Tuesday, May 1, 2018

"The Boatman" by Kat Hawthorne

The Boatman
by Kat Hawthorne

The Boatman by Kat Hawthorne

The Boatman by Kat Hawthorne is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Isabel Wixon is weird. Not only does she see dead things, but her list of friends consists of a talkative ventriloquist’s dummy and the gentlemanly spider that lives in her hair. Real friends? Too hard. Inventing friends is much easier.
Inventing the Boatman - a terrible monster that lures kids into a strange sleeping sickness and never lets them go - probably wasn’t one of her better ideas though.

Izzy froze as the spirit of a young girl appeared before her. This morning, as she did on occasion, the girl had taken off her head. The ghost’s body hefted the head a few times, obviously fixing to lob it at Izzy. She stiffened. Izzy had never been hit by a detached head before, but she doubted it would be much fun.
“The Boatman is looking for you,” the ghost-girl said so quietly Izzy couldn’t be sure if what she’d heard was the ghost’s voice or the leaves on the trees above laughing as the rain tickled them. “You should be very careful not to—GAH!!”
Just then, and for no reason Izzy could see, the body fumbled and dropped the head. It crashed to the ground and began rolling away. “You cumbersome hunk of junk!” the head squealed as it bumped into a tree and came to an indelicate halt.
Blindly, the body bent over and began feeling around on the forest floor. Looking for something round, it located a large rock. It spent a few moments trying to lift it, but as everyone knows, ghosts cannot lift things. The head sighed. “Hello! I’m over here you brain dead oaf!” it hollered from its place near the tree. Finally, the body stumbled toward it.
After poking a finger in the head’s eye and shoving another up its nose, ghost-girl’s body heaved the head up by its stringy hair and placed it back onto its neck hole, spinning it around a few times as though it were screwing in a light bulb. When finally the head was fixed into place, though slightly crooked, the now-whole ghost-girl stretched as if she were stiff. “Silly, clumsy thing,” she said. “I swear, one day my body will lose me! How will I ever get a head then?” The ghost put a hand on her belly and chuffed at her own joke.
But not Izzy, she was too afraid to laugh. Instead, she swallowed. Usually when the headless ghost-girl appeared, Izzy ran away. But not today. There was something she’d been meaning to ask, and she knew that the only way to get the answer was to be brave and ask it. Besides, after the whole dropped head debacle and the thing about cracking jokes, the ghost seemed too distracted to be menacing. So Izzy stood as tall as she could and hoped the ghost would not notice her rattling knees. “Um,” she stammered, “who is the Boatman?”
The ghost crossed her arms over her chest. Her lips looked like a pair of bloated worms, particularly when they were pooched out, as they were right then. She tilted her head to the side, or at least she tilted it more to the side than it already was. “Did you just speak to me? Are you not frightened?”
“Yes—I mean no.” Izzy nodded and then shook her head. She peeled a slithering wet clump of hair off of her forehead. She looked back at the ghost, who still waited for an answer. “Oh...Um...I mean, yes I spoke, and no I’m not afraid.” It was half true at least.
The ghost-girl slumped, which made her seem far less frightening. “Really? Am I losing my touch? That would be the pits. I’ve been trying so hard.”
“Oh!” Izzy scrunched her eyebrows together. She didn’t want to hurt the ghost’s feelings. She simply hadn’t considered how the ghost must be feeling. After all, scaring people was the ghostly way. Everyone knew that.
Izzy scratched her pointy elbow then continued. “Well then, I admit that you’ve done a wonderful job scaring me these past few weeks. I mean, the head thing and the song—very creepy. Truly top notch material. However, I don’t know who this Boatman fellow is. I’m not sure if I ought to be afraid of him or not. Perhaps you could explain? That might help.”
The ghost rubbed her chin as if considering. “Well, if you think it will help.”
Izzy nodded. “I do.”
Theatrically, the ghost hovered a few inches off the ground and faded in and out as the trees swayed and small shafts of morning light blinked right through her. Her voice was low-pitched when she began to speak, very unlike the shrill soprano she took on while singing. “The Boatman is a hideous monster who lives in the world of dreams.” With this, the ghost waved her arm as if indicating that they were in the world of dreams currently. “He sails his rickety boat around on the lake of your thoughts. He is the one responsible for every nightmare you’ve ever had; he’s the one who controls your fear and...”
The ghost sighed and visibly deflated, seeming displeased by the quality of her storytelling. Izzy had to admit, the ghost’s tone had lost some pizazz as she went on. “Too over-the-top?” the ghost asked.
Izzy shrugged one shoulder. “Perhaps a teensy bit.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Here's the thing, I've never in my life read a middle grade book for fun. In fact, middle grade books are not exactly the peanut butter to my jelly. But my 8 year old is a huge fan of creepy stories and because I needed to make sure it was appropriate, I read it first. Three chapters in I was hooked. Five chapters in I was biting my nails, and by the end, I was nodding my head, smiling, and also wondering if I would dream of creepy dudes all night. Alas, I didn't, BUT my daughter on the other hand? She couldn't sleep the night she read it. And it wasn't because of the creep factor, it's because she couldn't stop talking about Izzy. She loved her, related to her in a lot of ways, and asked why more characters couldn't be like her in books. I highly agree with this, realizing that Ms. Hawthorne has not only created an amazing story, but she's created a character in which my daughter could relate to. That alone made this book worth it to me. So, if you (or your kiddo) are all about fun and creepy things between the pages, then The Boatman is the perfect book for you.” ~ Heath 1005
“Talk about deliciously creepy! This book grabs right away, gives tons of goosebumps and threatens with sleepless nights. But it isn't only the creep factor in gothic form which has a fun allure, the characters (especially Izzy) are a treat. It's written at a level kids will enjoy, but still can even draw in adults. The author opens up a dark world, and manages to nicely tie the knots by the end. In other words, it's a great read for ages nine and up who are into gothic feelings with a lot of moments which send shivers down the spine.” ~ Tonja Drecker
“Precious classic Gothic in the vein of John Bellairs, Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Dan Poblocki, and Rebecca, with a taste of Lovecraft indeed, The Boatman is an absolute delight. The narrative is winning, and the illustrations by Doris M. Mitchell are apropos and charming. This adorable story may even keep you awake some nights!” ~ Mallory A. Haws: The Haunted Reading Room Reviews

