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Author Q&A ft Nancy Gray | Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow Blog Tour | Pump Up Your Book Presents Mid-Grade Horror

SPINE CHILLERS: THE SCARECROW by Nancy Gray  Mid-Grade Horror 113 pp.  $2.99 (Kindle) Title: SPINE CHI...

Mid-Grade Horror
113 pp. 
$2.99 (Kindle)

Author: Nancy Gray
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 113
Genre: Mid-Grade Horror


Eleven year old, Sophie, arrives at her Aunt and Uncle’s farm to horrible news: her cousin, Hunt, has gone missing.  When Sophie starts searching for clues to where her cousin went, strange things happen.  The scarecrow wanders around the cornfields at night and murders of crows lash out at other animals for no reason at all.

An ancient spirit wants revenge. Sophie will have to be brave and clever in order to save her cousin…and herself!




Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

Madalyn McLeod designed the artwork for Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow. Her depiction of Little Red Riding Hood was what made me want to commission her to do the art for this book. For the cover of Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow I went with this image because I really like the expression on the scarecrow’s face. It’s difficult to tell if the face is showing anger or sadness. It’s suspended over a field of corn that is ready to be harvested, but the way it is suspended makes it almost look like it’s hovering there.

I love the crows as well. There is a hint that the heads of the crows are skeletal. The ominous storm clouds and muted colors also give the image a feeling of foreboding. It’s clear that there is more going on here than meets the eye. I really have enjoyed working with Madalyn and I really like her style. Even though she’s known for her fantasy art, she was excited about the challenge of working on something a bit more disturbing. I highly recommend you look at the rest of her artwork on her website.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My favorite character in Spine Chillers: The Scarecrow is Sophie. This isn’t just because she’s the main character. I really can relate to her personality. Even though I am the writer of a horror series, I’m a bit of a “fraidy cat” at heart. When I think about it, I’m afraid of a lot of things, but I can confront my fears if I’m protecting someone I care about. In some ways I did model her after myself as a child.

Another thing that we have in common is that she would rather remember something supernatural rather than simply pretending it didn’t happen. She basically embraces what happened to her and decides if monsters actually do exist then she needs to accept this fact to help others. She tries to handle things logically even though she’s afraid, so in some ways she’s braver than I am.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

One of the interesting things about this series is that I try to use urban legends as the inspiration for the spirits and monster the children encounter. There are many very disturbing and interesting urban legends than span across many cultures. Scary stories about scarecrows are iconic fears that most people can relate to. Something that appears too human but isn’t makes us feel uncomfortable.

Also, there is a very subtle hint of fantasy in the stories because some of the entities the children come across are actually evil fay creatures that have taken on the role of monsters and feed on the fear of children. Even though this isn’t spelled out in most of the stories, the implication is there. I also try to incorporate a feeling of a detective story, where a brave child investigates stories of supernatural creatures and find out that there is more there than meets the eye. I try to blur genre lines in a subtle way, but the overall feel of the story is mostly horror.  

What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

The stories that are most like my Spine Chillers series are from the Goosebumps series. The name was purposely created to be similar as homage to R.L. Stine and to show there are similarities to that series. The length of my books is comparable and they feature a lot of the iconic fears of middle school children. Other similarities are that the books are fairly episodic and can be read in any order. The supernatural problem that the children are facing is resolved one way or another in the end. However, there are also many differences.

My books feature six main characters that are intertwined through friendship and their supernatural experiences, while most of the Goosebumps characters don’t cross over from story to story. Cameos from various characters appear in many of my stories and sometimes the other children are integral in helping the main character stop the creature that is targeting them. Eventually all of the main characters, including the main character of The Scarecrow, will band together and form a club to help others in the school that have similar problems.  

What's the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?

I’ve had to research many different things for this series that are all very strange. For this particular story, I did a lot of research on ravens and crows. While that might not sound strange on the surface, I delved a great deal into animal symbolism, Native American legends, German legends, Greek fables, and all kinds of stories about ravens. They tend to be trickster spirits and there are a lot of stories that seem to borrow from one another across cultural boundaries. It was very interesting.

I also read up on stories about scarecrows and golems. The idea of a creature that is created to look human to frighten away something else is somehow given life is a concept in many different stories. In some of these cases the creation is a benevolent being, but in most it’s a monster. Usually, something goes wrong and the creature is given life but doesn’t have the emotional capacity to act like a real person or the proverbial human “heart.”

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

The single most important thing a reader can do to help a writer is to buy the book and review it, especially on the store page. If you enjoy a book, another thing you can do to help make it successful is telling your friends how much you enjoy it. It really helps for a writer to develop a good fan base. If you can spread the word through social media or occasionally send a link to buy the book, that would be helpful too.

I have plans to create at least six of these books for the time being. With enough of a reader fan base, there could be more in the future. Another small thing you can do for me is to occasionally send me a comment on my website or facebook page. You’d be surprised how much an encouraging word means to an up and coming author. And feedback is always good to have so that I know what you like and don’t like for future projects.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I would just like to say thank you for this interview and giving me an opportunity to reach out and talk about my books. It’s been an honor and I appreciate it. Thank you very, very much! I hope everyone enjoys the books.


