This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launches Tales from the Fringes of Fear, by Jeff Szpirglas, which Kirkus Reviews calls “A spine-tingling collection that's dead on for young horror buffs.”
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
Tales from Beyond the Brain (2019) and Tales from the Fringes of Fear (2020) are two anthologies of pure pulse-pounding, side-splitting tales of terror, aimed at (and starring) junior-aged school children. Within its pages lurk stories about malevolent art supplies, deadly field trips, and even a classroom clock that sends people hurtling dangerously through time. That’s two sentences, but I wrote two books, so I think we’re good.
Describe your ideal reader.
“Anyone who picked up the book” is my totally legit answer. But if you like weird tales that oscillate between silly and scary, you’re probably going to love the Tales books. Bonus points if you’ve ever seen Creepshow or the old Amicus films, although we’re selling the books to middle grade readers who are too young for those movies. But I hope the books contain the tone, verve, and overall spirit of the E.C. Comics tales, without being inappropriate. Well, maybe a little inappropriate.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
I probably wear my influences on my sleeve, and definitely acknowledged the great works of Douglas Adams (for his wonky humour and turning the universe on its side), Roald Dahl, Classic-era Doctor Who, and the terrifying tales of Richard Matheson. The Tales books are perhaps a fermented brew of all of these influences, as blended and poured by Jeff Szpirglas.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
The Tales books are examples of completely unfiltered writing. With Tales From Beyond the Brain, many of the tales were written when my twin children were infants, and I wasn’t sleeping very much, but still trying to maintain some kind of writing routine. Many of the stories have this dream-like quality and strange internal logic that a more alert version of myself would have dismissed. With Tales from The Fringes of Fear, the goal was to create a follow up in a short span of time. Many of the stories were written quickly, but again, I was throwing tales into the cauldron with such ferocity that my “oooh, I shouldn’t write this” filter was temporarily put on hold. My Grade Two class suggested a story about a lockdown, so I wrote one. It gets pretty ugly, and I’m glad it does. There’s no way I’d be able to use that story (“Bad Moon Rising”) as a Grade Two read-aloud.
What's something your ideal interviewer would ask you about your book? Anything goes...
People always like to know where the story ideas come from, and I’m usually able to answer them. The bigger question is “What’s the next story going to be about, Jeff?” Because I’m constantly searching for mundane ordinary things that can turn frightening in a flash.
The thank you's. Go ahead and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
I’d be nowhere without my wife and frequent co-author, Danielle Saint-Onge, whose enthusiasm and help make every book count, and for her patience sitting through movies like The Brood with me. You also wouldn’t be reading the Tales books without the editing chops of Tanya Trafford, as well as the mind-blowingly horrifying illustrations from Steven Hughes. It’s a team effort for sure.
What Canadian book are you reading right now or next?
James Bow’s The Night Girl, a YA fantasy, is sitting on my bedside table, quietly nudging me to read it.
Most kids don’t have to stress about things like exotic insects with a taste for human flesh when they go to class. But students at this school have to be ever vigilant. You never know when a supernatural pastry or a clay monster bent on revenge might be lurking just around the corner. Even a simple field trip to a local animal sanctuary can have ssserious consequences.
Dragged fresh from the grave and pulled out of the haunted corners of a school locker, these thirteen new stories are a nod to the storytelling style of Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. They are guaranteed to make you laugh like a hyena, shake your head in wonder or tremble with fear.
A companion volume to Tales from Beyond the Brain.
Most kids don’t have to stress about things like exotic insects with a taste for human flesh when they go to class. But students at this school have to be ever vigilant. You never know when a supernatural pastry or a clay monster bent on revenge might be lurking just around the corner. Even a simple field trip to a local animal sanctuary can hav …