Interview With Haley Newlin, author of Take Your Turn, Teddy

In day 3 of our Women In Horror Series, we’re featuring author Haley Newlin!

Haley grew up watching Vincent Price movies and hanging on every grim tale Lemony Snicket spun. It was no surprise when Newlin began writing her own dark fiction. In 2016, her gothic short story “The Tactics of a Cryptic Arbitrator,” was a finalist in the Penmen Review fall fiction contest. From there, Newlin earned her Master of Fine Arts in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, and studied horror icons like Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, and the rising director and writer, Mike Flangan.

She has published two novels, Not Another Sarah Halls, and Take Your Turn, Teddy. Take Your Turn, Teddy was published only 2 months ago.

​Newlin weaves stories of madness and curiosity that whisper, “What are you afraid of?” Horror begs self-reflection, and perhaps that is what makes these twisted tales truly terrifying.

Newlin’s vision is that readers bask in the glory of the place of horror literature and allow it to serve as a fearsome and grotesque bridge that inspired those who have never dared to explore their fears to embark on the journey. She urges readers to step out of their comfort zones and delve into the winding road of self-realization that horror imprints on those brave enough to crack the book’s spine.

Out of all the possible ideas in your head, what inspired you to write Take Your Turn, Teddy?

I was inspired to write Take Your Turn, Teddy, by my own struggle with mental health. I was interested in pursuing the base of my anxiousness, anger, and depression.

In doing so, I turned to psychology, as I often do when writing. I stumbled on Carl Jung’s archetype theory and felt particularly drawn to the “shadow” archetype.

This archetype was all the bad—jealousy, greed, anger, etc. but what really stood out to me were Jung’s damning words, “The shadow lives in all of us.”

So, to understand all the bad within myself and the voices of my trauma, I personified this shadow being.

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

Teddy’s mindset as a child is based on my own—though, thankfully, the details weren’t quite as heavy. Teddy felt isolated, unloved, and sort of “other.” He becomes so used to these thoughts that they become the only constant in his life—and this is what pushes him to cling to the shadow manifestation.

Additionally, I make nods to my own coping method as a kid—music—and include some of my favorites like The Beatles, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Led Zeppelin, among others.

What musical bands or artists do you listen to these days?

I mostly listen to 60s and 70s music. The Beatles are my absolute favorite, especially John Lennon, but I love Led Zeppelin, The Mamas & The Papas, and Queen. For more modern music, I listen to Nirvana, Miley Cyrus (I love her new album—Plastic Hearts), and Of Monsters and Men. 

How did you choose the setting for your book?

I chose to write Take Your Turn, Teddy in the 1970s for a few reasons. I was researching serial killers to make Teddy’s psychology a bit more dynamic, and it seemed that the ’70s was really the birth of the term “serial killers”—among the general population anyway.

The counterculture, the war, and cult practices added an extra dose of unease in this era that was just irresistible as a horror author. I decided to use nods to notorious killers like the Zodiac, sparingly and without referencing each killer directly.

Secondly, the limitation of technology and the developing investigative process allowed Teddy and the shadow a bit more freedom to move. It also fanned the flames of Teddy’s sense of isolation.

What did you edit out of this book?

Being based in the 1970s, I turned to 70s horror for inspiration for Take Your Turn, Teddy. I started with John Carpenter’s Halloween and Halloween II. In the sequel, Laurie Strode is in the hospital after just barely escaping Michael Myers. Myers, of course, finds Strode and kills members of the hospital staff.

I initially had the idea of Teddy injuring one of the police officers in the book, Burklow, and visiting the hospital with the shadow to finish his attempted murder. I had a lot of fun writing that scene, but in the end, it didn’t fit the desperation Teddy and the shadow are feeling in that stage of the story. They had to keep moving.

I’m hoping to tweak this scene and apply it to another book down the road.

