Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway: Feral by Holly Schindler

As some of you may or may not remember, I recently read and reviewed Feral by Holly Schindler. When I was finished I was left with a lot of unanswered questions and mixed emotions about everything that had transpired during the read.

Holly saw my review and graciously offered to write up a guest post for me about answers some of those questions I had. I was floored that she would do such a thing and touched that she really listened and cared about her readers.
And not only did she offer to do a guest post but she has included a giveaway as well!

Thank you so much Holly, for being here today!!

Release Date:
August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen

Book Description:
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened. 

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

About the Author:

My debut YA novel, A Blue So Dark, earned a starred review in Booklist, was named one of Booklist's Top 10 First Novels for Youth, received a silver medal from the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and won a gold medal in the IPPYs. Playing Hurt, my first romance, released in 2011. My first MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, released in 2014.

My next YA, Feral, will release August 26, 2014; the novel has earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly.


I have to start by saying I’m so glad Ali asked me to stop by to discuss FERAL—specifically, to discuss authorial choices I made toward the end of the book. It’s also an incredibly tricky post to write without completely filling it with spoilers!

Essentially, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a hard or long process; dealing with the ramifications of a violent act is also an utterly terrifying process. The format of the classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

Like classic psychological thrillers, FERAL features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). The oft-used water metaphor (employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious) is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (and represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state, her lack of ability to move on from a violent act, though she desperately wants to).

Another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller is the search to discover what is real. That’s a big, big part of FERAL. Upon moving to Peculiar, Missouri with her father, Claire finds herself coming face-to-face (literally) with the ravaged body of a dead classmate. She also learns of the suicide of a Peculiar High student that took place in the basement of the school—and of the urban legend that insists the ghost of this student still haunts the no-longer-used downstairs area.

Soon after, Claire also begins to see terrifying events: souls of the town dead moving through the fog, the basement ghost, the recently-deceased classmate’s spirit falling into one of the town’s rampant feral cats—and later deciding that she would like Claire’s body for her own.

To add insult to injury, Claire’s obviously still struggling with what happened to her in Chicago. Her nightmares are relentless; she has flashbacks. One less-frequently-discussed aspect of PTSD is the presence of psychotic symptoms. According to a few studies I read while writing FERAL, as many as 40% of post-combat soldiers report experiencing auditory hallucinations; in addition, by some accounts, as many as 20% of individuals suffering from PTSD (not necessarily soldiers in these studies) experience seeing things others cannot, while 27% have the belief they’re being spied on, followed, or otherwise persecuted.

So what, exactly, is happening in FERAL? What can Claire believe—maybe more importantly, what can the READER believe to be real?

There are physical events in the book that are undeniably real: A girl goes missing and is found dead. Her spirit is forced to let go of the earthly world, make its journey to the afterlife. The town police do overlook clues regarding her death. A former Peculiar High student has died in the basement. A car malfunctions. A feral cat follows Claire.

There are also what I would call malicious paranormal events: angry ghosts, spirits in cats, soul-filled fog. Claire believes these events are real throughout most of the book, but during a scene at the

school dance toward the end of the book, these malicious events are revealed to be something else—namely, a horrifying truth about herself.

Ultimately, the ending and explanation of what has been happening in the town of Peculiar is also an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche—as it should be; the rest of the book is an exploration of where she is mentally, as well. The malicious events provide a portrait into how much work she still has to do regarding her recovery.

I have an inordinate amount of respect for the YA readership—these readers are voracious. They’re savvy. And I feel like part of my job as an author is to push the readership in some way. (It does my heart good to read reviews in which bloggers say they’re still thinking about the book after putting it down—that tells me I’m doing my job.) I realize the classic psychological thriller is fairly underrepresented right now, especially by the box office. And it’s been fascinating to hear from regular readers of more action-oriented thrillers how the classic psychological thriller format surprised them / differed from their expectations. I’ll admit, I’m a HUGE vintage movie buff—I love Hitchcock (I think REAR WINDOW is my favorite). But modern movies operate in a different way—faster-paced, more action, less intense focus on character development. And that impacts our expectation of how a story—whether it’s in a book or on the screen—will play out.

