Ghost Bully: Review and Interview With Author Brian Corley

Ghost Bully by Brian Corley

Roommates can be hell.

Like when they’re late with the rent, late on bills, or constantly trying to kill you.

Jonah Preston thought he knew what he was getting into after signing the paperwork to buy his new home: yard work, a leaky pipe here and there, maybe the occasional squirrel in the attic.

He just didn’t expect to share that new home with a ghost.

Before all the boxes are unpacked, Jonah learns the previous owner, Willard Hensch, committed suicide in one of the bedrooms. It’s bad news, but Jonah and his (corporeal) roommate, Max, take it in stride. Jonah’s just happy to own a home and begin this new chapter in his adult life.

Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly short chapter.

Unhappy with his new roommates, the resident ghost quickly makes his presence known. Like, really known. When Jonah wakes up dead, he knows exactly who’s behind it.

Willard. Effing. Hensch.

For the newly deceased Jonah, that’s where his new chapter truly begins. He will befriend angels, fight demons, and take on a ghostly army in this comic-paranormal thrill ride through the freakish underworld of Austin, Texas. 

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I’ll start by saying this is not the typical book I’d pick up to read. As a rule, I like to stay away from anything with the potential to be scary and I definitely find ghosts scary.

But.

I have been known to make exceptions when the book just sounds too good for me to pass up. That’s why I ended up reading The Passage trilogy, The Dark Tower series, and the Gone series. Ghost Bully was much the same – the concept just sounded too fun, plus I got to meet author Brian Corley at the Superstars Writing Conference I attended earlier this year and learned even more about his creation.

Ghost Bully was a fun ride from start to finish. I only found one or two chapters near the beginning to be mildly creepy. Overall, the book elicited more chuckles than chills and absolutely delivered on the unique premise.

What really made Ghost Bully such a great read for me was that the world-building was on point. I think world-building is something I really care about in the books I read and I know the author has done a good job with it when I start wishing there were more books out so I could spend more time in the world they created. Or if I can imagine the story working as a movie or tv show, I know it’s become real to me.

All of the ghostly details were so fun and clever! It was a little bit like reading Harry Potter, where you’re given information you didn’t know you wanted, but once you have it, you can’t imagine the story without it. The world of Ghost Bully is clearly well-developed beyond the parts of it that appear in the text, which makes me excited for the possibility of there being more books.

The writing itself moves along quickly, delivering joke after joke. Not all of them quite landed for me, but I can be a little slow to get the joke.

Of course, the ultimate test of how much I’ve been enjoying a book is when I compare how many pages I actually read versus how many pages I meant to read. There were many nights where I meant to read a chapter before bed, but ended up putting the book down after three or four chapters because it was now super late. Considering I’ve been running around like a crazy person, you know the book was really holding my attention!

If you’re looking for the perfect book to tote to the beach or pass the time on an airplane, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of Ghost Bully this summer!

As one of my goals for the future of my blog, I wanted to do more author interviews…provided I could find any willing authors haha. Luckily, Brian and I are in the same writer’s group so I didn’t have to twist his arm too much to come answer some questions about his book and his writing!

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What inspired you to write Ghost Bully?

I had a beer with Jonathan Isaacs to talk about his haunted house story. I made a comment that ghosts don’t really think their threats all the way through. We’re afraid of ghosts because they’ll hurt or possibly kill us … but then what? You’d become a ghost too. What if you’re a naturally gifted ghost? Hey ghost, you thought you were annoyed at a guy kicking around the house for a few hours a night? Now you have to deal with this guy forever!

He thought that was a pretty funny take and told me I should write that book, so eventually, I did.

Who is your favorite character in Ghost Bully and why?

Hands down, Cat is my favorite character. I had a much different plan for her when I started the book, but she became such an interesting character during the writing process, that I just had to follow her and adjust the story as it happened.

Who was the hardest character to write?

