Claire Fraise - A Story of Courage, Heart and Trust
Claire Fraise earned her B.A. in English from Tufts University. She is also the author of YA dystopian novel Imperfect which she published when she was 16. When Claire’s not writing, she likes crocheting amigurumi animals, reading, and hanging out with her dogs. Even though it goes against every introverted bone in her body, she is on social media. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, They Stay.
Please give us a short introduction to what They Stay is about.
They Stay is the first book in my young adult supernatural thriller series. It tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Shiloh whose little brother goes missing under mysterious circumstances. As Shiloh searches for him, one of her classmates, who claims she can see ghosts, says that a ghost knows where Shiloh’s sibling is. Shiloh has to decide whether to believe her classmate or potentially lose her younger brother forever. What follows is a chilling supernatural adventure complete with ghosts, unlikely heroes, and plot twists.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I have always been fascinated with ghosts. I find them interesting to write about in fiction because they are a mechanism through which one can explore challenging topics such as mental health, abusive situations, and the darker side of how humans interact with each other. In college, I wanted to write a ghost story where the ghosts weren’t the source of horror and instead the very much alive humans were. That is how They Stay was born.
You published your first novel when you were 16. How have you evolved as an author since?
I am proud of the book that I published at 16, but it definitely has its flaws. There were inconsistencies with the worldbuilding, the characters were not as developed as I would have liked, and the prose was repetitive. The plot is fun and I’m so proud of my 16-year-old self for being brave enough to publish it, but I have worked hard to mature as a writer since writing it.
I have a much firmer grasp on creating realistic characters, building worlds that aren’t riddled with plot holes, pacing suspenseful stories, and writing clean yet detailed prose that brings my stories to life.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I love crocheting. I crochet amigurumi animals for my loved ones. I also love riding horses and am an avid equestrian!
Tell us more about Shiloh Oleson. What makes her tick?
TW: Domestic abuse
Shiloh's entire world revolves around her younger brother Max. She and Max grew up in an abusive household. Their father is the sheriff of their small Ohio county and also an abusive alcoholic. Because of their unstable home, Shiloh grew up extremely protective of Max and made it her life's mission to keep him from sustaining any harm at the hands of their father.
In the first chapter of the book, Max goes missing, and that is perhaps the worst thing Shiloh could ever imagine happening to her. She doesn't have any friends and has hardly begun to create a life for herself outside of her duty to protect Max, so her mission becomes to find him and bring him home no matter what the cost.
Shiloh is very stubborn, but she’s extremely loyal and determined. She will stop at nothing to find Max and bring him home, even if it means putting herself in extremely dangerous supernatural situations...
Why supernatural thrillers? What drew you to the genre?
I love reading thrillers. There’s no other genre that holds my attention as well as a thriller. But I’m drawn toward supernatural thrillers because of the endless possibilities for original plot twists. There are only so many real-life motives for murder. But when you incorporate elements that may or may not exist in real life, there are so many possible motives.
I like to keep my supernatural thrillers grounded in the real, contemporary world to make sure they’re relatable. But I use the supernatural elements to deliver original, twisty plots that readers may not have seen before.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
I was lucky enough to work with Stuart Bache and the wonderful design team at Books Covered to design this cover. I knew that I wanted to have a cover that fits into the thriller genre, and I also wanted there to be a splash of red to signal that there are elements of horror in the book as well.
I’m blown away by what they came up with for this cover. I'm so in love with it. I work with Books Covered for all of my covers, and I cannot recommend them highly enough to authors who are looking for a cover designer.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
I usually don't allow my characters to go off on tangents because, at the end of the day, they’re not real people. I created them and created their motivations. I have encountered issues in the past where it feels unrealistic for one character to act a certain way, which forces me to revisit my outline. But I’m writing the third book in the series now and know my characters so well at this point that, during the outlining stage, I have a pretty good idea of how they’re going to react to things!
Your book touches on some heavy themes, such as abuse, alcoholism, and abduction. Why did you take this approach?
Issues such as abuse, alcoholism, abduction, substance abuse, and bullying are all real-life horrors that many young adults face. In They Stay, I wanted to portray young adults who are dealing with these issues and who, over the course of the plot, find the courage to seek help from others, lean on each other to get through it, or learn to speak up against their abusers. I believe that authors shouldn't shy away from heavy or mature topics in young adult books. They are prevalent in real life, and it’s a good thing to portray young people navigating these issues in a realistic way and finding the strength to stand up to abusers, seek help, or speak out against those who hurt them because it shows teenagers that they are powerful, important, and capable.
I do not take tackling these issues lightly, and I always include links at the back of my books to hotlines and organizations dedicated to helping empower teens who are facing these situations in real life.
This is book 1 of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
They Stay is not a standalone. The main question of whether Shiloh is able to find her younger brother is resolved in the first book, but They Stay does end on a cliffhanger and there is much more to the story.
The second book in the series is called They Whisper and is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers. They Whisper gets darker than They Stay did, and dives deeper into the horror and ghost elements present in the series as a villain has a plot to enact a terrifying crime.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
One thing I really like to do when I write is create plot grids while outlining. I learned about this process from reading an article about the way that JK Rowling outlined the Harry Potter books.
Essentially, you create a grid on paper or in Excel where every single chapter in your book corresponds to a row and every single plot or subplot in your book corresponds to a column. I love this method of outlining because, for heavy plotters like me, it provides a great way to see the big picture of how every plot, subplot, and character arc develops over the course of the book.
I have a YouTube channel where I share writing advice and I have made many videos about plot grids, so if you are interested in hearing me talk a little more about it, you can find my channel by typing in Write with Claire Fraise or from following this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaHnxn6RT1-8k-08ym8pO3A.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on the third book in the They Stay Series, They Return. I’m so excited about this book and am expecting that it will be released somewhere between fall of 2022 and spring of 2023!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I’m active on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, where you can find me at Write with Claire Fraise or @clairefraiseauthor. I also regularly email my mailing list, and you can get the first 5 chapters of They Stay for free when you join here: https://mailchi.mp/40f6e2a8c635/claire-fraise. Or you can visit my website: https://www.clairefraise.com/.