HallowReads: Jane Smiley

All through October, we’ll be sharing spooky reading recommendations from authors and staff. Whether it’s a horrifying contemporary work or a tell-tale classic, these selections are sure to haunt you for years to come. We spoke with Jane Smiley, author of the upcoming Some Luck, about her favorite HallowRead. We’ll be hosting Smiley on October 13, at 7 p.m. Event details can be found here.

A few years ago, when I was working on the third volume of my kids’ horse series True Blue, I was inspired by the fact that the horse (a gray) was “spooky”, and I shaped the book into a bit of a ghost story. The protagonist, Abby, learns that the horse is for sale because the owner has been killed in a car accident, which she vividly imagines. Horses who are spooky tend to be nervous and easily surprised, and bit by bit, this state of mind enters into Abby, who is normally not at all afraid.

And, anyway, much of the novel takes place around Halloween. A story mentioned in the novel is one a teacher read to us in fifth grade and one that then and forever after scared me, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I remember sitting up in bed, doing my homework, pondering the story and imagining the sound of the beating heart getting louder and louder and louder. My friends had to listen to it too, so my mental images of the places we played, and climbed, and chatted are colored by our shocked and astonished belief in Poe’s killer’s experience. As I suggest in True Blue, I am not sure that “The Tell-Tale Heart” is appropriate for fifth graders, but it definitely entrenched itself in my brain.

—Jane Smiley