Q & A with Ghouliana Stories

Ghouliana Stories (Bess Sturgis) writes tales for young readers that are spooky but not too scary. She is one of the hardest working writers I know and also one of the most optimistic. She is a champion of literacy for children, and uses costumes and props to enact her stories. If you live in Indiana and frequent writerly festivals/events chances are you have come across Mrs. Sturgis.

Sturgis as "Ghouliana"
Sturgis as “Ghouliana”

You write “Not Too Scary Tales” for young readers. Where is the line between Not Too Scary and Too Scary?

I’m very old school when it comes to the line between “Not Too Scary” and “Too Scary Tales”.
Because I write for advanced young readers (7+), I refrain from putting my characters in situations of true terror. While they may become lost, frightened or bullied, NEVER are they stolen, unnecessarily terrorized or graphically eaten alive.

How do you walk it?

Very carefully! I use a lot of silliness and humor to keep the tension levels at bay. Grown-ups DO NOT thank you for giving their young readers nightmares.

How important is promoting literacy among the young?

Is this a trick question (insert snarky grin here…)???

The ability to read defines a person’s ability to navigate life.
I believe there is no such thing as “too early” to snuggle a baby and read aloud from a book.
It doesn’t matter what the text says. It’s the warmth, closeness and tone of voice that makes the little one smile and recognize books as something wonderful.

A display in a local library shows off "The Shoe Troll" by Ghouliana Stories
A display in a local library shows off “The Shoe Troll” by Ghouliana Stories

You are perhaps the most active author I know. Between all the public readings, fairs, appearances, and social media, when and how do you actually write?

I write ridiculously early in the morning, usually from 5:00am until whenever, however, some of my most beloved characters have appeared after 3:30 am and before 7:00am.
These characters didn’t shuffle in as yawning and sleepy wisps wearing pajamas and slippers. They arrived without warning; wide awake, fully formed and ready to play.
As to how I write: first drafts are almost always written by hand, in pen, on recycled paper.
I love the freedom of scribbling words across the clean side of a used page. This gives me a feeling of “No Rules-No Fear” and allows me to dance with whoever shows up.
Also, this allows me to write just about any time and anywhere I have a few extra minutes.

How important is “legwork” for new writers?

Legwork is crucial! No one is going to walk up, knock on your door and ask, “Do you have any books in a box under your bed I can buy?”
If you don’t “put your book out there”, who will? Even if you have a traditional publisher, you are still expected to do a lot of self-promotion.

Mrs. Sturgis matches costumes with her characters.
Mrs. Sturgis matches costumes with her characters.

In one sentence, why are libraries important?

“Libraries are equal opportunity information providers.”
(Original Copyright 1992: Bess Sturgis)

Works by Bess Sturgis