Our Guest Editor for October is none other than the Queen of pre-teen Horror, Jennifer Killick. The author of the Dread Wood series, Crater Lake and the Alex Sparrow series, Jennifer sets the standard for comedy horror keeping kids reading way past the witching hour. Her books combine razor-sharp teen dialogue and truly scary stories that have you laughing one minute and jumping-out-of-your-skin the next.

We are delighted to welcome Jennifer to LoveReading4Kids to talk all things scary in the countdown to Halloween...


I’m Jennifer, and I have always loved stories. For as long as I can remember, stories have brought comfort, wonder, and joy to my world. They have made me laugh and cry, filled me with hope, and given me the company of friends when I’ve felt lonely and lost in real life.

When writing my own stories, I can disappear into my mind – holding my breath as I hide from monsters with my characters; sweat dripping down the back of my neck and my heart thudding in my chest. Or laughing with them when things are at their absolute worst, and all we can do is joke around to make each other feel better.

And that’s how I want my readers to feel when they pick up one of my books: that they’re part of the gang. That we’re in this together. Because there’s something so life-affirming about that feeling.

I was so excited when LoveReading4Kids invited me to be their guest editor for the spookiest month in the year. I love a good jump scare and to laugh until my stomach hurts, and if you do too, you might enjoy some of my scary stories.

I’m also thrilled that I get to share some of my favourites with you all.

Happy reading, and happy Halloween!

QYou put your protagonists into some creepy and terrifying situations. How much fun is it to expose them to such deadly dangers and do you like to be scared while reading?

A. It is so much fun to put my characters in scary, weird, and gross situations. The Dread Wood series really has been an absolute blast to write – coming up with scares and jokes for each book has made me ridiculously happy. I love to be scared while reading and writing.

Q. Readers of the Dread Wood series will love watching the characters develop. How far in advance do you plot events and developments?

A. I plot as far in advance as I can (it can be tricky when I don’t know how many books there will be or how long the series will continue for). I like to drop in subtle foreshadowing, so that if I get the chance to develop a certain plot or character point around it, I can. And if I don’t it’s not such an obvious hint that it will be confusing to readers. As a reader, I love going back in a series and finding those Easter eggs and tiny nods to the future.

Q. Our reviewers love your killer teen dialogue. How do you make and keep it so sharp?

A. Thank you! I try hard to make the dialogue sound as close to real life chat as I can. I spend a lot of time listening in to conversations, especially between young people. Inspiration is everywhere of you pay attention. And when I’m writing I try to be completely in the heads of my characters so that the things they say feel natural.

Q. There’s a perfect balance between comedy and horror in your books – how hard is it maintaining the balance?

A. When I wrote my first darker book (Crater Lake), I really tried to keep the humour out, not wanting to take away from the menacing atmosphere. But I found it sneaking in through the characters, so I went with it, and I think it made the story better. In real life I make jokes to help me through difficult situations, and I decided that my characters would do the same. So it actually feels natural to write the stories that way.

Q. What was the first book you fell in love with?

A. When I was very young, my favourite book was Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells. I think most people who have grown up with siblings will see the appeal of the story!

Q. What book do you wish you had written?

A. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The premise, the writing, the characters… It blew my mind the first time I read it – for me it sets a standard that I will always be striving for.

Q.  If you hadn't been an author what would have been your dream job?

A. Definitely something with animals. I’m not sure I could be a vet because I couldn’t handle the pus and blood, but I’d love to work in an animal rescue and rehabilitation centre.

Q. Do you have any Halloween family traditions and how will you be spending the 31st October?

A. We started a new tradition a few years ago of going on Halloween light trails, and I absolutely love them. We usually go to one at Blenheim Palace, and it’s brilliantly beautiful and atmospheric, with some hilarious jump scares thrown in. I’m hoping that there will be an evening experience at Hampton Court this year, too. It’s a creepy place anyway, but in the dark and with Halloween decorations it’s going to be amazing. We’ll decorate at home, and though my youngest son doesn’t like trick or treating, he loves trick or treaters knocking at our door. So we’ll be ready with our treats.

Q. One in three of all books sold is a children's book yet children's books get such a small fraction of the review space in the media. Why do you think this is - and what can be done?

A. This is a subject that I know many far more articulate people than me have been talking about for years, and I worry that anything I add will fall short. I believe that there is a great deal of prejudice within publishing – certain types of book are considered to be more ‘worthy’ than others, and these are, perhaps, the books that are reviewed the most. But those of us who write, read, and champion children’s books know exactly how important they are. If enough people continue to fight for better coverage, hopefully change will come.

Q. What does LoveReading4Kids mean to you?

A. We all know how beneficial reading is for children – that it can improve mental health and even their chances of living happy, successful lives. I want every child to enjoy those benefits, and that means we need to show them the wide range of literature available to them, in all its formats. LoveReading4Kids is an amazing website that highlights the wealth of books available in a really accessible way. I love that it includes child reader reviews, as well as reviews from people who work with children and have a great understanding of what they like. Thank you, LoveReading4Kids!

As our Guest Editor, Jennifer has given us her top five children's books she'd like to recommend to readers - and why she loves them!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The premise of The Hunger Games is so perfectly awful and intriguing, and the writing so clever and beautiful that I really think everyone who doesn’t read it is missing out.

Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer was my first manga, and it remains one of my favourites. Genuinely scary, with heart-stopping tension and high stakes, it is story-telling at its best. And the characters have all taken root in my heart.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

This book is so weird and funny and charming and perfectly voiced. It has my favourite last page of any book ever.

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

There are so many things to love about this original, clever and gripping book, but the thing I love the most is the main character – Todd Hewitt. He is one of my favourite characters of all time.

Podkin One Ear by Kieran Larwood

This book brilliantly encapsulates everything I love about stories, taking the reader on a journey through every emotion, from fear and sadness to cosy contentment. Excellent world building, and perfect for reading on a winter’s day.

Jennifer has chosen Bad Magic: A Skulduggery Pleasant Graphic Novel by Derek Landy and PJ Holden as her Book of the Month 

This is a brilliant graphic novel for older readers who are looking for something suitably horrible for Halloween month. The main characters, Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain, are investigating a string of suspicious deaths in a small town, fighting and wise-cracking their way to the truth. Excellent chemistry between the characters, properly chilling monsters, and heart. As soon as I finished reading, I was desperate for more.

The fourth book in the Dread Wood series has just been published, with killer dialogue and thrills galore - read our review of Deadly Deep and find all the books in the series below.

And if you're looking for something really spooky for Halloween, Jennifer has compiled a book of scary short stories, Read, Scream, Repeat, with contributions from award-winning authors including Joseph Coelho, Elle McNicoll, Dan Smith and Aisha Bushby.

Huge thanks to our Guest Editor Jennifer Killick & Happy Halloween!