Guest Post by the Author
A Bit About Children’s Horror: Why I do What I Do
I’m just going to say this: Children’s horror stories are not often about simply scaring kids. In my opinion, spooky books for kids are about teaching kids how awesome they are.
When I tell people (adults, mostly) that I write spooky books for kids, I am often met with the kind of nervous laughter that comes from a person who has just learned that there is a spider in the room but who doesn’t want to admit to a fear of spiders. Makes me feel like one of my villains, which is both cool and sad. And I can see their point. Why would anyone want to scare a child? Is that not morally questionable?
Today, I’d like to tell you why it is not wrong to scare a child through literature. On the contrary, I think it is important that we do so.
The main reason is this: books are safe. They are made of paper. A reader can open or close the book whenever they want. That, in itself, gives the reader power, and isn’t that the thing about fear? We are frightened about what we cannot control - about that which robs us of our power? So that’s one thing.
The next reason is that inside a book we are given the opportunity to face something that cannot actually hurt us. By experiencing fear, sadness, confusion, betrayal, loss, or anything else through reading, we will be given some tools to face them should they ever crop up in real life. We can explore different possibilities - make good decisions, make bad ones - without having any of it impact on our lives unless we want it to. How does the main character handle the experience of losing a loved one, for example? What will she do when something is happening that she knows is not right? How will she handle fear? Confrontation? Disrespect? How will she keep herself safe when she is in danger? And most importantly, which of those tools will benefit her in real life, because at some point we all must face difficult things. That’s just a fact.
Children’s horror is about exposing kids to worrisome things in a controlled environment. Probably, none of our kids will ever come up against a half-octopus man that wants to trap them in his rickety old boat forever. But, though we may not want to admit to it, there is the possibility that our kids may one day come up against a real man who wants to lure them into his car. By showing kids that they are smart, by teaching them that they have some tools to handle those situations even when they are frightened, they will become strong. That is power, friends. That is a way the child can learn to grow powerful.
Through the medium of spooky children’s literature, it is my goal to show kids that they can handle anything. By exposing them to fear, they will become fearless - or at least better equipped to handle their fear. Let the characters in the novel show us some great ideas and some bad ones. Observe the outcome of their choices.
So that later, when the Boatman comes for them, they will know how to defeat him.

About the Author
Kat Hawthorne
Kat Hawthorne is a nerd times three. Besides writing, she enjoys creating visual art and playing her cello. She is mother to three small boys, who are unwittingly the inspiration for her need to write.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five ebook copies of The Boatman by Kat Hawthorne.