Something strange at Crater Lake

Published on: 26 August 2020 Author: Jennifer Killick

Crater Lake is the story of a residential school trip that becomes a fight for life against a non-human enemy. It begins with a class of children on a coach to a new activity centre, and soon descends into horror when the coach is stopped by a bloodstained man who warns them not to go to Crater Lake...

Crater Lake book jacket

I don't know about you, but I love scary stories. I should tell you that I'm a proper wimp – watching horror movies from behind cushions, and peeping at the words in chilling novels through the cracks between my fingers. I'm the first (and loudest) to scream at a jump-scare, and after experiencing a terrifying tale, I'm often unable to sleep properly for WEEKS. But I keep watching them, and I keep reading them, because I love the thrill – the racing heart, the knuckle-biting tension, and the excitement of exploring my fears.

Before Crater Lake, I wrote comedy adventures. The thought of leaving my readers with their cheeks aching, and a face sticky with coke, from where they snorted in the middle of taking a gulp, is irresistible. Laughter is powerful. More powerful than fear, even. At the times in my life when I have been the most afraid, laughter has given me the strength to carry on. So I decided to write a story that combined scary and funny. I had no idea if it would work, but the idea was so loud in my mind that I had to try. And that is how Crater Lake came to life.

Crater Lake is all my favourite things tumbled together. Firstly, it features a group of smart, resourceful, brave children – characters that I am incredibly attached to: Lance, Chets, Katja, Mak and Adrianne. It is written through the eyes of Lance Sparshott. He's not the best at school – doesn't do well in tests, no good at sports, and often gets in trouble. He faces challenges at home that make daily life tough for him, but he keeps going, facing bullying from classmates and even his teacher. He's never excelled at anything, but when confronted with the life-or-death situation at Crater Lake, and keeping his friends safe, he totally soars. The kids all have their own problems and secrets, but their experience at Crater Lake helps them to learn and grow. Through running, screaming, laughing, and butt-kicking together, they come out the other side of it even closer than before.

Crater Lake also features some classic horror moments that were hugely fun to write. I keep a sort-of flick book in my mind of moments in stories that filled me with dread – those shuddery scenes that you can never unsee and that lurk in your mind forever. I used lots of those as inspiration for the scary (and sometimes disgusting) incidents that take place at Crater Lake. I also used one of my personal deepest fears – not being able to go to sleep. I LOVE sleeping. Honestly, it's one of my favourite things to do. A perfect day for me will always include a nap. But anyone who falls asleep at Crater Lake wakes up as something horrible. Can you imagine that? Being too afraid to fall asleep, because if you do you won't be human anymore? It was such a fascinating concept to explore.

I also wanted a fast-moving, intricate plot with hundred-mile-an-hour turns. There is nothing better in a story than a twist you didn't see coming – something that knocks you off your feet. And a story that's so tense and gripping that you have to keep turning the pages. Just one more chapter, and one more chapter, and one more chapter... More than anything else, I have always set out to write stories that leave my readers feeling like they've been on the most brilliant, life-changing adventure. I want them to feel exhilarated, breathless, and like their mind is blown. And most of all, I want them to be left feeling happy, and full of hope. If you read Crater Lake, I hope it stays with you for all the best reasons.