Stacey Ramey and Jeff Strand are both preparing to release their latest young adult novels, but the similarities in these two authors’ works end there. While Ramey focuses on contemporary realistic fiction, Strand is a horror writer who also dabbles in comedy and humor.
Ramey’s “The Secrets We Bury” tells the story of Dylan, a teen who runs away from home when his family decides to place him in a school for psychologically challenged students. He decides to get away by hiking the Appalachian Trail, where on his journey he bumps into a mysterious girl known only as “The Ghost.” Strand’s latest novel, “How You Ruined My Life,” is a story about a teen named Rod, who has the perfect life — until his scheming cousin, Blake, comes to stay with his family for a semester. Rod struggles to stay levelheaded as Blake begins causing chaos in every aspect of his life.
Before Ramey and Strand’s stop in Greenville for a talk at Fiction Addiction next week, the Greenville Journal spoke with both authors about their writing careers and new releases.
Ramey, who currently works with high school-aged autistic students, is the author of three young adult novels. Her first novel, “The Sister Pact,” is a story about Allie, who is struggling with accepting her sister’s suicide but uncovers some revealing secrets behind her death. Her second novel, “The Homecoming,” is a tale about John, a teen who is finally returning home after being kicked out years ago and is having trouble with high school and dealing with his family. When writing, Ramey says she tries to inject some amount of mystery into her stories. “I love suspense,” she says. “As a reader, it’s the story’s questions that keep me reading. I try to do the same for my readers.”
Regarding her newest book, Ramey says that while she has little personal experience hiking, she has always had a fascination with the Appalachian Trail. “Once I decided to set this book on the Appalachian Trail, I did an incredible amount of research,” Ramey says. “Mostly I wanted to capture the feeling of focusing on the simple things in life, like surviving and forgetting all of the noise in life. For Dylan, I felt that this would be the best way for him to grieve the loss of his father and move forward.”
Strand’s writing career spans two decades and more than 30 comedy/horror novels. Growing up, Strand says he was an imaginative kid who loved reading just about anything, from fantasy to mystery. “My favorite authors were everybody who wrote a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book,” Strand says. “I would read and re-read and re-re-read those things far beyond the point where I’d exhausted every possible story outcome. Also, the ‘Encyclopedia Brown’ books and everything Beverly Clearly wrote.”
Even though horror is a subject in nearly everything Strand writes — he is a four-time nominee of the Bram Stoker Award, which recognizes achievement in dark fantasy and horror writing — it was not one of his childhood passions. “I didn’t really like horror as a kid,” Strand says. “[I was] way too squeamish. I would turn into a horror fanatic around age 16, but before that, ugh, no!”
For those who don’t enjoy horror, Strand assures readers that “How You Ruined My Life” is pure comedy. “Hopefully readers will find it to be a very, very, very funny tale, but there is nary a dead body to be found!” he says.
Other notable titles from Strand include “Blister,” a story about a cartoonist who meets a disfigured woman; “A Bad Day For Voodoo,” a strange tale of two high schoolers who get their hands on a voodoo doll in the image of their teacher; and “Wolf Hunt,” a story about two delinquents who are hired to transport a caged werewolf cross-country.
Although Strand claims a vast catalog of works, he says it took him years full of rejections before he ever got his first book published. “There is no successful published author who is ashamed of the rejections letters they’ve received,” Strand says. “It’s part of the process.”
Jeff Strand and Stacey Ramey
WHEN: Thursday, March 22, 5 p.m.
WHERE: Fiction Addiction, 1175 Woods Crossing Road #5
ADMISSION: Free (RSVP required)