Although some were definitely more fun than others, I don’t know that any of the characters were hard to write. I probably had more challenges with the scenes themselves. Once I worked out those out, the characters seem to know what to do.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Sure, a few actually. At first, Jonah made a lot of the same decisions I would probably make. I wanted to ground the first act/haunted house story in a little bit of realism. I’d try to make a real decision in the moment and then puzzle out how that would back fire on me, or just ask myself what I would do if faced with the same situation. Like I would totally spend money on an exorcism solution, then look for a free back-up plan as well.

Max makes the jokes in real time that I’d probably only think about once the conversation was over. He’s quick, and funny—and who I’d like to be in the moment (except stranding Jonah alone in the house—although leaving was clearly the smart decision).

Unfortunately, there’s some of me in Willard as well. All the bad stuff, but none of the backstory. I can only hope that some of the people in my life are as forgiving as Jonah.

The city of Austin is practically a character itself. Why did you choose to set the book in such an interesting city?

I just took the “Write what you know” advice. There are a million obstacles to writing your first book, and I figured I’d remove the story’s setting from that list. Also, I’ve lived in Austin for close to twenty years, and love living here.

Not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book, but if you suddenly woke up as a ghost like Jonah…what would you do? Would you take your door? Or hang around for a little while?

That’s a tough one. The door shows you everyone you’ve lost so far in your life as well as the prospect of rest on the other side. Jonah lost his father and could see him there, however, he’d also just had his life cut short. At twenty-five, he didn’t have a lot of money, and he hadn’t quite figured out what to do with his life. He was mostly potential—and Willard stole that from him. So he’s dealing with all of that as well as the promise of revenge he made to Willard.

Me? I’d have a hard time passing up the opportunity to catch up with my dad and grandfathers, plus I’m really big on naps.

Had you written a book before this one? Nope, this was my first one. I was a songwriter a long time ago, and wrote a lot of those, but this was my first book.

What authors have inspired you on your writing journey?

I show my hand in the book here too, but I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, and Terry Pratchett. Also, Brandon Sanderson has his BYU writing classes on YouTube, and I think I’ve taken four years worth of his classes. It’s an incredible resource, I’d recommend it to anyone.

What was your writing (and rewriting) process like?

I had three weeks between jobs last May and felt like that was about one week too long to just sit around and sleep all day, so I gave myself a temporary job—to finally sit down and write the damn story I’d been thinking about for a couple of years. Surprisingly, I was able to crank out a rough draft during that time, but it looked a lot different than it does now.

I did three major revisions before handing it over to a developmental editor who taught me a lot during the process. Everything from basic formatting, to major structural issues, he was great to work with.

I received some additional input on the first act of the book that spurred another major rewrite to opening chapters. Ghost Bully had four different beginnings, I think. A couple of characters didn’t even exist until two weeks before I handed in the manuscript for a Copy Edit. All in all, there were about twelve different revisions over six months.

TL;DR: three weeks for rough, about six months for everything else.

Do you use a computer or write by hand before transcribing?

Computer for writing, I type much faster than I write by hand, but I’m constantly jotting down ideas for the story on scrap pieces of paper.

I hand write the outline as well as character sketches on paper, though. Something about pen on paper, feels a little more creative for me in that part of the process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you like to listen to?

Not really, my mind starts looking for patterns in what’s playing instead of focusing on the page.

That said, there were some nights when I listened to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis while editing. In particular, the scenes with DeeDee and Jeremy as well as (weirdly enough) the scenes where Jonah and team tried to psych themselves up for battle.

What did you edit out of this book?

Tons.

Writing, for me especially, is rewriting. I think I took around thirty thousand words out after the developmental edit, and put forty thousand back in. The first two beginnings of the book started at the title company with Jonah meeting Max for Tex/Mex before going to the house, and now we begin at the house. I kept getting feedback that people just aren’t interested in title companies … can you believe that? People don’t want to read about the process of closing on a house? I kid. It was obviously great advice!

Nicole Alvarez wasn’t in the original plan, but I’m glad she’s there now, and the cemetery scene as well as Masephson’s “Tour of Heck” were also added … and I’m glad. Those are a couple of the more memorable scenes for me.

Biggest takeaway from the journey to become a self-published author? [do you prefer the term indie?]

