And there are the spiders… I have always been scared of spiders, as I know many people are, so they might seem a strange choice for a featured creature in one of my stories. But writing about the things that frighten me allows me to portray my characters’ fear in a genuine way. I also find that when exploring my fears in my writing, my fear diminishes. I am less scared of spiders now, or at least of your average house or garden spider – I definitely do not want to be hunted by one of the Latchitts’ spiders!

I am over the moon that so many young readers have taken to Dread Wood, and I hope they will follow the gang through the series – every story with a different creature and nursery rhyme, but all of them with the mix of horror and comedy that I love writing. Welcome to Club Loser!

You can see all the nominees for the award and vote at:

Thanks to Erin for a spot on the tour, and Rory and Jennifer for the guest post.

Rich Simpson ( @richreadalot) March 2023

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