Lorien Lawrence graduated with creative writing degrees from Wheaton College and Bath Spa University. After college, she lived abroad in England for a few years, before returning stateside and becoming a middle school English teacher. On weekends you can often find her exploring New England haunts, getting more inspiration for her novels.
A.J. Sass: Hi, Lorien! I’m thrilled to get to interview you about your fantastically creepy debut, THE STITCHERS, which also happens to be the first book in your new FRIGHT WATCH series. Happy book birthday, and congratulations! How are you feeling?
Lorien Lawrence: I am feeling equal parts joy and terror. It’s so surreal! I have dreamt about this moment – seeing my book in a bookstore – since I was six years old. The fact that it’s actually happening is wild! I used to think that I would feel totally satisfied after achieving this goal, but in reality I think it makes me hungrier to create more books that people can hold!
AJS: I can totally relate since I’m feeling a lot of the same. Novels: You can’t write just one! Did you always know you wanted to write in the middle grade space? And what specifically drew you to horror as a genre?
LL: The first stories I wrote as a kid were scary. I LOVED RL Stine’s Fear Street series and any of the Point Horror books – all things fun and spooky! I loved the idea of feeling scared in a safe way. But middle grade wasn’t really a thing back then, at least not the way it is now.
By the time I got to high school, I started reading adult literary fiction. The creative writing programs I was in didn’t really focus on genre fiction, and I lost it for a while. It wasn’t until I moved back to the town I grew up in that I rekindled my love for horror. As soon as I started writing THE STITCHERS, it was like I felt alive again! I started to remember everything I ever loved about reading. It was a homecoming in more ways than one!
AJS: I love that you came full circle back to what you loved reading as a kid. I think some people may have the misconception that horror is all blood and guts, but THE STITCHERS featured thirteen-year-old Quinn, who’d recently lost her father, and incorporated her grief into the story. Why did you feel it was important to portray the loss of a parent in a story that also featured scary, speculative elements?
LL: There’s nothing scarier than losing someone you love. Within a year, I had moved back to my hometown and suddenly lost my father, so this story emerged from my own grief. As a coping mechanism, my husband and I used to take these really long walks with our dog. Something about wandering the same streets that I used to ride my bike on as a child struck a chord. It made me feel nostalgic, and it brought back happy memories – memories of going to the creepy pond, telling ghost stories with my friends, eating gummy bears, etc. Eventually our conversations switched from sad things to “what if” things, like “what if that pond over there was magic?” or “what if…” Before I knew it, I had a story, and I became excited about writing in a way I hadn’t been since I was Quinn’s age.
AJS: “The Oldies” have got to be one of the creepiest elements of this story for me. What was your inspiration behind them?
LL: For better or for worse, my real-life grandmother is way more Bea than Grandma Jane – obsessed with youth and beauty. This always fascinated me growing up! To be fair, this concept isn’t unique to my grandma: kids always seem to want to grow older, and adults always want to be younger.
That’s all I’ll say so as not to give too much away! 😉
AJS: Who’s your favorite STITCHERS secondary character, and why? (Not that anyone asked, but mine is a tie between Mike and Grandma Jane.)
LL: Oh, I love Grandma Jane, but I’ve got to say Mike. He truly helps Quinn come into her own after her dad dies, and he brings out the best in her. And their banter is always fun to write!
AJS: Since this is book one in a series, I am assuming you’ve got other books in the works. Can you share a little about what’s next for the FRIGHT WATCH series? THE STITCHERS ended on a bit of an ominous note (no spoilers here, promise!). Will we be revisiting Quinn and her neighborhood in book two or will the characters and scares be totally new?
LL: Yes! Book Two is called THE COLLECTORS and it will follow Quinn’s next paranormal investigation in South Haven. I’m not going to say too much about it yet, but I just finished my first round of edits and it’s DARK.
AJS: You’re also a co-founder of Middle Ground Book Fest, a fantastic, virtual conference featuring panels of authors and publishing industry professionals that celebrates all things middle grade. Can you share a little about how the idea for this conference formed and any plans you have for it going forward?
LL: Thank you so much for asking about Middle Ground! It’s something that I’m super proud of! The idea came from my friend and fellow author, Shannon Doleski. She was feeling badly that debut authors weren’t getting the authentic book launch experience due to COVID 19: all of our events had been canceled or moved online, but the space on the panels always seemed to go to big-name authors who were already established and had a platform. Not to mention, middle grade sometimes felt like an afterthought. So she brought up the idea to have this festival, and Janae Marks, Tanya Guererro and I jumped at the chance to launch it with her. It’s been really inspiring to work with these smart and creative women, and the panels have been amazing! (The one you did, Andrew, was one of my absolute favorites!) We haven’t made any definite plans to continue it next year. I think we’re waiting to see what the response will be to this one!
AJS: As a debut author, I’m so grateful that you and your co-founders created a space for middle grade authors to come together and speak our truths. Thank you for all the work you did to make it such a wonderful success!
Speaking of books, what are some of your childhood favorites? Have you read any recently that might become new favorites?
LL: I read The Secret Bedroom by RL Stine so many times that the spine broke. And of course, I had Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark memorized. I remember loving LJ Smith’s Vampire Diaries series and The Secret Circle. I sound like an Oldie, but I always tell my students that they’re really lucky growing up today because their book choices are AMAZING. There are so many great middle grade books out there! In terms of spooky reads, I am a fan of SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie, THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste, and SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden. But there are so many more!!!
AJS: Aside from writing and reading, what other activities do you enjoy doing in your free time?
LL: I’m a full time middle school English teacher, and I have two kids, three dogs, and two rabbits at home. So I don’t really have a ton of time for extra hobbies, if I’m honest. Writing and reading are the two activities that make me feel the most like me, and I’m happier when I carve out daily space to do both.
AJS: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Lorien! I hope THE STITCHERS scares a lot of readers.
Congrats on the release of your debut novel, Lorien! You can visit Lorien’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well as order THE STITCHERS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!