‘She sat us all down and told us a story. About things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night.’
For Charlie, a school ski trip is the perfect escape from his unhappy home life. Until a storm blows in and the resort town is cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped on the mountain, the students wait for the blizzards to pass, along with mysterious ski guide Hanna.
But as night falls and the town’s long buried secrets begin to surface, the storm is the least of their problems….
A chilling RED EYE horror, perfect for fans of Dawn Kurtagich, Juno Dawson and Charlie Higson.
And today I am thrilled to welcome Gabriel Dylan to my blog, to talk all things school ski trips, writing the underdog, and how he fell in love with all things horror.
Whiteout was inspired by a trip to the Austrian Alps several years ago – I’d recently moved inland from Cornwall and really missed surfing, so I taught myself to snowboard on a dryslope near the school where I teach. A few months after, I got asked to lead a sixth form ski trip to Austria and, although I’d hardly ever seen real snow, I thought ‘yeah, why not?’ The trip to the Alps was a little hellish, twenty seven hours on a coach, and the resort was in the middle of nowhere at the top of a mountain. But once we arrived I fell in love with it – Hochkar was isolated, atmospheric, and stunningly beautiful. And a few days later a storm came in, with the locals saying that it was more snow than they’d had in thirty years, and we got snowed in. I was there one night, standing on the balcony, looking out over the moonlit slopes, and I suddenly thought ‘what if there’s something out there? Something that doesn’t want us to leave?’ Once the idea came to me, I couldn’t get rid of it. And I’ve always loved vampire mythology, like Salem’s Lot and Nosferatu, so once I started writing I couldn’t stop.
(Hochkar, the Austrian village that inspired the setting for Whiteout)
Tell us a bit more about the main character, Charlie. Do you have anything in common with him?
I love the outsiders and the underdogs, and Charlie is one of those. And I guess I was a little similar growing up – I didn’t really fit in, my head was always buried in a book or a comic, and I just wasn’t interested in conventional sports, so I never fell in with any of the teams or cliques. And then one day I saw some kids surfing and asked my parents if I could try it, and I was absolutely hooked. A lot of my friends came from hanging out at the beach, and surfing gave me a kind of belonging and a sense of direction, a place I fitted in. And I put a little of that into Charlie’s character, with his love of snowboarding and the way he doesn’t belong, and how he’s at his happiest out on the slopes. The other influence on Charlie was some of the kids I work with in my day job, running a sixth form and teaching English. There’s so many pupils I meet who have to deal with awful things – loss of family members, illness, awful home lives – and they are incredibly brave in the way they cope with whatever life throws at them and I wanted to put a little of that into the character of Charlie.
Do you normally come up with plot or characters first?
Most of the time it’s the plot, and then the characters fall into place afterwards, although the character of Hanna in Whiteout was there with me right from the start and in many ways I see her as the protagonist with all that the mountains have taken from her. With Whiteout, I tried lots of different ways to write it, but in the end I really enjoyed the claustrophobic nature of the story, and the way that the resort of Kaldgellan was almost a character in its own right and the story was confined to just a few days – somehow it made writing it that little bit more urgent.
What made you want to write a horror story?
I grew up on a diet of Stephen King, Richard Laymon, James Herbert, and all those other really cool horror writers, at an age where I probably shouldn’t have been reading them, so they felt a little forbidden and impossible to put down. And I love a scare, and the psychological side of the horror genre. Stephen King’s The Stand is one of my top three books of all time, and I really enjoy the genre and the way it takes you away from the real world. I’ve tried writing in other genres, particularly fantasy as the other author I read a lot growing up was David Gemmell, but I liked the contemporary nature of horror and the way you can put all these creepy and otherworldly elements into a modern day setting.
What's so special about YA literature?
For me, it’s definitely the pace of the writing. I’ve got a very short attention span, so a book has to grab me right away and keep hold of me, and I find YA as a genre really does that. Recently I’ve read Sally Green’s Half Bad, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and Alex Bell’s Frozen Charlotte and I found them all really hard to out down, although my book of the year so far would be Neal Schusterman’s Scythe. I loved the concept of the novel and the way it takes a utopia and slowly drags it down into disrepair. Also, the writing of all of the above authors is top notch – there’s no dumbing down or pulling punches, which I think is so important.
What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
Keep at it. I was in my early twenties when I started writing and now I’m much older! But I wrote because I loved it, with the idea of publication or anyone even reading my stuff a distant, unachievable dream. So it certainly hasn’t come overnight for me. And I guess read a lot, and write what you love. I think if you enjoy writing it, the chances are your target audience will enjoy reading it, too.
Sum up Whiteout in three words...
Scary Snowy Vampires!
Thank you so much, Gabriel, for taking the time to answer my questions!
Make sure you guys check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour, and keep an eye out for my review coming very soon :)
Buy Whiteout here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whiteout-Red-Eye-Gabriel-Dylan/dp/1788950720/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546895874&sr=8-1&keywords=whiteout+gabriel+dylan
Check out Gabriel Dylan here: https://twitter.com/gabrieldylanya?lang=en
Until next time :)