Top Ten Tips for Reading Scary Books by Kristiana Sfirlea
Like all holidays in 2020, Halloween is going to look a little different this year. For many, season staples such as trick-or-treating, costume parties, and haunted house attractions will not be part of their celebrations, and it can leave everyone feeling put out like a jack-o-lantern with its candle extinguished.
But never fear! When all else fails, books are here! And today I’m going to share some ways for you to make your Halloween season full of fun and fright with my top ten tips for reading scary stories, plus a few of my favorite titles to get you started.
1) Read before bed
There is no better time to immerse yourself in a spooky tale than when the house is quiet. (Except for those unexplainable creaks! Could they be a poltergeist or just the house settling? And why would a house need to settle…unless it’s alive?) Don’t forget to keep the lights as low as you can without straining your eyes. Those shadows can’t wait to come out and play—and, in the case of MarcyKate Connolly’s Shadow Weaver, this couldn’t be more literal. A story about a misfit girl whose best friend is her mysteriously sentient shadow with a dark agenda is the perfect bedtime story!
2) Read with the windows open
Nothing like a well-timed breeze to make your blood run cold while you read. Or perhaps, if you’re reading Temre Beltz’s The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom, you’ll want to open your windows wider and invite the Winds of Wanderly right into your home!
For extra chills, consider hanging up a wind chime.
3) Eat thematic snacks
Reading about zombies who are so far gone their eyeballs are falling out? Why not pop some nice, crunchy grapes. Is your story about grave robbers? Try some bone-dry pretzels in pudding dirt cups. Make your stomach squirm with delight!
If you’re looking for more sinister snack ideas, browse through Vincent Amiel’s Tricky Treats or Sharon Bower’s Ghoulish Goodies.
4) Listen to eerie music
Pick your favorite scary movie soundtrack or look up creepy tunes on YouTube to play in the background, setting the mood for your spooky reading experience. Pair this with Pam Smy’s gorgeously atmospheric graphic novel hybrid Thornhill and you’ll never want the music—or pages—to end.
5) Burn candles
Atmosphere is everything while reading scary stories! Most candle companies have an abundance of Halloween-themed candles, but also consider scents that are significant to your story. For example, if you’re reading Jonathan Stroud’s hilarious yet horror-striking Lockwood & Co. series, you might burn lavender-scented candles to ward off ghosts just like the characters.
6) Start a book club for scary stories
Have members dress up as their favorite monsters or creepy characters at each meeting! Looking for monstrous inspiration? Check out the graveyard variety of ghastly fiends in Colette Sewall’s debut novel Kiki MacAdoo and the Graveyard Ballerinas and Claribel A. Ortega’s debut novel Ghost Squad.
7) Read scary stories out loud and incorporate jump scares into the narrative
A great idea for book clubs! Keep an airhorn or sound machine handy—or just know the parts of the story you should “shout” for effect. If this technique feels like a game, then you should definitely pair it with Daka Hermon’s Hide and Seeker.
8) Play scary story bingo
Also great for book clubs! You can choose things like “haunted house,” “false alarm,” “ghost sighting,” and “tension-breaking one-liner.” Just imagine how often your group will jump out of their skins any time someone shouts “Bingo!” Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters and India Hill Brown’s The Forgotten Girl are fantastic candidates for this frantically fun game.
9) List the scary books on your TBR pile and watch their book trailers with the lights off
You can do this before reading the books to get yourself excited and properly spooked for the stories! Some terrifically terrorizing book trailers include Lindsay Currie’s Scritch Scratch and Josh Robert’s The Witches of Willow Cove.
10) Always read with a blankie!
The most important tip of all. Cuddle up with a chilling story and a cozy blanket, and you’re ready for a scary good time!
My final book recommendation is near and dear to my heart because, well, it is my heart! My debut novel Legend of the Storm Sneezer is a middle grade fantasy for fans of Doctor Who and the darkly whimsical.
Thirteen-year-old Rose Skylar sneezed a magical storm cloud at birth, and it’s followed her around ever since. But when “Stormy” causes too many disasters, Rose is taken to an asylum for unstable magic in a haunted forest whose trees have turned to stone. Guided by time traveling letters, Rose teams up with her future selves and her (maybe) imaginary best friend to save her storm cloud and solve the mystery of the specters and the stone trees.
But will they find what killed the ghosts before what killed the ghosts finds them?
Kristiana Sfirlea is the author of the spookily hilarious middle grade fantasy novel, Legend of the Storm Sneezer. Her flash fiction, featuring clueless zombies, undercover werewolves, and grumpy ghosts, has been published by Havok, and her second middle grade novel, pitched as Five Nights at Freddy’s meets Inception for kids, is contracted and in the works. Kristiana dreams of the day she can run her own mobile bookstore. Or haunted house attraction. Or a haunted bookmobile! (And this is precisely why writers should never become Uber drivers.) She loves Jesus, her family, and imaginary life with her characters. Learn more about Kristiana at www.KristianasQuill.com or follow her on social media @KristianasQuill.