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Shadows on the Wall, Whispers in the Mind: Guest Post by Karen Kincy

(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)

By Karen Kincy, author of BLOODBORN

When I was a kid, if you asked me to write a story about the scariest thing ever, I would have probably written something about the most foul, undead, oozing, crawling monster ever. With glowing red eyes. Unspeakable evil that eats kittens for breakfast and unicorns for lunch.

But that’s not what really scares me.

Now I would write about the pause where possible disasters flash through your mind like a murder of crows. You stand, paralyzed, and realize you don’t know what will happen to you. Now I would write about the shadows on the wall, those shapes you don’t recognize, and the whispers in your mind, talking to parts of yourself you don’t recognize, either.

It’s the whitespace in a story that really scares me. The gaps between the words, filled in by a black seeping ooze from the corners of my nightmares. The author doesn’t even need to do that much work; I have an overactive imagination. Fear of the unknown is my fear. But like all readers who relish a good horror story, I masochistically adore the creeped-out feeling of goosebumps prickling your skin, an icy trickle down your spine, and a sudden urge to yelp and leap off the floor, away from the windows and doors.

One book that thoroughly, deliciously creeped me out was The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. To quote from my original review: “I managed to read 300+ pages straight of this book before someone knocked on my door and I jumped out of bed, adrenaline rushing at the thought of a zombie outside my apartment.” A scene in this book Creeped. Me. Out.

In an abandoned house, with zombies shuffling around outside, there’s an abandoned crib. Well, it looks abandoned, at first, but something squirms inside… is it a baby? Alive? So the main character goes and picks it up while I’m screaming at her to put it down, because of course the baby is dead. Undead, rather. So sad, and so, so scary.

On the subject of zombies, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry is an awesome action adventure middle-grade. And of course, like all good zombie books, it has scary parts. I don’t want to be too spoilery, but there are scenes involving characters who might be alive, or might be undead, and it’s really hard to tell, so you’re biting your nails while the definitely-alive characters keep their hands on their weapons. Besides all the scariness, Rot & Ruin tackles the emotional aftermath of loved ones becoming zombies, and makes you feel for the undead.

As a nod to our host, Nova, I have to say that Imaginary Girls scared me. I like to read in bed, often at night, and so I merrily started this book. Pretty soon I started getting goosebumps. The dread in this book dawned on me slowly, subtly, like the delicate evocation of horror often found in Japanese films like The Ring—the original one is much creepier than the remake. I didn’t know quite what I should be afraid of, and so the dread built, and built, with all my questions about who was actually dead, and what was actually real.

Now that it’s late October, and fog creeps through the dying leaves, it’s the perfect time to read scary books. Let me check my bookshelf, though I’m going to check under the bed, first…

Karen Kincy (Redmond, Washington) lives among countless trees, some of which—her pet kumquats and oranges—have lovingly invaded her apartment. Unlike her characters, she has never been on the run from the law or bitten by a werewolf, though she has been known to howl at the moon. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College, and is studying toward a Master’s in Computational Linguistics.

Visit Karen at

Follow @karenkincy on Twitter.

Comment on this guest blog and you’ll gain an extra entry for the big Halloween giveaway on October 31, containing prize packs of signed books plus books and ARCs donated by my publisher Penguin Teen!  

Here’s a sneak peek of some books I’m giving away:

You can keep track of all the “What Scares You?” guest blogs with this tag.

17 thoughts on “Shadows on the Wall, Whispers in the Mind: Guest Post by Karen Kincy

  1. When I first read this post from Karen, I blushed wildly and yelped out loud! Thank you so much, Karen, for mentioning my book !!!! … and in the same paragraph as RINGU, the movie that terrified me and gave me nightmares for months and made me think I was seeing a girl’s face covered in hair through the window of my studio at the MacDowell Colony every single night because I stupidly watched that movie right before I left to sleep for a month in the woods????

    Wow. Thank you, Karen!

  2. Whitespace seems to be a common fear factor- as someone with an overactive imagination myself, I totally get that. Whenever I’m yelling at a character not to do something, I know the book has me hooked.


  3. i think that whitespace is the thing that scares me in books and movies, too. i hate it in a movie when people are walking around and it’s all quiet. quiet = something bad is going to happen soon. i think that’s what made the road my cormac mccarthy scary as well. the bleak, quiet landscape where you never knew who or what you were going to run into.

  4. I also loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I remember lying in bed with my heart racing as I devoured the book from cover to cover. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Rot & Ruin too, but haven’t gotten to that one yet. Hopefully soon!

  5. Honestly? I was waiting for someone to mention Imaginary Girls. It so has just the right level of something is not right creepy to keep you questioning and wondering. And even after you know all of the truth its still… well. Creepy. =)

  6. Imaginary Girls is actually the creepiest book I read this year, I’m glad you mentioned it! I wan’t all that impressed with the Forrest of Hands and Teeth. I just couldn’t get past the MC. It felt like she was willing to sacrafice her love for her dream, and I guess I just didn’t support her on that. Thanks for your guest post! :]

  7. Great cover for Bloodborn! I’ll have to ck it out; I love discovering ‘new’ authors! Believe me, my list is growing. Not to mention, your list of the ones that scared you….now they’re my list to read.

  8. Great post. It isn’t really reading the creepy things, it’s the knock on the door where you don’t know if what you’ve read is coming to life or not – if on the other side of the door is going to be the neighbor or a zombie. Forest of Hands and Teeth freaked me out a bit too, and Imaginary Girls is indeed chilling.

  9. Pingback: Best 11 Books of 2011 | Karen Kincy

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