Tiffany Trent: Haunted at 17


My new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out this week on March 21, and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s Tiffany Trent revealing what obsessed and haunted her when she was 17 years old…


Guest post by Tiffany Trent

(Tiffany Trent at 17.)
(Tiffany Trent at 17.)

What haunted me at 17 haunts me still. Back then, of course, it was fresher. At age 8 or 9, I’d seen a program on HBO narrated by Orson Welles—The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. It was about Nostradamus and his predictions of war, terror, and famine. It made such a deep impression on me that I had elaborate nightmares about it for years, and some of my first stories came from these nightmares. It was the first time I understood war as more than an abstract concept. It was the first time I looked at the mushroom clouds of nuclear explosions and understood this was the sort of thing that could happen to us if we weren’t careful.

Lucky for me, I suppose, I was born toward the end of the Cold War. We didn’t have to hide under our desks, but we were afraid, nonetheless.

But there was another war going on, one far more subtle and insidious, and I became aware of it only slowly. I can dimly remember the oil crisis of the ’70s, my legs stuck to the hot naugahyde seats while my mother waited in the gas lines.

My father and I loved to explore the natural world together. Over and over wherever we went, seeking the world my father had known as a child, we found it shrinking. I could only get the barest glimpse of the world he had known as the bulldozers pushed over the trees he’d loved and raked long red scars along the paths he’d walked.

I would often watch the mountains, the trees, the birds slowly diminishing and I realized one day that if all of this were gone, we would be gone, too. I became an eco-warrior in high school, trying to push everyone to recycle, trying to reduce my waste output. My parents had always gardened, and I tried to get my father to use organic methods (sometimes he would, but often he wouldn’t). I campaigned for the Sierra Club and helped clean up Tinker Creek, the Roanoke River, roadsides…whenever I could.

To tell you the truth, I was pretty obnoxious about all of it, and I’m sure many people got tired of my rants about how we were destroying the earth. I was so focused on the land and its creatures that I seldom thought of humans at all, except as pests that needed to be controlled.

I went to college first in wildlife management (and, when that didn’t work out), then in English with a heavy emphasis on environmental literature. I got graduate degrees in both creative writing and environmental studies. I’ve been around the world and seen even more devastation than Nostradamus could have possibly dreamed. And I’ve seen people stuck in the middle of it, trying to make a living in the toxic fields of modern civilization, smiling all the while.

My fear is different than it was when I was 17, but it’s still there. I am less certain of the answers, and I’m more aware that humans are a precious part of the solution, whatever that may be. What I’ve learned from the people I’ve met is that we cannot live in fear all the time. We must turn that fear to love. And I think that is part of why I write what I write, part of why I was so very honored when earlier this spring my novel The Unnaturalists won a Green Earth Book Award Honor for its environmental message.

I still have hope that there is time for a different future, one that does not include the nightmares of The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. I still have hope that whatever we fear for ourselves and our children can be turned into the love of doing what’s right for all of us.

UnnaturalistsTiffany Trent is the author of the award-winning young adult steampunk fantasy THE UNNATURALISTS and the HALLOWMERE series. She has also published numerous short stories and environmental essays. She lives and writes in the New River Valley of Virginia. When not writing, she’s out chasing chickens or playing with bees.

Find her online at

Follow @tiffanytrent on Twitter.


Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up at the end of the week!


Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me on Friday, March 22 at the Union Square Barnes & Noble or Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • The 17 & Gone Blog Tour is all about the images that spoke to me—and inspired and illuminated parts of the story—while I was writing the book. I collected them all on my Pinterest inspiration board, and each stop on the blog tour reveals one of these images and a passage inspired by it. Here’s the first stop: my guest post on Mundie Moms.
  • I’m touched and honored to say that Courtney Summers is holding a giveaway for 17 & Gone right now—she’s been so kind and supportive, which means extra-much to me because I admire her like whoa! She’s giving away 17 & Gone (along with an ARC of the anthology Defy the Dark). Enter her Facebook giveaway. This giveaway closes soon!
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.


What haunted Carrie Ryan at 17?


Guest Post: What Scares Tiffany Trent

(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)

By Tiffany Trent, author of the HALLOWMERE series

Big thanks to Nova Ren Suma for including me on this blog extravaganza! It’s interesting that she would ask about my favorite scary things because the truth is that I tend not to read or watch scary things. Given the fact that all of my work borders on dark fantasy/horror, that may come as a shock. (Or not. Maybe you already know I’m a wimp about certain things.)

The problem is just this: Horror affects me so deeply that it’s hard for me to read or watch it. Some people like being scared, but my mind goes there so easily that I don’t need extra stimuli, if that makes sense. In fact, I can probably pinpoint the exact time I stopped reading it. I plowed through all of Poe’s work (which I still deeply love, gruesome as some of it truly is). I read Something Wicked This Way Comes. And then when I was 15, I snuck Pet Sematary by Stephen King into church. I couldn’t have told you what the pastor said that day; the book had me in its clutches. It took a long time to get out of that novel.

Novels held me too hard. I can’t stop thinking about them and living in them. I was forbidden to watch horror (I don’t know how SK slipped past my parents), but even the lighter spine-tinglers like The Watcher in the Woods and Lady in White gave me the creeps. I think the only reason I could sit through The Silence of the Lambs is that criminology, especially serial-killer psychology, fascinates me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just accepted that I’m far too sensitive to such things. I tried, for instance, to get over it by reading Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, an excellent novel that I just couldn’t finish because it scared me to death! Seeing Pan’s Labyrinth nearly killed me, but I forced myself to watch it all the way through because it was just that good. Even I Am Legend nearly made me pee my pants in terror, especially at the point where Will Smith goes into the dark after his dog. And don’t even get me started on The Others! Eeeeeep!

The funny thing is that people say that my work terrifies them. When my first book came out, I had *adults* writing me saying they had to sleep with the lights on, so creepy was In the Serpent’s Coils!

I think the reason why these things work so strongly on me comes from the architecture of anticipation. Everything prior to the moment of terror is visceral—breath, blood, bone, that sudden arresting moment when you realize you are not alone in the dark room. I love making this moment real in fiction (even if I dislike re-creating it in real life). My imagination just naturally tends to go in that direction, and I actually spend a lot of time reining it in, saying, “No, we will not think about the creepy man hiding in the coal chute while the poor woman gets ready for bed alone” or “No, we will not think about the careful arrangement of bones under that layer of topsoil just put down in the pasture…”

Horror is at its best when it touches on the sublime. Beauty and the Beast. Frankenstein’s monster waxing poetic on his humanity. A child subduing a terrifying monster with one word. It’s danger withheld and restrained. It’s truth and strength forced to crisis, and thus, to transcendence. I love that about horror and creepy tales, I really do. Just don’t make me have to live through them! 🙂

Tiffany Trent is the author of the steampunk YA The Unnaturalists (coming Summer 2012 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) and the Hallowmere series (Mirrorstone). She lives and writes in the ghost-ridden Appalachian mountains.

Visit Tiffany at

Follow @tiffanytrent 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!  

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