Right now, I’m having incredible discussions with readers via Twitter, FB, and my blog regarding the psychological thriller—whether they believe the genre is changing (becoming a genre that more heavily emphasizes the “thriller” rather than “psychology”). Also, we’ve been talking reviews—and whether they consider authorial intent when writing them. I always learn from my readers—with each book, bloggers have gotten me to look at character development, book packaging, reader response in a new light. That’s SERIOUSLY cool.

If you’d like to touch base about FERAL—or even ask a few questions of your own—feel free to give me a shout: @holly_schindler,,

ARC Copy of Feral

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. It's so good to find an author who understands that YA readers can be even more demanding than adults. I love this. It's been a good long time since I'd read a decent psychological thriller. At first Feral intrigued me because of the creepy cover, but now that I know more about it, I can't wait to read it.
    Thanks or sharing this, Ali!

  2. I did plan on reading this book so thanks for the explanations. I guess it'll help me understand the book more, right? :P And thank you for the (international?) giveaway as well! :D

  3. I'm really hard to please when it comes to psychological thrillers, it's very all or nothing - either I'm totally sucked in and biting my nails or I'm rolling my eyes and DNFing. I'm so excited to give Feral a try! I love HItchcock style thrillers in particular, and any book that has me thinking about it long after I'm done is a winner in my opinion. Lovely guest post!

  4. " And I feel like part of my job as an author is to push the readership in some way. "

    LOVE THAT! After all the recent articles and what not claiming adults should be embarrassed to read books meant for teens (as though these books have no meaning or substance - which is insulting to both the adults and teens), it's nice to read something like Holly's post about pushing readers and trying to really make them think. I have this one on my list, can't wait to start it!

  5. Ah! This is so interesting! Definitely want to give a try after reading this :)

  6. First off - I like to say thank you to both Holly and Ali for this wonderful post! This quote completely impressed me- As an adult how enjoys reading YA and a parent who has a teen reading YA :)

    "I have an inordinate amount of respect for the YA readership—these readers are voracious. They’re savvy. And I feel like part of my job as an author is to push the readership in some way."

    Lately, I've been trying to add more of these brain teasers (psychological thrillers) to my reading list, and I'm even more excited to check out Feral now! :)

    1. So glad this helped make your decision about reading it Kim!

  7. I really like Holly, I've had her on a number of times and we chat via email. I liked not really knowing what was real but I found myself believing some things really were, they just felt so real! So I think she managed to do a good job in creating something unpredictable and creepy that really messed with my head.

  8. Oh what an interesting post! I heard a lot about the book and I confess I'm really curious. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Melliane and I hope you give it a try. :)

  9. I want to read this book so I didn't read the guest post even though it's spoiler free :) So nice of her to try and explain things!

    1. You'll have to come back and read it after you have read the book. ;)

  10. Wow Kindlemom, what an honor. It awes me too that authors really care what we have to say.
    Thanks for sharing

  11. This is hot on my list of must read books Ali.

  12. What a lovely guest post. that's great Holly offered to do a guest post after reading your review. Its wonderful that she wants to keep the discussion open between author and reader. I like psychological thrillers and I'm a fan of Hitchcock films too, so it's cool to see her influences, etc.


  13. Great post, glad the author was able to give some clarification :) I've written the book's name down and I'll be on the lookout for it, once it's released!

  14. What a great post. It is more of a teaser about the story than an excerpt. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  15. I don't read a lot of psychological thrillers, so I didn't realize that the trends in this genre are shifting. I'm thinking that it's about time for me to give these types of books another shot, and FERAL sounds like a great place to start. Thanks for sharing!

  16. LOVE this GP! I wasn't aware of that water metaphor and some of the other stuff shementioned. Very informative, awesome topic guys!

    1. I am a huge Hitchcock fan and I didn't know about the water either!

  17. I love a good, solid psychological thriller and I am excited to check this one it. It sounds so creepy and I can't wait to uncover the twists and turn for myself.

  18. Nice guest post. Thank you for hosting.

  19. this is just AWESOME! Thanks Ali

  20. Thanks for the guest post and giveaway!

  21. Alright, alright, LOL. I don't typically go for psychological thrillers b/c CHICKEN, but this one sounds too good to pass up. Onto the wishlist it goes ;) Great post and thanks for the giveaway!