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Local author Lora Senf introduces children to horror writing through her first novel, The Clackity | Arts & Culture | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest

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Spokane author Lora Senf writes scary stories for kids.

Llike many, local author Lora Senf love for writing came from an intense enjoyment of reading as a child. Through the words of John Bellairs and Stephen King, Senf found his passion and admiration for a specific genre: horror.

“As soon as I realized that an author was something you could be, I wanted to be one,” says Senf.

The Slam, her new novel for intermediate readers, is set in Blight Harbor, the seventh most haunted city in America, and follows Evie Von Rathe. Evie is not your usual horror protagonist. She outwardly shows her anxieties and doesn’t exactly see herself as the hero of Blight Harbor.

At an upcoming book talk at Auntie’s, Senf plans to discuss his creative process, Evie, and the ghosts that inhabit Blight Harbor.

“When I started imagining Evie, I imagined her as a kid like me,” Senf says. “She’s scared, but she’s brave. I wanted her to be an authentic main character that the kids could relate to.”

After Evie’s parents mysteriously go missing, she moves to Blight Harbor to live with her grandmother Desdemona, the local expert on all things scary and paranormal. Desdemona’s recent interest is staked in a local abandoned slaughterhouse, or abattoir, which sits on the outskirts of town. Then one day, Aunt Des mysteriously disappears, and Evie has a strong intuition as to where her missing aunt might be.

Despite Aunt Des’s wishes, Evie makes her way through the slaughterhouse, and it’s there that she encounters The Clackity, a shadow-creeping creature who speaks exclusively in riddles. Our protagonist and the mysterious Clackity make a deal: bring back the ghost of infamous serial killer John Jeffrey Pope and Evie can get her aunt back.

The idea for The Slam started with a text from Senf’s sister, an idea for an “otherworldly advice column”. The two joked around for a day, but the idea never left Senf’s mind.

Senf wrote the novel between her day job with the Washington State Department of Employment Securities and her duties as a wife and mother of twins. Her heart has always been in writing and she often finds inspiration through her children telling stories of their dreams.

Senf came up with the Aunt Desdemona character first, and the rest followed soon after. In creating Blight Harbor in her mind, she was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s characterization of small-town America and Stephen King’s fictional town, Castle Rock. Senf plans to create more books that take place in Blight Harbor, The guardian of the night house and another untitled work to be released in Fall 2023 and Fall 2024 respectively.

“The slaughterhouse is based out of a building in Butte, Montana,” Senf explains. “I saw it, fell in love with it and immediately entered the property. I am absolutely convinced that it is haunted.”

“At that time, I already had the seeds of The Slam in my brain, so when I found this building, I took it as a landmark.”

Aaccompanying Senf’s suspenseful writing, The Slam also features moody illustrations by Chilean artist Alfredo Cáceres. The pages of the book are stamped with images of the gruesome creatures Evie encounters in the slaughterhouse.

The cover, also illustrated by Cáceres, features an orange and black Halloween color scheme and a haunted house, signaling to readers that they are going to be scared.

“When I saw his work, I was so moved,” says Senf. “There’s this weird whimsy that I loved. I also found out that he was illustrating some of the Spanish editions of John Bellairs’ books. It was just, such a looping moment.”

For some relatives, Handing their child a horror book can be daunting, but Senf explains that age-appropriate horror is essential reading material for early readers and that many mid-level authors would agree that when writing a book, they enter into a contract with the children and their Parents.

“It’s basically me saying I’m going to take them on a scary journey,” she says. “But, in the end, it will be fine. Not perfect, but OK. I promise my readers and their adults.”

With the recent rise in talk about banned books, Senf points out that the only people who should be telling children what they can and cannot read are children and their adults.

“It’s not the role of a school board or a politician to control what children read,” she says. “We have to trust librarians and teachers to know what is age appropriate for children. Of course children need guidance. But I trust children to stop when they feel that it’s good.”

Horror as a genre has been around since ancient times and isn’t going away anytime soon. Writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz keep the genre alive for mature audiences, but Senf is determined to get them started young and create the next generation of thrill seekers.

“Let the kids explore by reading,” she says. “Scary books are a place where they can practice being brave.” ♦

Lora Senf: The Slam • Sat., Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m. • Free; reservations required • Auntie’s Bookstore • 402 W. Main Ave • auntiesbooks.com • 509-838-0206