Paying Tribute to Christopher Pike

October is one of my FAVORITE months. The weather starts to cool, but we don’t usually get snow, the shorter daylight hours become impossible to ignore…it’s all about transition. And then there’s HALLOWEEN.

Every year, S and I watch a marathon of scary/thriller/horror movies from October 1st to 31st in celebration of the season, and this year will be no exception. Last year I blogged movie reviews, and I might this year too…but when I started to think about great blog topics for this month Of All Months, I wanted to do something different. I tried to think of what DEFINED my love of Thrills and Chills…and Christopher Pike jumped out at me!

…and then I screamed! ;)

For those who may be ~unfamiliar~ with The Great Mr. Pike, he was known as the Stephen King of Young Adult Fiction in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is also famous for being completely mysterious – no one knows much about him personally, and good luck trying to find out (his name is a pseudonym taken from Star Trek - FTW!). It’s part of his ~mystique~.  He was a MASTER of teen thrillers and science fiction, always pushing the envelope. I devoured these books in middle and high school, always checking the stores to see if a new one had come out. Recently, I reread some of them (I still have ALL my original copies), and I’m so impressed that not a single one seems formulaic or trendy, even now. Many of them deal with paranormal phenomena, but often times, the scariest things in them are simply human beings.

My absolute all-time favorite Pike book is Master of Murder. Observe the completely amazing 1992 cover art (it was redone later, but to me this is the only cover): MasterofMurder

The book is about an eighteen-year-old guy named Marvin who is a bestselling author of teenage fiction, but NO ONE KNOWS IT except his sister and his agent. Marvin needs to keep his identity secret, but he starts to realize that the stories he’s been writing – murder mysteries - are actually true. And then he receives a fan letter that reads: “I know who you are.”

People have speculated that MASTER OF MURDER is semi-autobiographical for Mr. Pike. The first time I read it, I became convinced that he WAS a teenaged novelist, and that if I met him, he might realize that I loved writing too and go out with me!! I no longer think this is true…okay, the part about him being a teen novelist, ;) though I’d still LOVE to meet the mysterious Christopher Pike.

Does this cover not SCREAM amazing to you? The 90s computer! The dead girl! The chilling font! The guy tapping away at his novel! <3

 

One of the more disturbing Pike books I’ve read  is Whisper of DeathWhisperofDeathThis one definitely has a supernatural element to it, though it is hard to define – which is one of the BEST and scariest things about Pike – how uncomfortable he makes you feel. You don’t understand the threat, and that is SO terrifying. !!! Anyway, those two terrified-looking kids are Roxanne and Pepper. That hooded death-figure on the road may or may not be Betty Sue, a dead girl with a GRUDGE.

Roxanne is pregnant, so she and Pepper leave town to try and solve their problems (I LOVE how vague the back cover copy is about this). When they get back, however, the town is deserted except for three other kids Betty Sue wants dead.  

Christopher Pike is a magnificent storyteller, and one of his great talents is weaving stories into stories. Betty Sue left stories behind that she’d written about each of the kids – telling how they died, before it happens – and of course things unfold exactly how she wrote them! One of the greatest things about Whisper of Death is the ambiguous ending. I still couldn’t tell you exactly what happened, but it wasn’t happy for anyone – except maybe Betty Sue, who we find out, was also pregnant when she died. I’ve read this book several times, and it still bothers me. Which is why Mr. Pike is a master of the craft.

 Midnight Club

The Midnight Club has stuck in my mind for fifteen years. I reread it recently, and cried all over again. Yes – I CRIED over a Pike book. That’s what a gifted author he is.  The Midnight Club is about a group of teens in a hospice (I KNOW – depressing). But Pike makes you realize teens in a hospice are still TEENS, and they act like them. A group of five meets at midnight to tell stories (more stories within story – FTW!), but as each of them gets sicker, they start to speculate about ~the after life~ and make a pact that the first of them to die will try to make contact–from beyond the grave. Eeee! I LOVE this book. It feels so well-researched, so compassionate…and so hopeful, despite the theme.

I guess a post about Christopher Pike wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Remember Me. Except that I am sooo disappointed I couldn’t find a bigger picture of the cover than this.  You can hardly see the ~ghostly hand~ on the balcony railing, not to mention poor Shari’s artistically-arranged body on the ground – without a trace of blood in her gorgeous blonde hair. RememberMeRemember Me is about Shari Cooper, a murdered girl whose ghost sticks around trying to find out who pushed her from that balcony at a party. The story is compelling, with lots of interesting familial backstory and baby-swapping, but the ending totally makes the whole book. I might as well ruin it, it’s so…NOT anything I ever expected. Shari’s (not dead) brother is diabetic, and his crazed girlfriend-slash-actual-sister tries to kill him by using his own syringe to inject an air bubble into his veins. Shari’s ghost slips INSIDE her brother’s veins to stop the air-bubble from giving him a heart attack. I mean – WHO would have thought of that? CHRISTOPHER PIKE.

There are TOO MANY excellent Pike books for one blog entry! However, I found out while writing this that The Last Vampire series is being re-released. Which isn’t a huge surprise considering the YA market right now…but it isn’t one of my favorites. I think one of the most impressive things about Christopher Pike is that he could write fantastic stand-alone thrillers. Remember Me became a series, so did The Last Vampire, Final Friends, Chain Letter, etc… and I’m not saying I didn’t buy every single one and enjoy them. But I remember and hold dear the single, sweet, intense books like Road to Nowhere, Spellbound, The Eternal Enemy, The Immortal, Die Softly, Last Act, and who can forget the very FIRST book: Slumber Party.

