Cynthia Murphy on her chilling new YA horror, Last One to Die
"I’ve had such a love for horror since my teens, so it kind of felt like coming home."
If you’ve been on the hunt for a deeply chilling and addictively creepy YA horror with retro slasher-movie vibes, you’re in luck because Cynthia Murphy’s new debut novel, Last One to Die, ticks all the boxes and we were lucky enough to chat to Cynthia all about it.
Firstly we want to say a huge congratulations on the release of your debut, Last One to Die! What’s it like knowing your book is now in the hands of readers?
Thank you so much and thank you for having me. It’s all very exciting and I can only hope that readers have as much fun reading it as I had writing it! I thought it would be quite scary to let it go, but it has been a wonderfully positive experience so far.
Using just one sentence, how would you entice a potential reader to pick up a copy of Last One to Die?
A modern-day thriller that is twisted by a deadly secret that won’t stay dead and buried.
Can you tell us a little about the inspirations behind such a chilling story?
I heard the legend of Spring Heeled Jack on a podcast but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it – until I visited the Castle Museum in York. The Victorian street in there is amazing and I immediately knew that I wanted to write a modern story but somehow have a Victorian setting. I then fell down a rabbit hole of Victorian mourning rituals and thought they were so beautifully bizarre…and my twisted mind did the rest!
What was it that drew you to write horror-thriller over other genres?
I’ve tried other genres, but they just didn’t quite fit. I’m naturally interested in the weird and the wonderful and went through a phase where watching the Walking Dead was my comfort blanket, so it was inevitable really. I’ve had such a love for horror since my teens, so it kind of felt like coming home.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors wanting to try their hand at YA horror?
Read around the genre and watch loads of movies – I can spot a trope from a mile off now! Find something that interests you and see how you can twist it. For some scenes in Last One to Die, I thought – okay, what’s the worst that could happen here? So I did that and then went back and made it even more horrible in the edit…
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Is there a particular sentence or passage in the book you’re particularly proud of writing and if there is, could you share it with us?
There is one line that I love at the end of chapter eight; ‘I turn around and realize I’m alone, with only fragments of a dead girl for company’. Niamh is left alone in the museum with the unfinished portrait of Jane Alsop, the girl she is pretending to be for her drama placement. Jane had an untimely death that keeps surfacing throughout the story and I think that line sums up how closely intertwined with Niamh she eventually becomes.
Do you have any recommendations for those of us who were left with a major craving for more chilling YA horror after reading Last One to Die?
Yes! I have recently loved Kathryn Foxfield’s debut, Good Girls Die First and look forward to reading more from her. I also loved Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis and her earlier horror, Breaker, was excellent, too. The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich is a favourite, as is Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell and Monster by C.J. Skuse. Recently I have also loved Wranglestone by Daren Charlton and White Out by Gabriel Dylan.
What does an average writing day look like to you and has COVID-19 affected that in any way?
I work full time in education, so I’m lucky if any writing happens during term time, especially now that I am remote teaching video lessons from 8:40-3:30 each day. Covid has meant no travel, and as someone who loves to write on planes, I’m a bit sad I didn’t get to do that this year…
Are you currently working on anything new and if so, is there anything you can tell us about it?
I am! I have another YA horror in the pipeline with Scholastic. So far I have researched hard to detect poisons, secret societies and the negative after-effects of a brain injury…a teaser chapter is in the back of Last One to Die if you want to know more!
Get your copy of Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy here
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