Patrick Carman has had a busy fall -- and it is only getting busier. There are new books to promote, a local fundraiser to sponsor and haunted houses to reach out to throughout the country.
With school in full session, and Halloween just around the corner, the Walla Walla author is poised to offer young fans fresh thrills and chills, and gain new fans with his latest tales of mystery and suspense.
September saw the release of his newest novel for young readers, Floors. The story, set in the wacky Whipper Hotel and focusing on the hotel's maintenance worker and his son, is Carman's homage to Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which Carman says was a major inspiration growing up.
Carman spent most of last month touring the country and promoting Floors, visiting fans in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Kan., and Fayetteville, Ark.
Fayetteville boasts one of his biggest fan bases, and is where more of his Skeleton Creek series of stories are read than anywhere else, he said.
"They're very passionate about the books in Arkansas," he said.
Locally, Carman has tied the sale of Floors from the Book & Game Company to benefit local school libraries. Each student who buys a copy earns a dollar credit for books from Book & Game for their school library. Sales of the book from nonstudents can also be made in the name of a certain school. Later this month, the school with the most book sales will get at least $500 in books from the downtown book shop for their school library.
Floors is the first in a trilogy that will follow the story of The Whippet Hotel, a place where secrets are waiting to be discovered, and ducks abound. Carman said the books are geared for older elementary school readers and young middle-schoolers.
"It's totally like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," he said. "There's many weird, wacky rooms, and sort of a secret story."
The book also is a traditional tale, meaning there are no videos to unlock online, or interactive features that advance the story through digital media, like some of Carman's other popular stories.
"There's no bells and whistles, for a change," he said. "I'm actually very excited about that."
That interactive storytelling is more prominent in Carman's 3:15 series of stories, which readers experience on mobile phone applications and online.
"The three is listen, read and watch, and you do the whole thing in 15 minutes or less," Carman explained. Fans read a brief story on a device like an iPod Touch or tablet computer, then go online to see the ending of the story come to life in high-production videos.
The short stories are meant to be just that -- an introduction to young readers on the short story format. Carman's publisher of children's books, Scholastic, is releasing the first 3:15 stories as a book.
Carman described the stories in the 3:15 series as inspired by The Twilight Zone, or "B" horror movies, meaning there is enough weirdness and fright to make them best for children 10 or older. There are about 10 stories so far, and their popularity prompted the decision to publish them in the traditional book format as well, which came as a surprise to the author.
"It was only meant to ever be online," Carman said. "They read about 10 pages, then go back online, and watch the sort of spooky ending."
The book form of 3:15 is available now, and continues to be available as an application and online.
Yet Carman's latest releases don't end there. Carman's publisher for young adult literature, HarperCollins, is releasing Dark Eden this November. Dark Eden is a serialized story that follows seven teens, all with acute fears, who are sent to a secluded building to be cured. Unknown to the teens, they all are under the treatment of the same doctor, who is using their time in seclusion as a way to rid them of their phobias. Online videos and multimedia interaction are part of this story as well. The Dark Eden stories are serialized, and available on applications much like 3:15. Carman said the first four of 14 stories are already available, with new releases to come out every week.
The book form of Dark Eden will be released Oct. 31, and Carman has coordinated a visit to Book & Game for the launch. Carman will be there to sign copies at 6 p.m.
In another twist, Carman also is working with about a dozen haunted houses across the country, including Walla Walla's corn maze, to have "fear tests" handed out on certain nights.
On haunted corn maze nights in Walla Walla, CDs with the fear test on them will be handed out to teens as they leave the maze. The CDs will walk the viewer through a series of questions to gauge their biggest fear or phobia, while eliciting a few chills.
Carman said Dark Eden compares to Shutter Island, a bestselling novel made into a feature film about a notorious psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane, and the man investigating a patient's disappearance.
"It's very much like Shutter Island," Carman said. "Shutter Island with teens."