A local author has a new book available for pre-order and it promises to keep you up at night, or at least your middle school-aged children.
Josh Allen teaches creative writing at BYU-Idaho in the English Department. His book “Only If You Dare: 13 Stories of Darkness and Doom” is available on August 31. This is his second spooky book. The first one, “Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe” came out in 2019.
Allen takes ordinary life or objects and spins stories that are both fantastic and a little creepy. He writes about haunted paper towel dispensers, street signs, oatmeal or street signs.
“So, I take ordinary, everyday things and I try to make them spooky and playful for kids,” Allen said.
After releasing his first book, he started to visit Tricia Galer’s 4th-grade class at Madison Middle School to test out some of his new stories. It didn’t always go so well. He said one story, about a snowman, fell flat with his audience.
“I remember getting about three pages into the story and looking around and seeing that all of these children in the classroom were just bored. They were clearly just bored out of their minds and I thought, ‘you know what? This story is just not working,’” he said.
He took that feedback, changed the story and hopes it will be much more interesting to readers. Members of that 4th-grade class will get to see their names in print. He included their names in the acknowledgments at the back of the book, including Bradley Isle's name, who is seen in the picture interviewing Allen.
Allen has good experience with middle school-aged readers. While writing his first book he tested out his stories with a group of boy scouts who he was an assistant scoutmaster over. He said this age group is important to focus on as an author because they’re at a pivotal age. He told BYU-Idaho Radio that children between 10 and 13 are at the age when they decide whether they enjoy reading. If they don’t pick it up then, they may never enjoy it.
“So, there's kind of an evangelical quality to my writing. I'm trying to win kids over to the school of reading and literature,” Allen said.
Allen is more than an author, he’s also a teacher. He gave two pieces of advice to young people who hope to write their own stories. He said the first thing to do is to read something every single day because you will learn sentence and story structure. The second is to write something every day.
“Because when we read and we write that’s how we develop the skills that will allow us to become a writer,” he said.
For those who are a little older and trying to write, he said the delete button is your friend. You must rewrite your stories to make them better.
The book is illustrated by Sarah J. Coleman, who also illustrated the first book. She has hundreds of credits including the cover for the 50th-anniversary edition of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
“She is incredibly talented, incredibly hard-working and I love how she’s able to take my stories and illustrate them in a way that almost always adds some dimension to the stories that I haven’t thought of,” Allen said.
The book cover is glow-in-the-dark just like the first book. Allen said the editor decided to make the first book cover glow-in-the-dark and he loved it. He asked that the second one follow suit.