Mags Storey’s new book, Dead Girls Don’t, just came out this month, and she kindly answered a few of my questions about it, and more! Please give her a warm welcome!
Thanks! Dead Girls Don’t is a creepy, funny, paranormal romance about a girl who and talk to the dead and a serial killer who starts knifing the popular kids in high school.
On one level the idea dates all the way back to when I was sixteen and hid out in the school auditorium during class reading Carrie by Stephen King. As someone who was being bullied, I was really drawn to Carrie and related to her. But at the same time I wanted to take that idea of an outsider with supernatural powers – who could totally destroy the school if they wanted to – but then totally flip it on its head. I wanted to add romance and humor and more supernatural elements, and even say something more about what it feels like to be on the outside.
Also, I’m not joking one bit when I saw the idea for chapter one first hit me in a dream. I tend to have really vivid dreams anyway. And this one dream about getting onto a subway, suddenly being kissed by some guy from my past and then seeing a dead body on the floor, was so twisted and interesting, I just started writing about it after I woke up.
Why do you think readers will root for Liv? What makes her a compelling character?
So, Liv is a quirky, unusual teenager who works at the local funeral home and has just recently figured out she can talk to the dead. She’s trying to decide what her powers mean to her and if she wants to help her dead bullies figure out who killed them, while fighting a romantic attraction to the presumed killer, who’s also hiding in the funeral home. I love her attitude and I hope readers root for Liv too. She’s a bit of a complicated character, because she’s flawed, she’s imperfect and she makes some mistakes. But she’s also got guts, she’s sarcastic, she says the kind of things I wish I could say and get away with. And I like that.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I talked to a lot of people. A couple of funeral directors helped me out with some aspects, including one who gave me a complete tour, which was kind of creepy. I also talked with emergency room staff about how to wound people, and got advice from a lawyer on how they’d represent the accused killer. Hopefully they all believed me when I told them I was a writer, and none believed I was an actual serial killer looking for tips.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Can you tell me a bit about your journey?
I’ve been writing for years in various ways. This was my first YA speculative fiction and my first paranormal book. Basically this is the one book that I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a teenager. I was just waiting for the right publisher fit to come along and take a risk on it. (Thank you ChiTeen!)
What’s one of the first things you remember writing?
When I was fourteen, I wrote my first serial killer murder mystery about someone killing off high school students. I still have it in a notebook in my cupboard. The killer in that book used poison and drowning, instead of knives. But now that I think of it, a couple of the killer’s tricks are actually pretty close to what happens in Dead Girls Don’t. I also wrote a body-switching paranormal book and a time travel murder book that year too. I actually submitted my first book to a publisher when I was fifteen. They rejected it of course, but it got me on track to keep trying.
Dead Girls Don’t is pretty creepy, but what is something that truly gives you the creeps?
What creeps me out the most—and thrills me too—is anything that has to do with bending reality and realizing our perspective of things aren’t true.
Any science fiction movie or television show where we end up wondering if what we think is real really is real, or if we’ve just secretly trapped in some fake simulation of reality is what gets me the most. When I was twelve, the first adult mystery I ever read was an Agatha Christie, where we discover at the end that the narrator is really the murder. I was so freaked out by that.
When I lie awake at night and think about what scares me the most, it’s not something tangible like spiders or heights. It’s the idea of being told that I’m not who I think I am and that other people aren’t who I think they are.
I think that’s why I’m scared of clowns, because they wear a fake smiling face. At this time of year, I run away from anyone wearing a mask, even if I know who’s inside, because again it’s like the mask has a life of it’s own.
What are a few of your favorite books and authors?
My first favorite author was Madeline L’Engle. I loved how she combined romance and relationships, with creepy science fiction like in Arm of the Starfish and Wind in the Door. I loved that her books were set in the real world too, so she had these wild science fiction and fantasy things impacting on people’s real lives. Especially as the exact same characters could be in a science fiction book at one moment and then in a totally normal non-science fiction book the next. There was something daring in the way she blended genres.
My favorite recent author was Sir Terry Pratchett. I absolutely loved his Discworld series. It had so many amazing, complex, interesting characters and there was something very intricate about how it was written. I love books where it feels like everything fits together and happens for a reason.
Another author I adore is Christopher Moore and I wish I’d thought of all of his book ideas first. He’s spectacular and fun and dark. And the next book I’ll be reading is Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. He’s amazing too.
So, yes, I like books. 😉
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
That’s a brilliant and tricky question. I read really quickly. So sometimes I get to the end of a book and wish I’d read it slower so really see the clues unfold.
Oddly, the first things that sprung to mind are Hamlet and MacBeth – which are of course, violent, bloody, supernatural Plays and not books. But, like most people, I was forced to *read* them in high school, instead of watching them first as plays. And what’s worse is I was *told* what the stories were about upfront, instead of being able to experience them for myself. So, I wish I could just experience them fresh, as a real audience would, and get to try and figure out for myself what was up with the ghosts and who was going to get killed next.
Also, I have a complicated relationship with The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve, because that book totally messed with my head. Anita Shreve writes contemporary, adult romance books. So, when I read this book, I thought I was just reading just another normal, contemporary romance about two middle aged people who have an affair. I didn’t think there was anything weird going with the characters on at all. So, when I got to the last page, I freaked out and threw the book across the floor, because I was totally surprised by the ending. I was so shocked I literally couldn’t sleep and had to stay up all night searching for clues. I’ve never been so completely fooled by an author like that before. Every now and then, I wonder if the book would fool me again now if I read it for the first time. But then I remember how much the whole ‘bending of reality’ thing scares me, so I don’t.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know. Pretty much everyone I know whose read Dead Girls Don’t has asked for a sequel, because I left it a little open ended. I’m not sure if I want to tie up those loose ends, or if I want the reader to imagine the ending for themselves. After all, the characters are still teenagers.
But I do have a strong idea and plan for a follow up book that takes place in the same universe and has cross over characters. It plays with reality even more than Dead Girls Don’t, and this idea of not knowing what’s really real and what’s not—and I’m not sure if I can pull it off yet. It’s a pretty freaky concept.
Keep up with Mags: Twitter
About Dead Girl’s Don’t:
Liv might be in love with a serial killer. You’d think the fact she can talk to the dead would make it easier to figure out who’s slicing up the creeps at Rosewood Academy. But it turns out some people are even more dangerous dead than alive. All clues lead back to Adam – the highly tempting fugitive she’s been hiding in a coffin. But her best friend Gabriel’s got some twisted secrets of his own, and if you cross some lines there’s just no coming back. Was the guy with the wicked grin really framed for murder? Or will Liv end up another bloody victim of the high school serial killer? Dead Girls Don’t is a paranormal love story about stalkers, psycho killers, and why you should never trust your date’s dead ex. Life’s complicated that way.