Authors & Illustrators
Gary Ghislain is the author of How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend and three self-published YA novels. He lives in Antibes, France. Visit garyghislain.blogspot.com.
The Goolz Next Door: A Bad Night for Bullies
A Conversation with Gary Ghislain
Q: What was the inspiration for The Goolz Next Door series?
A: The Goolz Next Door started as scary stories that my daughters, Ilo and Sisko, and I told each other. Nothing was written down. Everything was narrated spontaneously, depending on the mood of the narrator, the weather outside (a rainy day is a good Goolz day), and our favorite monsters du jour. We were projecting ourselves—a single father and writer of strange fiction, with his two kids exploring the world—into improbable adventures of ghosts, ghouls, and wicked witches. We were ace at scaring each other.
A few years later, Mary Colgan, my editor, contacted me asking if I had any good ideas for a series. I thought it would be amazing to write down all those stories that existed only in our imaginations—and The Goolz Next Door series was born.
Q: Who is Harold, and why did you choose him to be the narrator of the series?
A: Though the Goolz family is based on my own, my daughters and I always told the stories from the perspective of an outside narrator. I didn’t tell the stories as Frank Goolz; Sisko wasn’t playing Suzie; Ilo wasn’t limited to Ilona. By using a narrator, we could put the characters in the most bizarre situations without being limited by their points of view. We could spend a lot more time with the monsters when they were out of sight, hiding in the darkness. When I started writing the Goolz stories, I wanted to keep that original flow. I needed to create a narrator.
The title “The Goolz Next Door” popped up spontaneously during my first discussion with my editor. And with the title came the idea that Frank Goolz and his daughters would be the odd new neighbors of our narrator—Harold Bell, a young boy living a simple, ordinary life in the house next door.
Q: Why did you decide that Harold, your narrator, would be disabled?
A: I never decided consciously that Harold would be a wheelchair-user. This happened all by itself, spontaneously, while telling the story. Harold loves reading, and he adores his new neighbor's novels. In the opening scene, Harold is Googling Frank Goolz on his computer for the gazillionth time. He's extremely eager to meet him. His mother calls him. She baked a cheesecake to welcome Frank Goolz. They don't know yet that he comes attached to two daughters. And then, out of the blue, like it was always meant to be, Harold says, "I pushed away from my desk and made a cool spin on my back wheels before going to the stairs." The character instantly came alive. He was so in charge, so in command of his feelings and his words, that I could just take a back seat and enjoy the ride.
Q: Why is Frank Goolz so fascinated with the paranormal?
A: Frank Goolz is like an explorer, only instead of trying to discover drying mummies deep inside a hidden chamber at the bottom of a pyramid (though he would love to do that, too), he ventures to the frontier between the physical and spiritual worlds. He is a detective who is convinced that something bigger, truer, and way more exciting exists beyond the "see it, touch it, feel it" world. He lives to investigate it and to write about his experiences in his books. He sells his work as horror and fiction, while in reality, the books are accurate documentations of his everyday life with his daughters.
Very often, I picture him as a nutty professor, too busy being fascinated by ghost and monsters to be frightened by them. He has so much knowledge about supernatural phenomena that it is hard for him to relate to "normal" people. Most people see him as a total loony—because for him, the monster under the bed is real, and it’s silly not to grab a flashlight and a notepad and start asking it questions.
Q: What will be the next Goolz adventure?
A: In A Bad Night for Bullies, Harold mentions a local legend about a creature living in the Mallow Marsh near their town of Bay Harbor. My next story will be about that ancient monster awakening and bringing terror back to town.
I love old-fashioned monster stories, and I can't wait to see Frank Goolz, Harold, Ilona, and Suzie go mano a mano with the Mallow Marsh Monster.