Hello everyone, I absolutely adored this novel and so I asked Courtney if I should would mind doing an interview for the blog. I wasn’t surprised when she accepted, she’s such a swell gal. I’m just lucky enough to talk to her before she goes big!! And she will!!
And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below for a change to win a Hardcover copy of SHUTTER courtesy of the publisher!
Now onto the interrogation!
KAT: So I know that I’ve read your story, but for the new readers out there, give them a little taste of what this book is actually about…
COURTNEY: SHUTTER is about a girl, a ghost, a camera, and grudges both old and new. But if you’d like to read the formal description, you can find it on Goodreads.
KAT: Micheline is an odd name. Any reason for choosing that for the main character? Did it just come to you at once or did you plan it?
COURTNEY: Before any of the Helsing mythology came in, the main character’s name was actually “Mina.” But by the third draft, the novel’s connections to DRACULA became apparent and it was no longer feasible to keep the protagonist’s name (DRACULA has a major character named “Mina Harker.”)
I knew, however, the character wanted to keep an “M” name, and that she wanted a name that was both strong but slightly feminine-sounding. After weeks of going back-and-forth, I was reading an article about a pinup model named Micheline Pitt, who is not only an intelligent and beautiful person, but also a horror aficionado. My protagonist loved the name. She’s been “Micheline” ever since!
KAT: Quite the little story over there! If you could describe each character in one word, which word would you choose for each of them? Even I would have a hard time with this one! There’s just so much to say!
COURTNEY: I’m going to put the first word that comes to mind . . .
KAT: I can definitely understand those choices. Did you have the whole story planned or did you make a crap ton of changes throughout?
COURTNEY: I’m a pantser, so the first draft of SHUTTER is wildly different from the last. To put it into perspective, I wrote some 500,000 words toward the book, total, while only 95,000 made it into the final draft. I believe in making mistakes while writing . . . lots and lots of mistakes!
KAT: Dang!! That’s quite a bit of cut-outs. I can tell that you’re very inspired by Dracula, is that your go-to horror novel? What are some of your favorites?
COURTNEY: Oh, I love DRACULA, but it wasn’t the first horror novel I read. I stumbled upon Stephen King’s THE MIST when I was eleven or so, and found Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE less than a year later. Due to some strange experiences I had as a child, I found a lot of solace in horror—stories of people, particularly young people—overcoming their fears appealed to me.
As for my current favorites, Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX tops my list of favorite horror novels, with Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE in close second. My favorite horror YA is Rick Yancey’s supernal novel THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST, which I’m a passionate apologist for; but I also really adore Barry Lyga’s I HUNT KILLERS and Jonathan Maberry’s ROT & RUIN books.
KAT: Those are some amazing favorites. What gives you motivation to write? Do ghosts just pester you to do their bidding?
COURTNEY: Ghosts of characters who wish for paper flesh, yes! All my novels generally start with the wisp of a character—in SHUTTER’s case, I saw a girl fighting a massive ultraviolet ghost, armed only with a camera. She piqued my curiosity, and the more I followed her around on the page, the more I came to know about her world of tetrachromats, necrotic monsters, and ghosts.
Honestly, I write because there’s no other way to get away from the characters in my head. I don’t generally have “conversations” with my characters the way some writers do; rather, I see scenes unfolding like 3D movies that I transcribe. The strongest scenes—such as the ending of SHUTTER—come as surprises, ones I don’t necessarily anticipate or plan. Creativity can be an amazing, miraculous thing, and that in itself makes writing a worthwhile endeavor.
KAT: A-HAH! I knew they wouldn’t leave you alone. There are a lot of people comparing this to the game Fatal Frame, which can be a good or bad thing. How do you feel about that? Do you play these types of horror survival games?
COURTNEY: I adore survival horror games, and I actually played FATAL FRAME: CRIMSON BUTTERFLY many years ago. The comparisons don’t bother me, but I do think they’re a little too easy, since a number of horror projects have used photography or film either as a container or weapon against spiritual creatures. It’s really no great creative leap to imagine using a camera against ghosts—it was explaining the process of exorcism via camera that took a lot of work, research, careful thought and creativity.