So on the first day of October, the spookiest month, a month of transition, I pay humble tribute to Christopher Pike. For keeping me up reading at all hours as a teen, for making me afraid to turn out the lights, for blowing my mind with compelling tales, and for instilling an everlasting love of YA that continues to shape me as a writer.  ~*~

Pike

On Kurt Cobain and Career Inspiration at Age 13 (Mortified Style)

April 5, 1994 – fifteen years ago, the day Grunge lost its king.

I’ve been thinking about Kurt Cobain lately. I was never really a big grunge kid – don’t get me wrong, I owned my share of flannel and gave head-banging a good middle-school try before it gave me a splitting headache. But I was born with one foot firmly planted in Generation X and the other with it’s toe in the Millenial Generation. I loved Nirvana – Nevermind and the MTV Unplugged album remind me of parties at my best friend’s house where all we did was listen to music and talk because we weren’t quite old enough to get ourselves into trouble. I would later betray Grunge for Electronica and Trip Hop, but for those filthy gold-plated middle school days in the early 90s…there was nothing better. Could we have asked for a better anthem than Smells Like Teen Spirit?

But then one day after school at my friend Gill’s house, we were all hanging out having good clean fun, talking about who liked who, wondering out loud about the mysteries of high school when…MTV News rose out of the background, and brought our conversation to a grinding halt. Legendary ageless MTV News anchor Kurt Loder came on screen to tell us that Cobain shot himself.

And so last night – fifteen years later – I paid solemn tribute to the man by playing Lithium on my laptop at 2:00 AM. Since I’m only a little older than Cobain was when he died, I reflected on where I had been in life then, and everything that has happened since. I started thinking about where my 13yo self thought I might be in 2009, fifteen years after Cobain’s death…and then it occured to me: I Wrote About That Day In MY JOURNAL.

And when I found the entry it was truly ~embarrassing~ as I feared, but it was also something I didn’t expect…freakishly inspiring.

In a thirteen-years-old kind of way.

So without further ado, and in true Mortified style, I give you the April 10, 1994 excerpt of The Journal of Emily Hainsworth, age 13yrs, 11mos. It is one part historical perspective on events in pop culture, and one part musings on personal career goals - painstakingly transcribed exactly as it was written fifteen LONG years ago…and delivered with the brutal honesty and pure can-do attitude only a 13 year-old can convey:

4/10/94

Whoa! Its been a while since I’ve written. I’m kinda depressed. (not unusual) Kurdt Kobain (Curt Cobain) killed himself about three days ago. He was the lead singer of Nirvana, one of the top five bands in America and one of my favorites. He was kinda cute too. It figures, the cute ones are always either gay, dead, dying, homosidal (sic), or married/girlfriend. Oh well. His wife is on heroin and he had just gotten out of a coma in the hospital. He has a cute little girl too. I feel very sorry for her. When she grows up we’ll probly hear about her holding up a store or running naked through the streets protesting sexism. Anyway her dad blew his head off with a gun. (He was only 27 years old) What a way to go. I hope he had plenty of Tylenol.

Oh, I went to the Nottingham [High School] musical INTO THE WOODS. It was very cool, but long. I can’t decide what to be when I grow up. I kinda wanna be an actress, but having second thoughts about it. The stress, the assassination risk. I want to go down in history remembered and well liked, but not like that. I love to Act, but I don’t think I could handle the pressure. I COULD however be a writer. That way I can make all my fantasies come true. I put my stuff on paper, publish it, and whala! (spelling could help though) And maybe I’d finally get to meet the great Christopher Pike. When you write, you can make anything happen. I will seriousley (sic) consider this.

Emily :)

New MS Mumbles

So, everyone knows what you do while you wait to hear back on queries, right?

You stop obsessing over THAT MS and move on to a NEW one.

I guess I’ve reached that stage, only it’s not in MS form yet…people, I am outlining. (!!!!!!!) Never thought I’d say that.

And it’s going really well! I had a super-cool idea for a new premise, and first few chapters, etc. I think I know the right direction to go on POV (there will be TWO this time – 1st-person, I think…if I can bring myself to do it. I heart 3rd-close). I even know my characters a *little* bit already. And I HAD been stuck trying to figure out where the whole thing was going to go (after said super-cool premise), but today I THINK I KNOW.

BUT…………..this one is going to be a lot "edgier/darker" than the last one. And I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, I have absolutely NO problemwith edgy/dark material. I love reading it, and I’m excited to write this story. But it’s like, SO different. I feel like if both books ever made it into print, one would need a pseudonym or something because they just DON’T go together.

I mean, both books do have some similarities…I like to write speculative fiction based in science. For the most part (My YA heroes are Christopher Pike and Scott Westerfeld). And this new MS is going to be like that…only a little heavier on the sci-fi. Which kind of surprises me, but REALLY shouldn’t considering the idea for it, which would make you laugh at me about this if I told you what it was. (Sorry! Sekrit!)

And on top of the sci-fi lean (which is really just fine by itself), my MCs and what happens to them is just a little bit scarier. It’s darker, grittier, and so are they. They make my last MC look like a Puritan. So I’m like…is SHE TOO PURE? Or ARE THEY TOO DARK? Or are they all who they need to be and I should just shut up and understand that the two worlds will never meet…except on a hypothetical bookshelf? *headdesk*