On a side note, the main investigating officer in my book is named Leonard Strode, a nod to Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Honestly, I refer to this book as my “Everest” because it felt so incredibly personal. In my first novel, Not Another Sarah Halls, I busted out the first draft in about three months. For Take Your Turn, Teddy, I was lucky to write a scene a week; it was like a mental blood-suck, and it drained me bone dry.

I only recently realized it was because I was confronting something I never had before, anxiety and depression’s ghost—trauma. And in this exploration of trauma, I felt helpless. I felt angry, just as Teddy does.

I had to learn to mourn my trauma; a feat never introduced to Teddy.

Through his relationship with the shadow, Teddy taught me if we don’t mourn our trauma, we become entombed by it.

So what are some of your greatest fears? And how do you exorcise those fears through your writing?

I always thought my greatest fear was external—like deep water or drowning, but in writing Take Your Turn, Teddy, I found that my greatest fear was my own mind. Through a lot of the research I’ve done, I’ve been forced to confront trauma and its lingering effects that I used to keep locked away—out of sight, out of mind. 

Teddy’s character arc is laced with my own fear of self-reflection and facing trauma, as well as Officer Strode’s. 

While fear is a shared experience/emotion, how we respond to it and how we’re vulnerable to it is incredibly personal. That’s why I showed two characters 1) Teddy and 2) Officer Strode coping with trauma in two entirely separate ways. 

If you could choose celebrity parents, who would you choose?

HN: Definitely Vincent Price and Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones or Anjelica Huston). Our house would be fabulously grim, and we’d dress in bloodred or black velvet robes.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

HN: I have started research for my third novel, which I think will take place in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Without giving too much away, the Satanic Panic plays an insidious role in the plot development.

As a woman author, what are you most proud of in bringing into horror literature?

I am proud to bring some emotion to horror. I think horror gets a bad reputation because people confuse it with slasher films and focus solely on the gore. Or they focus more on the victims’ bare breasts or the sexually active teens before a murderous mother seeking revenge for her son’s drowning attacks.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy slasher films or think I’m above sex scenes in horror. My new novel opens with one!

However, if we focus too much on the components mentioned above, we miss out on one of the greatest hallmarks of horror—self-reflection, how fear turns the spotlight inward and makes readers/viewers say, what am I afraid of? How would I be vulnerable to this manifestation? And ultimately, how do I overcome it?

Can you tell us about a woman who inspired you. And tell us why?

Shirley Jackson inspired me because she showed me that horror didn’t have to be only jump-scares and gore to be truly terrifying. Instead, Jackson cornered both her readers and her characters deep into the depths of their own psyche—a place most try to avoid at all costs.

I admire her subtle infusion of classic gothic and horror tropes in her books to create a sense of dread and unease before she unleashes the hell of her story.

What’s your favorite Shirley Jackson story?

My favorite Shirley Jackson story has to be The Haunting of Hill House, though We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a close second. I love the blend of psychological horror with classic gothic literature here—it really sets the stage for unease. In my opinion, no one builds dread like Jackson. 

Special thanks to Haley for taking the time to answer our questions. She’s a featured author in our Women In Horror Series appearing all month. Her latest book is available (links below).

Take Your Turn, Teddy by Haley Newlin

No one knows your darkness like your own Shadow.

Nothing has been normal for Teddy, not since discovering the harsh identity of the monster he had been living with his whole life—his own father. Teddy and his mother leave that behind to start over in a small Indiana township. But as Teddy begins to learn of humanity’s monsters, he unveils an otherworldly evil he calls “The Shadow.” The Shadow tests Teddy’s vulnerability and growing sense of isolation, poisoning his mind and conjuring a vile killer-in-the-making.

A year later, Officer Leonard Strode is called in to offer consultation on a case similar to the most brutal and scarring of those he’s worked on before. One is the case of Jackie Warren, the other, Theodore “Teddy” Blackwood — two missing children. As he and two other officers follow the trail of clues, Strode is haunted by the ghosts of his own past and is horrified to find them wreaking havoc on his present.

When both Teddy and Strode finally meet face-to-face, they must confront their inner darkness as well or else be consumed by it.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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