Definitely prefer the term indie. It’s kind of an Austin badge of honor—from Willie Nelson to Rick Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, we just go for it.

I’m still on the journey, in my opinion, but my biggest takeaways so far is to be the biggest student of the game as you can. From writing to marketing—find out everything you can. YouTube is an incredible repository of knowledge, and talking to other authors has been tremendously helpful as well.

Ghost Bully has only been out for a few months, but what has been the coolest moment so far of having a book out in the world?

Probably like any creative endeavor, it’s just nice to see people enjoy the work.

What’s next for Jonah, Cat, Max, and the Psy-Kicks?

Plenty! Thanks for asking. Ghost Bully is book one in a series of five books, and there will be a series of short stories as well. Hope to have one of the shorts out this summer, and book two out in early 2019.

Where can people find out more about you and your upcoming projects?

On my website, www.brian-corley.com or on Twitter and Instagram as @nicebookbrian

Shadows Cast By Stars

Shadows Cast By Stars by Catherine Knutsson

Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet— especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe— government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors— and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader’s son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument…

I loved this book instantly. It was so beautifully written and right away I knew I was going to love it and I was right! It’s rare to see a book featuring the mythology of the native peoples of Canada and Alaska. The last one (and the only one I’ve read) that did was The Gods of Second Chances, which I also loved a lot. Clearly, I stumbled upon a subject I like so if you guys have more fiction recommendations for books that feature this type of mythology, send them my way!

Okay, back to Shadows Cast By Stars. That is a lovely title for a book and the cover of the one I had was equally as lovely (pictured above!). So what else did I like besides the mythology stuff and the writing? The dystopian setting (more on that later). The magic. Cassandra. The world-building. Pretty much everything.

Now I have to note on the dystopian stuff, I guess reading the reviews if people didn’t like this book, it’s because they expected it to have as much action as The Hunger Games. It’s definitely not like The Hunger Games at all. But I did enjoy that because it’s so different from most other entries in this genre, for the dystopian world to be mostly offstage and not front and center to the story.

I do think this is the first book in the series. It has to be, with everything that was set up at the end of the book. Which excites me!

However. This book was published in 2012. As of the summer of 2017, there’s no mention of another book forthcoming. Not on the author’s personal website, not on Goodreads, not on her publisher’s website.There’s no updates or anything I can find on the web in the past five years. Not even a note to be like, “Hey guys, sorry it’s taking forever, but I really am writing another book!” It’s like she dropped off the face of the Earth.  Which makes me really, really, really concerned that maybe something has happened to her and that this fantastic story that was set up has no ending…

Shiver

Shiver By Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.

Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

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I received this book some years ago from a Secret Santa. I put off reading it because I’d always heard it was supposed to be an amazing book and I figured I’d want to binge-read the series after that and I was on book-buying ban.

And…that’s not what happened.

The atmosphere is about the only thing that went right with this book. That and the twist on the werewolf story. And the cover. The cover is beautiful. But this story was loaded with enough instalove, forgettable characters, and truly cringeworthy sentences that at times I questioned why I kept reading. I did finish it though. Chalk it up to a combination of curiosity and a desire to see things finished.

I’ve always heard good things about Maggie Stiefvater. I won’t let the disappointment of Shiver keep me from reading some of her other books. I still want to read The Raven Boys and The Scorpio Races.

Even though I didn’t like Shiver, I’m still debating about continuing to read the series or not. Do the other books get better or is Shiver considered to the best? If they get better, I might keep going.

 

 

 

Library of Souls

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all.

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As I mentioned in my review of Hollow City, I recently went to see the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children movie. While I did like it at the time, finishing Library of Souls has further convinced me that the ending they gave to the movie was just plain silly. With so much amazing material in Library of Souls, we as the fans deserved much better.

As in Hollow City, the plot picks up immediately after the end of the previous book and immediately plunges us back into the story. Library of Souls was just fabulous. It had all the magic of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children while broadlibrary of souls ransom riggsening the world-building and introducing quite a few new twists to the story. If you stopped reading after the first book in the series, do yourself a favor and pick up Hollow City and Library of Souls. This is one series worth finishing out.