Chapter 1 – Aunt Angie’s Farm

Sophie leaned against the car window listening to the soothing sounds of the dirt road that threatened to lull her back to sleep. When her head rolled to the side, her glasses occasionally rattled against the windowpane, waking her from her dreamlike state. She glanced at the scenery rolling by like the background of a side-scrolling video game. Even though most of what she could see was the forest, she knew that they had to be getting close to the farm. The oak trees would occasionally part revealing a long patch of clover or grass that looked luxurious in the setting sun. She imagined rolling around in the grass like a happy puppy and then exploring the woods, climbing into a tree or discovering a hidden trail.
Just as she thought that she couldn’t take wondering if they were getting close and was about to ask, she realized that her parents were talking in hushed tones that they thought that she couldn’t hear. They must’ve thought that she was still asleep. She closed her eyes and listened, curious about what they were saying.
Her mother sighed and said, “Sometimes I really don’t know how you two are related.”
Her father chuckled. “Yeah, but at least she isn’t living out in the woods foraging berries or something. Angie’s always been a flake.”
“Do you think that Sophie likes coming here? I mean, the farm used to always scare her so much when she was little, but she acted like she was excited to come this time.”
At first, Sophie thought about telling them that she could still hear them, but instead she just continued to lean against the car door with her eyes shut.
“Well, she’s always liked seeing the animals and I think she likes spending time with her cousin.”
Her mother made a snorting noise and said, “Sometimes I wish she didn’t. That boy is a bad influence on her.”
“I talked to Angie about that. This time, if they want to explore they’ll be going with one of us.”
Sophie frowned at her mother’s comment. Part of the reason why she enjoyed going to the farm at all was to spend time with her cousin Hunt. They were a lot alike. They both loved exploring the farm together and playing with the animals. They even could be mistaken for siblings because they both looked alike as well, around the same height with blond hair and blue eyes. Even though she hated to admit it, her mother was right.  Sometimes Hunt did get her into trouble, but it was always fun. They loved to sneak into places on the farm that they weren’t supposed to go, like the old barn or the woods nearby. Playing with Hunt always meant going on some sort of adventure.
She thought miserably, “It just won’t be as fun if mom and dad are close by. I never get into any trouble at home. Why can’t they just let us play? I guess, at least, we won’t be getting lost in the corn field this time.
Sophie’s dad said in a voice that shook her out of her daydream, “Sophie, we’re here.”
She opened her eyes and stared out the window at the rows of feed corn in front of her, fascinated. The road was so narrow the plants scraped against the sides of the car. She could hear a tractor up ahead and their car slowed down. The tractor motor stopped and her dad stopped the car. Sophie craned her neck and saw her uncle waving at them from the seat of a large, green combine and motioning for them to get out of the car.
Her father muttered, “Looks like Mike wants to talk. Come on, Sophie. Why don’t you get out and stretch your legs too.”
She gladly got out and stretched then ran in the direction of her uncle. He gave her a long hug and said, “There’s my favorite niece. Good to see you, Sophie. Give me a minute to talk to your dad, and then maybe I’ll give you a ride on the tractor later.”
Sophie said, “Okay.”
She thought, “He usually seems more excited to see us. Why is he frowning? Is something wrong?
Her uncle put an arm around her father’s shoulders and walked down the road until they were far enough away that Sophie couldn’t hear them. From the way they pointed in her direction, she knew they didn’t want her to listen in and were talking about something that concerned her as well.
Sophie walked up to her mother. “Mom, can I go look around?”
“Okay, but don’t go too far. I’m going to talk to your dad. Stay close to the car.”
Sophie squinted and shielded the sunlight from her eyes, glancing at row after row of corn. Finally, she spotted what she was looking for and carefully entered the corn, counting the rows so that she wouldn’t get lost, until she reached the clearing. Hanging on a pole in the center of the open area was a scarecrow. Oddly, there were several crows perched on top of it. One was even pulling on one of its button eyes. The black birds glanced at Sophie for a moment with dark, doll-like eyes and then flew away as she approached to get a closer look.
Since the scarecrow’s head was tilted downward she got a good look at its face, and immediately wished that she hadn’t. The head was made of a burlap sack. Even though it was just a cloth bag, the folds around the bottom and the eyes were deep, creating grooves in the material, making the scarecrow appear to have an unhappy expression, possibly even an angry one. One of the button eyes hung limply where the crow had pecked it loose, and the wide brimmed black hat on its head cast a shadow that made the body seem to leer over her like the intimidating silhouette of a villain in a western movie. Sophie stepped back slowly and then turned and ran in the direction of the car, not stopping until she reached her mother. Sophie hugged her tightly around the waist.
Her mother glanced down at her and asked gently, “Sophie, what’s wrong?”
“Can we go?”
She nodded. “Yes, we were just about to go to the guest house and get settled in.”
Sophie got into the backseat of the car and didn’t glance back in the direction of the scarecrow until they were driving. When she did turn to look, even though she knew it wasn’t possible, the scarecrow’s head seemed to be cocked in a different direction, slightly upward, as though it was watching them leave. Just as she was about to say something to her parents, a wall of crows flew up from the cornfield and obscured her view. When they were gone the head was resting down again. Sophie made a whimpering sound in the back of her throat that she was glad her parents didn’t hear and shifted further down into her seat, hoping that even the top of her head wouldn’t show through the back window.


Nancy Gray 
Nancy Gray has published a number of works including her young adult 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: The Scarecrow.





  1. Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my books! I really appreciate it!

  2. I am super excited for this book to come out. It sounds like it will be a fascinating mix of horror, urban legend, supernatural, and fairytale,all things I love. I remember how much I enjoyed reading books like this as a kid. And I'm still pretty much a big kid and lover of kids' books.


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