Liselle Sambury on her chilling new YA horror thriller novel, Tender Beasts

"Part of fear is the unknown, and so that’s a balance I consider a lot."


If you’re looking for an author whose books will have you hooked from the very first line, Liselle Sambury will not let you down. Liselle’s newest YA horror/thriller, Tender Beasts, has everything from family secrets and sibling rivalry, to grisly serial killings and horrifying twists. Tender Beasts also expertly explores themes such social injustice, generational trauma and privilege in with a powerful and nuanced candour. To celebrate its release, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to Lisellle all about her phenomenal new release.


Hi Liselle! It’s so lovely to have you on the site again today; this time to celebrate the release of your sensational new YA horror/thriller, Tender Beasts. For readers who may just be learning of the book, do you have an elevator pitch you can share?

I’m happy to be back! Tender Beasts follows Sunny who is the youngest daughter of the wealthy Behre family who own a prestigious private school in Toronto. When a series of grisly murders start occurring on campus and her brother is implicated, they have to work together to find the real murderer, clear his name, and protect their family legacy. Only Sunny’s not so sure that she believes her brother is as innocent as he claims.

Tender Beasts is one of the most twisty and addictive books I’ve read in a long time. Can you share with us a little about your inspirations behind the book?

I was, as with my previous book Delicious Monsters, inspired by the Netflix adaptation of the Haunting of Hill House. In particular, with the dynamics of a large dysfunctional family who are forced to deal with each other in difficult circumstances. Like the show, a death kicks off the events of the book. But I added in this element of having one member of the family who doesn’t quite fit, Dom, who has already been charged with one murder and is now potentially on the hook for more. I felt like that automatically put a wrench in things because Sunny’s goal is to protect her family, but how is she supposed to do that if she also suspects her family?

Family holds a strong theme throughout both Tender Beasts and your previous novels. Is this a relationship dynamic you particularly enjoy exploring through your writing?

I do really love to write about families. I feel like there is so much interest in exploring them because while the parents choose each other, children do not. From that perspective, they’ve grown up in an environment that was predetermined and are often stuck in those circumstances. I’ve always found that fascinating to think about because sometimes that works out quite well and sometimes it doesn’t. And I grew up in a large blended family myself, and so it’s natural for me to want to explore those dynamics. I find that there’s something especially complicated about grappling with people who you’ve known your entire life, and as we get older, I think we question those relationships more as we find ourselves. There’s also that additional aspect of parents and siblings having this role of helping guide you in your life, which is not something we necessarily expect of friends. Which brings in that aspect of how that influence affects you. I could never get bored of families.


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There are some pretty gruesome and disturbing scenes throughout the book. How do you get yourself both in and out of that mindset when writing?

I think because I grew up as a big horror movie fan it’s easier for me to create that metal separation when I’m writing those sorts of scenes. I find that the more challenging aspect is deciding what is necessary to the novel and what is not, and gauging what level of violence or gore is too much. The genre itself has a large aspect of creating discomfort, but I also feel as an author you have a responsibility in crafting that. I often find myself thinking of what I’ve written and questioning whether it serves the story and making changes on that basis. So I suppose I’m lucky that all my horror movie watching saves me from getting creeped out by my own work.

Having written both sci-fi/fantasy and thriller/horror novels, would you say there’s a difference in your process and approach to writing the different genres?

I find that when it comes to character, the process is very similar, but there are some key differences in other aspects of storytelling. In SFF, I don’t ever feel like I’m giving too much information about the world and focus more on when to share that information. Whereas, in a thriller/horror, I find that telling the reader too much about the logistics of anything supernatural kind of ruins it. It’s like that moment in Scooby Doo when they take the mask off. You’re left there like “Oh, that’s it?” Part of fear is the unknown, and so that’s a balance I consider a lot. And then the tone between SFF and a thriller/horror is also different. I consider how word choice affects atmosphere significantly more when I write a thriller/horror because I want to inspire feelings of tension, fear, and dread. As opposed to SFF where I usually only need those feelings in certain scenes as opposed to wanting a thread of that throughout the whole novel.

The protagonists of all your novels are pretty stellar at solving mysteries. How do you think you’d fare if you had to solve one of your own?

I think it would really depend! I’ve been in escape rooms where I was terrible at helping and mostly walked around poking objects and commenting on the decor. But I’m pretty good at guessing twists in books and movies, and figuring out things before the protagonist. That being said, usually my main characters are solving mysteries under duress, so I suspect that my anxiety would get the better of me and I wouldn’t perform well.

Finally, are you currently working on anything new and if so, is there anything you can share with us?

I’m currently working on A Mastery of Monsters, which comes out in spring 2025, and is the first book in my new YA dark academia fantasy series. It follows a girl who’s forced to team up with a monstrous boy in a deadly competition for the chance to save her missing brother. It’s set at my alma mater Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone.

Get your copy of Tender Beats by Liselle Sambury here.

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