The only criticism I have to give is that a few of the loose ends of the plot wrapped up a bit too neatly and conveniently. But overall this series was one of the most imaginative and engrossing of any I’ve read in recent years. I’m not even hinting at any spoilers because I think you should just go read it and not take my word for it!

 

Click here to buy from Amazon: Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children

 

Hollow City

Review of Hollow City By Ransom Riggs

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

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A solid second book in a trilogy. Hollow City picked up immediately after Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ends. There’s a lot of action in this book as the children try to find help for Miss Peregrine and find themselves chased by Hollows and Wights.

One thing I really liked in this book is that the peculiar lore is deepened as the children explore the world outside their island and discover that The Tales is at least partially true. And of course, there are more of those awesome pictures.

My main criticism is that there are too many children to keep track of. There’s a helpful who’s who guide at the beginning, but you know there’s an issue if you’re almost to the end of the book and still need to flip back to remind yourself of the difference between Hugh and Horace.

I just watched the Miss Peregrine’s Movie today and while there were quite a few changes, it was still enjoyable! I didn’t realize the third book in the series, Library of Souls, was already out. I really hope the movie didn’t spoil the ending to the series!!

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The City of Mirrors

By Justin Cronin

The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?

The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

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Along with The Last Star, this was one of my most anticipated series endings of this year. I got both of these books around mid-June, but it took me much longer to finish The City of Mirrors.

A few reasons for that, I think. First, I’d never really realized how dense these books are until I sat down to read The City of Mirrors. A lot happens in the text and very little of it is fluff to be glossed over. The book is 600 pages, but I’m sure they squeezed in another 100-200 pages worth of words. Second, while the book was never calling to me to hurry up and get back to reading it, whenever I did get back to it, I’d read for hours. Which is a problem because I read before bed most often.

All in all, this was a terrific series closer. A writer with an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop writing a vampire apocalypse trilogy sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but the result is just incredible. I would recommend doing a re-read of the first two books before tackling this one. This is one of my all-time favorite series and I regret not doing that myself because I think I would have gotten even more enjoyment out of The City of Mirrors. But I’ll definitely be rereading the series at some point in the future!

 

Acceptance

By Jeff VanderMeer

It is winter in Area X, the mysterious wilderness that has defied explanation for thirty years, rebuffing expedition after expedition, refusing to reveal its secrets. As Area X expands, the agency tasked with investigating and overseeing it–the Southern Reach–has collapsed on itself in confusion. Now one last, desperate team crosses the border, determined to reach a remote island that may hold the answers they’ve been seeking. If they fail, the outer world is in peril.

Meanwhile, Acceptance tunnels ever deeper into the circumstances surrounding the creation of Area X–what initiated this unnatural upheaval? Among the many who have tried, who has gotten close to understanding Area X–and who may have been corrupted by it?

In this last installment of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, the mysteries of Area X may be solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound–or terrifying.

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As I mentioned on my other two reviews, I’m so grateful that when I started to read this series all these books were out. I couldn’t have handled it if I had to wait months or years for the rest of the story.

Acceptance brings The Southern Reach trilogy to a close. Some answers are revealed, but in true VanderMeer form, we get more questions that don’t have ready answers.

The form of this book was quite a bit different than Annihilation and Authority. We jump from character to character as well as backwards and forwards in time. We hear from Control, Ghost Bird, the old Director of the Southern Reach, and Saul, the lighthouse keeper. So many different viewpoints means a lot of the questions and clues were either filled in completely or at least partly elucidated upon.

Finally, we begin to see inside the final days of the Coast and the birth of Area X. We learn a bit more about The Southern Reach and its shadowy controllers and employees. Control’s questions about the old Director get some explanation. And Control and Ghost Bird plunge into Area X, one final time.

I think this was my favorite of the three book. More answers, less secrets, but not all the answers. For those of you who remembered me being so scared while reading Annihilation, this book is not any creepier than that was.

Just go read it already. If you’ve come this far in the series, you might as well finish it!