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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

‘Days with Ghosts’ – Alexandra Smith Stuffs Stockings With Her Spooky New Children’s Book [Interview]

It’s tough, letting go of Spooky Season.

While every horror fan’s favorite holiday is nearly two months gone now, the feeling of this recent loss is still palpable, as it has been before and shall always continue to be from year to year. That yearning to hold onto Halloween can be intense, even through the cheerier holidays which immediately follow. Namely Christmas, of course.

Ghost stories for Christmas is a British tradition, the creepy grandfather in Silent Night, Deadly Night asserts that Christmas Eve is “the scariest damn night of the year“, and how many horror flicks have been counterprogrammed in cinemas at Christmastime to great success? The melding of the creepy with a holiday meant to inspire childlike wonder makes for an effective brew, the likes of which can be found in edgier children’s fare of all sorts found on screen and printed page.

Case in point: Days with Ghosts, a new children’s book from writer/artist Alexandra Smith, which follows the afterlife of two specters as they enjoy the marvelous mundanity of existence from beyond the grave. At turns cute and creepy, the book manages to send a shiver and warm the heart all at once, making for perfect bedtime reading for spook enthusiasts young and old. With its humorous art and clever puns, Days never fails to elicit a smile with its pages, but it’s the book’s charm and heart which will linger with bookworms lucky enough to cross paths with the endearing titular spirits.

Joining us to chat about Days is Ms. Smith, who details its origins, discusses her inspirations, and reveals why the book is a perfect stocking stuffer for horror fans of all ages.

Bloody Disgusting: How would you describe Days with Ghosts for Bloody Disgusting readers?

Alexandra Smith: It’s a book for all ages, for those who love horror, and those who love a bit of the paranormal, too. I wanted to peek into what a ghost’s day-to-day life would be, after. What do they do? Why do they haunt those big empty houses you see on the street? What are they up to in their day-to-day lives?

BD: Can we talk a bit about how the project came about? Where did this idea come from?

AS: I have been wanting to work on my own children’s book for a while, but it actually happened because I was on bed rest with bronchitis. I didn’t have a lot to do, so I was like, “I guess now is as good a time as ever to start working on [it].” It kind of happened within a five-day span, just start to finish. Putting all the pages together, getting everything set up with Amazon, it was a five-day process. I’m really proud of it.

BD: So you put the entire thing together, beginning to end, in less than a week?!

AS: Yes, yeah. Very, very fast.

BD: I feel like such a slacker. That’s amazing. And it’s funny, it seems like so much art has been born out of the last year and a half for various reasons, ever since the lockdown began. People have been more creative for having been limited from what we’re normally used to in our day-to-day lives. I wish we all had more time in that way, but not in the sense of ducking COVID or having bronchitis or anything like that. The positive seems to be that more people have been putting more cool stuff out into the world.

AS: I’ve definitely seen a lot of creative people putting out a lot of projects over the time of the pandemic. I mean, it’s unfortunate we’ve had to go through this, but at the same time, it’s really awesome to see all these projects come to life from all these different people.

BD: Reading the book, it reminded me in some ways of a kinder-hearted Edward Gorey, and that leads me to ask – could you talk a bit about your own influences?

AS: As far as influences, I love Mab Graves and stuff like that, but to be honest, when it came to the book, I was more influenced by life than any artists in particular. The ghosts actually come from [Alexandra’s husband] Jerry and I. We always wanted to have a baby together, and I got pregnant and miscarried. We always referred to our baby as a girl and we called her Ghost. So I just wanted to do something for that. I wanted to put a story with it, so that came out. I was like, “Well, I like this. It fits, it feels comfortable.” And it’s for us.

As far as artistic styles, my favorite, favorite, favorite kind is art from the classic [illustrations in] Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The illustrations in those books are really pretty, very heavily detailed. It just looks magical. A lot of the early Disney movies look like that, too. I’ve always loved that kind of style.

BD: That goes to my next question. The characters seem perfectly suited for follow-ups, and I was just wondering if there were going to be more Days with Ghosts.

AS: I definitely want to do a companion. I probably won’t continue with that particular storyline after a second one, but I did want to do a companion book to see it out to a different story. I would like to get it out by early next year.

BD: The book is very sweet, but also spooky in its own way. How tricky was it as a creator to juggle that mix of tones in that way?

AS: I took both pieces of myself, my love for horror and paranormal and all things spooky, and then the fact that I am a mom, too. Reading it with my kid, they may not catch on to it right away, but the adult reading it would. But it would suit their sensibilities as well, where they would also still like it.

BD: Can you talk a bit about your process, being both writer and artist? Did the words come first or the art, or both at once?

AS: The art will always come first. I’ll do the artwork itself and then I will name it … the table of contents is all of the names that they got before they were written. So I did that first, then once I completed all the panels I went through and put them in order the way I wanted it and just have a kind of flow in a sense of day to day, but also try to put holidays and stuff in order.

BD: What’s next for Days with Ghosts? Obviously it’s available on Amazon right now for purchase, but have you looked into maybe getting it into bookstores down the line?

AS: I would really like to! I’m thinking about going the publicist route and start pushing it out that way, just to get it in front of more eyes and maybe get it into a store.

BD: I love the idea of a child thumbing through various books in a children’s section at a bookstore and running across this particular book. I always love stories of gateway horror, and I think this would totally capture a child’s imagination and make them want to seek out spookier stuff.

AS: That’s exactly what I wanted to do. Not all kids only like the traditional kids stuff, some are pulled to horror, so I just wanted it to be that happy middle ground. Our kids love My Little Pony, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t get just as excited when a Halloween film comes out.

BD: What final word would you like to leave Bloody Disgusting readers with concerning Days with Ghosts?

AS: Look, it’s really fun and exciting, and I’m very proud of it. I would ask readers if they have a childlike side and love children’s books, but also really like something that could make them smile with references they can catch from other pop culture things.

It’s a great stepping stone book that can capture the hearts of older fans’ inner children. And with spooky season behind us and with Christmas always being good for a ghost story, there’s no better time to pick up this book for a loved one, or yourself.

Very special thanks to Alexandra Smith for her time and insights.


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