However, the novel’s shadow realm, the Obscura, was named in homage to FATAL FRAME’s Camera Obscura, which is used to exorcise ghosts in the game. (It’s also symbolic, because “camera obscura” means “dark chamber” in Latin and refers to an early type of pinhole camera.)
I’m actually thrilled that so many readers tie the novel back to survival horror games—really, it’s a homage to the greats: RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL. For me, SHUTTER is much more related to those two games in terms of content, plot, atmosphere, and structure; even the battles with the ghost were meant to mimic the recurring boss battles you find in those games.
KAT: Yeah, I visualized all those games in there as well. A wonderful tribute to the greatest horror games ever created. What do you want the readers to get out of reading your work? The chills, the thrills, or just rather having a good time reading a good story?
COURTNEY: I always hope readers will not only enjoy the novel, but be encouraged to seek out the source material, too. All of my works have deep roots in classic literature, in hopes that teens will be emboldened to try some of the classics that made such a strong impression on me at their age.
But I also write horror because I think it reminds us that life’s struggles are survivable, even if survival requires earning a few new scars. I think this is an especially important message for children and teens, because everyday life can be a frightening place for young people (and for adults, too)! Literature, however, can deliver not only vicarious life experience but a sliver of solace—and horror teaches us that we are greater than the things we fear.
KAT: Whoa, that’s pretty deep. I really see that classical influence showing through and I think it’s brilliant. This is your first work and it’s just so darn spectacular, what advice can you give authors who are just starting out but tend to lose hope in this market?
COURTNEY: Oh, thank you, Kat! You’re too kind! I would definitely say that the people who succeed in this industry 1) work very hard and deliver good work; 2) are kind to other people; and 3) never give up and/or lose sight of their goals. Everyone’s journey to publication is different, so aspiring writers should be gentle to themselves through any rejection that may come, and remember that failure isn’t necessarily indicative of skill or worth.
Additionally, aspiring authors should look to their favorite authors. Figure out what resonates with you about your favorite works, then go and do likewise. Remember that there’s no such thing as a “new” idea, and that you are what you eat! If you consume the best books, movies, graphic novels, music, and video games, your own work will become richer, too. Find inspiration everywhere!
Finally, don’t write to publish. Write for love.
KAT: Some great advice for sure. Okay here comes the quick six, where basically you choose which word fits your book more…
Strong or Rational: Strong!
Ghosts or Aliens: Ghosts!
Action or Mystery: Action!
Running or Fighting: Fighting!
Blood or Screams: Blood!
Flashlight or Camera: Camera!
KAT: Last but not least, what is your zombie outbreak plan? Do you stay cooped up at home for safety or do you go and venture guns blazing?
COURTNEY: I have waited all my life to be asked this question! Kidding. (Kind of.) If the zombie apocalypse hit, I don’t think anyone would be safe staying put for long; eventually, you’d have to venture out for necessities. So I like to think I’d take Michonne’s tack from THE WALKING DEAD and run around brandishing a samurai sword, then find a small group of trustworthy, hardened survivors to fight out the worst.
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Shutter Blog Tour Schedule
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Courtney Alameda’s spent her entire career trying to con and cajole people into reading great books. A veteran of the big-box bookstore trenches, Courtney now works as a librarian for the prettiest library you’ve ever seen, where she spends her time ordering large stacks of YA books, doing readers’ advisory, and dressing up as various mythical creatures for a variety of library events.
Courtney has an affinity for brightly colored lipstick, urban exploration, cosplay, video games, and Twitter. If she’s listening to music, it’s usually Florence + the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds, Rodrigo y Gabriela, or Jason Graves. Her addiction to Dr. Pepper is legendary.
Courtney holds a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University. She is represented by the amazing and talented John M. Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. A Northern California native, she now resides in Utah with a legion of books and a tiny, five pound cat who possesses a giant personality.
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