Guest Post: An Interview with THE CLACKITY Author Lora Senf

I’m thrilled today to welcome one of my “agency siblings” to the blog! Lora Senf writes middle grade (MG) horror, and we share the same wonderful agent, Ali Herring of Spencerhill Associates. The Clackity, Lora’s debut novel, releases next week on June 28, 2022.

First, here’s a bit about the book:

Reminiscent of Doll Bones, this deliciously eerie middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who must enter a world of ghosts, witches, and monsters to play a game with deadly consequences and rescue her aunt.

Evie Von Rathe lives in Blight Harbor—the seventh-most haunted town in America—with her Aunt Desdemona, the local paranormal expert. Des doesn’t have many rules except one: Stay out of the abandoned slaughterhouse at the edge of town. But when her aunt disappears into the building, Evie goes searching for her.

There she meets The Clackity, a creature who lives in the shadows and seams of the slaughterhouse. The Clackity makes a deal with Evie to help get Des back in exchange for the ghost of John Jeffrey Pope, a serial killer who stalked Blight Harbor a hundred years earlier. Evie must embark on a journey into a strange otherworld filled with hungry witches, penny-eyed ghosts, and a memory-thief, all while being pursued by a dead man whose only goal is to add Evie to his collection of lost souls.

Hi Lora, thanks for joining us! I’m so excited to read this story. Just the title alone promises a delightful, creepy read. How did you come up with the idea for The Clackity? What about Evie? What inspired her character?

I didn’t know it at the time, but seeds for The Clackity were planted when I got a random message from my sister that just said, “Haunts from Heloise.” From there we had a ridiculous text conversation about an otherworldly Dear Abby who would solve paranormal problems in outlandish ways and who had a column in a small-town newspaper. I loved the idea, but didn’t know what to do with it.

A few months later, I was on a road trip with my family and we stopped in my husband’s hometown of Butte, Montana. There was a building he just had to show me. It turned out to be an absolutely-I-have-no-doubt-haunted abandoned abattoir, and it was love at first sight. By the time I finished trespassing and got back in the car, a story was coming together. But it needed a hero.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been anxious. I was afraid of just about everything EXCEPT scary books and movies and tv. Those were the places I practiced being brave. I wrote Evie, the main character of The Clackity for scared but brave kids (and those of us who used to be those kids) who should get to see themselves as heroes.

I love this! Especially right now, when there’s so much anxiety and so many hard things to face in the world. I admit though, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to horror stories. What drew you to writing in this genre?

I’ve always loved scary stories. There’s a strange sort of comfort that comes with getting lost in a frightening world that goes away if you close the covers of the book. My first favorite author was John Bellairs—he wrote gothic horror for kids. I don’t know how many times I read his books, but it was a lot.

When I was a kid there were just a few authors writing age-appropriate horror, so most of us who liked the scary stuff went from those books to Stephen King pretty fast (and, in my case, way too young)! Kids deserve books written for them, and that includes genres like horror. Plus, kids are basically the best audience to write spooky books for—they are braver than adults, in lots of ways smarter than adults, and they’re still wonderfully open to the possibility magic is real. I feel so honored and fortunate to write the books I do for kids. I’m also blessed to be writing when I am—there is so much excellent middle grade horror being written. It’s a cool time to be part of this wonderful community of creators.

I love the way you think about your audience. Too often adults don’t give kids credit for how smart and brave they are. And there’s something really special about this time in childhood, when kids are exploring their world and still open to so many possibilities. What do you hope young readers take away from Evie’s story?

Sometimes a monster is just a monster, and a story is just a story. For readers who aren’t interested in subtext, I hope they’re able to take The Clackity at face value and enjoy it for the spooky adventure it is.

For readers looking for more, there’s a lot in the book about living, and thriving, with anxiety. There’s also plenty about bravery and friendship and family and trusting ourselves to do more than we believe possible. All of this was done with middle grade readers in mind; that said, I believe middle grade is truly the one age category that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Many of my blog readers are also writers. Can you share a little about your journey to publication? How long did it take to sign with your agent? How long were you on submission? Was The Clackity your first manuscript?

My agent, Ali Herring, signed me in 2019 for a truly weird manuscript that is now sitting in the proverbial trunk waiting for me to get back to it. While I’m proud of that story—in fact, it has some of the best writing I’ve done to date—there’s still a lot of work to be done on it. Anyway, Ali was working on edits for that one when I said, “Wait! Put that down—I have something here.” I sent her an early draft of The Clackity and before I knew it, we were both committed to seeing Evie’s story become a real book.  We went on submission in early 2020 and, fortunately, we found a wonderful editor, Julia McCarthy, who saw what we saw in Evie and her spooky adventure. The book will be published June 28th of this year so, all told, it was about three and a half years from idea to publication.

Now that you’ve almost made it to release day, has there been anything surprising about the publication process? What’s been your favorite part? The hardest part?

I’ve been reading voraciously (some might say obsessively?) about the publishing process since I began writing in earnest. If there’s an upside to all that obsessing, it’s that there have been relatively few surprises. But I’ve certainly learned a lot about my own writing process, and what it takes to get me from idea to “The End.”

The best moment to date might have been when I saw my cover for the first time. I’m so, so grateful to have worked with the brilliant Alfredo Cáceres. He’s so talented and an all-around good and kind human, and his cover art and interior illustrations for The Clackity perfectly capture the heart and darkness and whimsy of the story. Here’s why I’m convinced it was absolutely meant to be: Remember John Bellairs, that author I mentioned earlier? Well, turned out Alfredo illustrated covers for a number of Spanish editions of books by John Bellairs. It really felt like coming full circle in the best possible way.

It’s such a cliché, but the hardest aspect of the whole process is the waiting. Not only am I an anxious human, but I’m a deeply, truly impatient one. Someday being an author will teach me patience. Maybe. Probably not…

LOL, I feel this 100%. There is SO. MUCH. WAITING. in publishing. Of course, readers will be impatiently waiting too as soon as they finish The Clackity. Can you give us any hints about your next book?

Sure! The sequel to The Clackity is drafted and I’ll be working with my editor on revisions this summer. It’s called THE NIGHTHOUSE KEEPER and in it we’re going to follow Evie on another adventure she never, ever planned to go on. There will be new bad guys and new friends and new spooky surprises. It’s set to come out fall 2023.

Awesome! And just for fun…

Mountains or beach? Mountains

Tea or coffee? Tea

Ebook or paper? ALWAYS paper (I *knew* we got along for a reason)

Movie theater or streaming service? Mostly streaming but theaters for special movies.

Rainy day or sunshine? Normally I’d say rain, but in the Northwest it’s been raining for months so right this minute I’ll say sunshine.

Winter or summer Olympics? Summer

M&M’s or Skittles? Reese’s Pieces (*cheater* LOL)

Laptop or notebook? Laptop

Tacos or lasagna? Vegetarian tacos. They’re a thing, I promise.

Symphony or art museum? Museum, no question.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Lora, and congratulations again on your debut! I’m eagerly (impatiently…?) awaiting the arrival of my signed copy from Wishing Tree Books!!

About Lora:

Lora Senf is a writer of dark and twisty middle grade and young adult stories. When she isn’t reading for school, she’s reading fiction—mostly horror or anything a little weird and unsettling. Lora credits her love of words to her parents and to the public library that was walking distance from her childhood home. Lora is a member of SCBWI, Horror Writers Association, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. You can find her spending far too much time on Twitter @Lora013.

You can find Lora on:

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