Today I'm so excited to welcome Madeleine Roux to the blog! Madeleine is the author of Asylum, which came out in August. I thought it would be a perfect fit for our Dark Side event!
First, a bit about Asylum:
Asylum by Madeleine Roux.
Page Count: 310.
Published: August 20, 2013.
Published by: HarperTeen.
Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.
As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.
Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.
Now onto the interview! Welcome, Madeleine!
Hi Madeleine! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions!
No problem, it's always fun to chat about the book!
How did you work on striking the right balance so Asylum is creepy and haunting but not over the top?
I'm not one for hugely over the top when it comes to scary books. My first two novels were about surviving the zombie apocalypse, and while there were some gory moments and scares, I prefer to create an atmosphere and let the reader just sort of exist there inside it. If you include the right details then you can bet the reader will sketch in their own fears and phobias in a way that you as a writer can't anticipate. I tried to do the same thing with Asylum, where the atmosphere and the creeping dread work on you just as much as the big scares.
Do you have a favourite quote that really helps to set the tone of the book?
There's an Akira Kurosawa quote that appears in the book, it goes, “In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” There are moments in the book where you have to wonder if you can trust Dan as a narrator - is he really seeing this, or is he maybe too far down the rabbit hole to accurately interpret the events? That doubt is a thread through the entire novel, and one of the crucial elements I wanted to play with throughout.
Oh, I like that a lot. Unreliable narrators can sometimes be the most interesting ones because the reader has to question so much more.
What kind of research did you do for Asylum? Any actual old asylum visits?
I didn't get around to any actual asylums, but I've done a fair bit of travel and gotten to see some very old locations here in the US and abroad. Most of my childhood was spent in an old Victorian farm house, and I'm intimately familiar with the feeling of sleeping in a place that you suspect might be 'lightly' haunted. There is a wealth of imagery that we have from actual asylums, from when they were operating and now from many that are run-down. Those images were a huge source of inspiration. I also had the, uh, interesting task of researching out of date treatments that are, frankly, pretty barbaric to the modern mind. You can keep yourself up nights reading about this stuff. It's fascinating and morbid and repellent, but it helped put me in the right frame of mind. One of my favorite bits of research involved looking at actual old patient card records. Something about those cards with all the patient facts personalized the experience. It was just one detail but it stuck with me.
I think when you're surrounded by that much darkness in the material, having the human connection right there is probably a great way to keep from letting it consume you.
Is there a creepy or unsettling real-life story you've come across that either inspired you or has stuck with you?
This isn't specific to asylums, but I saw a ghost once in my bedroom. I THINK I did. You never know with these things, right? But I've always kept that memory with me, and existing between skepticism and a belief in the supernatural is familiar territory, territory I got to revisit while writing Asylum.
Ooh, that is creepy. Going a little deeper into that, have you had any especially creepy experiences of your own?
Like I said, I think I saw a ghost appear in my bedroom as a child. It was creepy because it was a ghost, but the apparition itself wasn't menacing. He just looked at my dolls and then disappeared. At the time I was afraid but now I look back at that night with a certain fondness, like maybe I was lucky to see something so strange and rare. I also had the fortune, or maybe misfortune, of having two vividly imaginative older brothers. I was having a sleepover one night and they hid a speaker under my bed, ran a wire to their room and whispered spooky things into a microphone while we tried to sleep. We figured out the game quickly, but there was definitely a moment there where we were freaked out! They still bring that one up at holidays, obviously.
Ah, that's what brothers are good at. Darn boys!
What kind of role do you find the photos play in the book and why did you want to include them?
I think because those photos exist it's important to see them. That sounds incredibly obvious, I know, but I mean that some of the treatments and events discussed in the book really happened and not that long ago. It's important to remember how recently these things happened. Medicine advances in leaps and bounds, but we have to look back. We have to remember how dangerous it is to marginalize people living with mental illness. With the photos there you can't look away. You have to confront the flashes of reality shining through the fiction.
What are some of your favourite dark or creepy YA books?
This is for very young audiences, but I have a love/hate relationship with Coraline. I love everything about that book, but I have a weird phobia about eyes and the buttons in the eye socket part is something straight out of my nightmares. I think you can classify The Hunger Games as dark, and I chewed through that book in a day or two. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I've seen an early copy of Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis and it is dark, gripping and just phenomenal!
Not a Drop to Drink was definitely dark and gripping. I thought it was phenomenal! Anyway, thank you so much, Madeleine! I love getting a look into the author's mind, but especially when it comes to dark, creepy books because I know it's something I would never have the courage to research for, let alone write!
Make sure you head over to The White Unicorn for Christianna's review of Holly Black's creepy MG, Doll Bones.