Without further ado, I'll hand you over to C. J.:
Paranormal vs. Normal
I originally envisioned Night School as a paranormal book – with vampires and witches. After I’d completed it, though, my editor at Atom asked me to consider re-writing it as a non-paranormal book.
She thought there was a lot of excitement to be found from putting a group of ordinary teenagers in a beautiful but dark school where the adults around them weren’t doing the sorts of things you would normally expect adults to do.
At first I wasn’t convinced. I loved the freedom that paranormal fiction gave me. If I needed to get characters from one side of the school grounds to another, they could fly and be there in seconds. If I needed an increase in drama, a brutal attack with swords and teeth was completely possible.
I knew that dropping all of that and summoning drama out of more believable, real-world style events would be harder.
But when I tried it, in many ways it was actually easier. Once I removed the paranormal elements, I remembered how scary ordinary life can be. How frightening it can sometimes be just to walk down a dark, quiet city street late at night. How your heart can begin to thump in your ears when you’re walking in the woods and suddenly nothing looks familiar anymore.
Using those kinds of elements to unsettle my characters, I began to create a moody, threatening atmosphere in which any ordinary person would feel jumpy.
And I have to say I absolutely loved doing it. Using more realistic elements to frighten my characters worked so well for me that sometimes when I was writing it I scared myself.
However, none of this is to take away from how scary and exciting paranormal fiction can be. When blood-sucking creatures who want to kill you fly at you with super-human speed? Well, that’s always going to be jump-out-of-your-seat frightening.
And I’m always going to love reading, and maybe even some day, writing about that.
But for now I’m enjoying tapping into the kinds of fears we have all faced from time to time, in a world that always seems to be going somewhat mad.
YES! Big up scary books that aren't paranormal. I really, really enjoyed Night School and I can't wait to see what C. J. does next!