Today I'm welcoming author Grady Hendrix, for a stop on the My Best Friend's Exorcism blog tour.
Grady lives in New York. He is the author of Horrorstör, a novel about a haunted IKEA store, which is being turned into a series by Gail Berman (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl). Previously a journalist. He is also a co-founder of the New York Asian Film Festival.
Visit his website www.gradyhendrix.com or follow him on Twitter @grady_hendrix to find out more.
About the book
High school friends Abby and Gretchen have been BFFs since fifth grade, when they bonded over E.T. and roller-skating. They’ve shared secrets, a deep love of pop music, and inside jokes - until one fateful evening involving skinny-dipping and trying acid. Suddenly Gretchen is a completely different person - and to make things worse, strange things keep happening whenever she’s nearby.
Dumbstruck by the drastic changes in her best friend, Abby investigates what has happened, bringing her into contact with some bizarre characters and ultimately leading her to a horrifying explanation: Gretchen is possessed by the Devil. Friends, relatives and teachers all dismiss Abby’s discovery, begging the ultimate question: can Gretchen and Abby’s friendship survive Satan?
Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches, Mean Girls and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of 80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller. Packaged in a high school yearbook format, replete with handwritten inscriptions on the endpapers, this is a must-have for any genre fan - or 80s nostalgia - from Heathers to horror.
Now the preliminaries are over - here's Grady to reminisce about his high school years...
HIGH SCHOOL HIGHS AND LOWS
There’s a reason My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in 1988: that’s the year I was in Tenth Grade (Year 11) when I felt like I was possessed by a demon from Hell. I wasn’t literally possessed (or was I?) but I felt like everything I was doing was going wrong, and every second I was alive was just another chance for me to mess up my life forever. It was also the year when I forged the tight friendships that got me through high school alive. Here are a few truths that got me through the highs and lows of high school.
EVERYONE IS UGLY - I was a spotty little monster with a face that looked like an overcooked pizza. I spent hours picking at it, popping it, staring into the mirror and wanting to tear it off. I looked around at my classmates and saw either golden gods walking the earth in clouds of perfection, or hideous trolls scuttling from class to class like monsters. I firmly believed I belonged to the latter camp, but looking back at high school students as an adult I realize they’re all so half-formed that they’re all ugly. I shouldn’t have worried.
ADULTS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS - minus a few rare exceptions, the faculty who ran my high school were the enemy. They were not out to help us, they were out to humble us. I remember being punished for things I didn’t do simply because a teacher believed I must have, I remember having my confusion over maths interpreted as sarcasm because the teacher couldn’t believe “a student is this stupid,” and I remember telling our guidance counselor where I wanted to go to university and having her burst into laughter. At the time I thought I was the problem. As an adult, I realize that they were the enemy all along.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDSHIP - the friendships you form in high school are the tightest ones of your life. Later you’ll have husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, but in high school you’ve got comrades in arms who have your back and vow to stick together forever. These are the friendships that keep you alive, that bail you out when you’re in trouble, that come through with a last minute rescue. And they don’t survive graduation. There’s something about their intensity that causes these friendships to fall apart once you’re out of school. Sometimes you can transform them into another type of relationship, and there will always be a residual nostalgic buzz between you, but in general, they fade away. And that’s all right.
NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU LEARN - no one really cares if you can tell them about the Tudors or what X equals. Schools are not designed to give you information, they are designed to see if you can take tests and toe the line. Schools are places where you’re taught how to conform. Future employers and university admissions committees (where the real learning takes place) want to see if you can follow rules, do work, handle stress, and keep your cool while being bombarded with a baffling assortment of trivia for a decade. I mean, let’s face it, after learning how to read and write and do simple maths, what did you actually find useful in high school? Chances are, it was something you taught yourself.
As bad as high school was, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As much as we all make fun of teenagers — and they can be embarrassing — they’re better than the adults we grow into. Everything felt like a matter of life and death back then because it was. In high school, we’re stupid, and inexperienced, and we look funny, but we all wore our hearts on our sleeves and we weren’t afraid to risk everything, every single day. I wish I was half as brave today.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism is out now in hardback from Quirk Books, £14.99 and is available at your local bookshop, and also here, here and here.