We’re delighted that the next author in our interview series is Phil Hickes, whose stunning middle-grade debut, The Haunting of Aveline Jones, is published today by Usborne.

This is the first in a series of middle-grade ghost stories, which will follow Aveline on her various ghostly adventures. Phil has received a multitude of phenomenal five-star reviews for his novel ahead of publication, and we can’t wait to see where Aveline goes next.

Originally from the UK, Phil now lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife. He graduated with an English Literature degree from Middlesex University, and currently writes as an advertising copywriter. He has a passion for horror, ghosts, and all things that go bump in the night, which led him to do an online fiction writing course with the horror author, Jeremy C. Shipp.

His first short story was featured in an adult horror anthology, and he has since had several short stories published in anthologies in the adult genre. He turned his hand to Middle Grade writing as he wanted to create the same visceral thrill he remembers from reading Alan Garner, Clive King and Roald Dahl.

What inspired you to write?

I vividly remember the sheer thrill and joy of reading scary books as a kid. And not a lot has changed. It’s still one of my favourite things to do. So I wanted to try and create spooky stories that curious young readers might enjoy today. Something that felt contemporary yet classic at the same time. If just one reader enjoys huddling up with this book in bed, while the wind howls outside, and the rain pitter-patters on the window, and there’s an occasional nervous glance into the dark corners of the room, I’ll be delighted.

What’s your favourite book/piece of literature?

That’s such a hard question to answer. There are so many. But just for now I’ll say Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad by M R James.

Where do most of your good ideas come to you?

Walking the dog. In the shower. Or in that curious space between dreaming and waking.

Where do you write?

Wherever’s available. I wish I could say I have a cabin on a blustery coastline like Neil Gaiman probably does on the Isle of Skye. But I do occasionally get to write in this cabin at my mother-in-law’s, which in the darker, colder months, is just about as good as it gets.

What is your writing process?

Total chaos, from which hopefully, eventually, the semblance of a story appears. I’ve tried plotting and just couldn’t do it. So with a loose idea in mind, I begin writing and see where it takes me. It’s a very inefficient and scary way to write, with lots of wrong turns, head scratches, weary sighs, black moods, dead ends and a lot of wasted words. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Where did the idea come from for THE HAUNTING OF AVELINE JONES?

One day I bought a second-hand book and saw the name of the previous owner inside. It felt quite strange, as if we had a connection despite not knowing each other. I began to wonder what would happen if someone discovered something odd or intriguing about the previous owner and that ultimately (see previous answer) led to the finished story.

How do you relax after a day of writing?

It’s either reading in bed or curled up on the sofa, with the dog snoring beside us, pizza and beer within easy reach, watching the opening titles of a horror film come up. Life doesn’t get any better than that.