'The House That Whispers'

"The House That Whispers" by Lin Thompson.

Simon goes through many changes while investigating what is haunting his grandmother's house. One of those is realizing that he's trans.

What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?

Honestly, watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix! One of the things I really love about that show is how character-focused it is, and how all the horror elements are tied so closely to the characters’ emotional journeys. I had been brainstorming about my next middle-grade project, and I already had a sense of the inner journey that I wanted Simon, the book's main character, to be going through. So I started thinking about how I could use some of those ingredients of a haunted house story to pull that inner journey to the surface. Hill House is also what inspired me to shape the story more around Simon’s family and the unspoken family history that his grandmother’s households.

What does "Reading Rainbow" mean to you?

To me, “Reading with Pride” means celebrating our LGBTQ+ stories, and using those stories to get to know both ourselves and each other a little better. I didn’t really get to read any books about LGBTQ+ characters until I was in college. I’ve thought a lot about how the books I’ve read now might have helped me when I was younger, when I didn’t have the language yet to understand my own queer identity and didn’t have a community or role models to help me see what life could be like as an LGBTQ+ person. Now, I can proudly read not only the stories that help me personally feel seen, but also the wealth of stories that reflect the beautiful vastness of other experiences within our LGBTQ+ community.

Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?

I think Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s essay about “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” really gets to the heart of it: We all need to see reflections of ourselves in stories, to help us feel connected to other people and show us that we’re not alone in our experiences. At the same time, books provide a crucial window to help us understand the experiences of people not like us. Both are so important in helping us understand how we fit into the world around us.

Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.

"The House That Whispers" is about 11-year-old Simon and his two sisters as they try to investigate who, or what, is haunting their grandmother Nanaleen’s house. A lot of things have been changing in Simon’s life: his parents are struggling in their relationship, his older sister has been growing more distant, and his grandmother has started forgetting things. And Simon himself has been changing, too, as he’s realized that he’s trans. I knew from even the earliest brainstorming stages that I wanted the reader to get to meet Simon by this new, right name and pronouns that he’s chosen for himself. My first book, "The Best Liars in Riverview," is about a character who’s still in a much more questioning place with regard to their gender. That questioning journey is still really important to me to show, but it was also very emotional at times to write, and I'd been deep in that emotional journey for years while working on the book. I knew that as I shifted into this second book I wanted to focus on a character who’s much more certain of his gender already and gets to celebrate some of the euphoria he feels in knowing who he is.

What can fans expect from your book?

Some spookiness, some mystery, and lots of big feelings! A family that's struggling but ultimately trying their best. A look at genealogy and the pieces of family history that no one really talks about outright. And also lots of sibling hijinks! I've always loved stories about siblings—I'm the middle of five kids in my family and grew up very close to my siblings, and I really enjoyed getting to explore the tension and annoyance, but also love and support, between Simon and his two sisters.

What's up next for you in the bookish world?

I’ve been brainstorming for another middle-grade project, although it’s too early to share much about it—except that of course it’s very queer! In the meantime, I’ve also been working on a young adult historical fantasy novel, which is obviously a very different age group and genre from the other books I’ve written so far, but explores a lot of the same themes that I seem to be drawn to over and over: identity, and found family, and what it means to explore who you are when you don’t necessarily have the language or role models to help you understand your experiences.


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