October 19th, 2016

A Halloween Interview with Isabel Atherton

As Halloween fast approaches we’re chatting to CA director and literary agent, Isabel Atherton, about the spooky titles on the Creative Authors list.

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Kate Ormand: Hi Isabel! I’m excited to chat about all things Halloween! Your picture book for adults, Zombie Cat: The Tale of a Decomposing Kitty with Bethany Straker, has always held a special place in my heart! It was your first book and the first CA title I read – can you tell us a little about it and what it means to you?

Isabel Atherton: ‘Zombie Cat’ was indeed my first book and is also closest to my heart. I’ve always loved zombie narratives, whether books, TV shows, comics or films. I’ve also found church graveyards rather comforting. It must be the Goth in me! ZC was inspired by a cat shaped gravestone in the local church where I grew up in Gloucestershire, UK. It was for a cat called Tiddles who had been the church cat at St Mary’s Church in Fairford. You can see a picture of the gravestone and a little bit more about the history of the church here.

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Another animal burial spot in Gloucestershire that I knew of is a field where a farmer had buried his beloved horse, Pinkie. The story goes that Pinkie had fought in WW1 with his owner and was safely brought home to live out his days chomping on the rich verdant grass of the Cotswolds. As a dog owner I can appreciate such attachment to a pet and that is at the heart of ‘Zombie Cat.’ Jake, ZC’s owner, needs to make the decision to either turn his back on his reanimated pet or embrace him – rotten paws and all.

KO: Then along came Smelly Ghost (also with Bethany Straker), with another three picture books before and after, can you tell us about this spooky story for kids?

IA: I was living by the coast in the UK, which I found a very creative space and I was pondering at the time what I would write next. I needed a subject matter. I knew I wanted to do a picture book for children and two words came to me – smelly and ghost. I mentioned the idea to Beth and we agreed it should be a story encouraging kids to eat their greens and to go easy on the junk food. You can see the awesome book trailer, produced by Angie Thomas, here.

KO: You represent plenty of books for both kids and adults that tie in well with the season. What draws you to the Halloween-y theme?

IA: As I mentioned earlier, I think I’ve always been a bit of a Goth and have always been drawn to creepy things. Anyone that has met me in person knows I wear a lot of black (then again I do live in Manhattan!) and I have a little black pug. I am not, however, drawn to gratuitous violence in films/books – I have always veered to Gothic kitsch.

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KO: Other than Zombie Cat and Smelly Ghost, what would be a great pick from the titles you represent for our Halloween reading lists? *gets pen and paper ready*

IA: For a children’s picture book I would recommend Ged Adamson’s ‘Elsie Clarke and the Vampire Hairdresser.’ This is the book that Ged first approached me with and since then we’ve gone on to work on many picture book titles together. You can see the book trailer here. It was selected by Shelf Awareness for their book trailer of the day.

A good adult/kid’s cross over would be Ben Joel Price’s illustrated title ‘At Death’s Door.’

And for non-fiction I would recommend Anthony Galvin’s ‘Old Sparky,’ which is a gripping history of the electric chair. Definitely a read which will keep you up all night!

KO: Finally, what’s on your own Halloween reading list? What would you recommend?

IA: I’ve just finished a brilliant book called ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’ by Grady Hendrix. I picked this up as a staff recommendation in Powell’s Bookstore in Portland. It ticks all my boxes: set in the 1980s, a coming of age story and Gothic. This should be everyone’s Halloween read for 2016.

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Testimonials

“Isabel opened the doors that led to my work being published. Throughout, she has offered honest opinions and patient coaching – all without ever losing the courtesy, gentility and decency that makes her a pleasure to know. I owe her deeply!”

Nick Soulsby, Creative Authors Client.