Author Interview: Andrea Rogers on Writing Horror for Young Readers

By AJ Eversole

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Andrea Rogers to the blog. Andrea is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her YA horror debut, Man Made Monsters (Levine Querido, 2022) released in October.

What is the heart of Man Made Monsters?

Oooh, I love this question. I think it’s the spirit of the Cherokee Final Girl. I needed one, so I wrote one. I have daughters and I want them to outlive me. I’m a citizen of a tribe, and I want it to survive me. I want our language to thrive. If you look at films about Native people, we’re in the past or we’re ghosts or “the last of.” In reality, we’re still here. We’re not going anywhere.

Me. AJ, Henry and Ana Henry at New Echota, Georgia in March 2019.

What appeals to you about writing horror in a children’s space? What are the craft challenges of writing for this age group?

I loved scary books when I was a kid. I guess I never really stopped. It was hard to find work that was age appropriate and, like many other readers, I read what was available instead. Sometimes that wasn’t the best thing for my still-young heart and brain. My kids loved Scary Tales to Tell in the Dark. (Scholastic, 1989). Full disclosure, I did, too. For a long time, there wasn’t a whole lot to scaffold up to, especially work that took the feelings of BIPOC kids into consideration. In writing for this audience, I write stories I would have liked to have curled up with on dark and stormy nights. But when I go back and edit, I keep my young adult reader front and center.

This pool may have inspired a story with an interesting sentient being.

What writers/people have influenced your writing the most?

Debbie Reese’s work in her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, really backed me up as a parent and a writer on the importance of us telling our own stories. Man Made Monsters was nourished by the work of Darcie Little Badger, Victor LaValle, Carmen Maria Machado, Stephen Graham Jones, Tommy Orange, Terese Mailhot, Louise Erdrich, Toni Jensen, and Marcie Rendon. In our critique group Marcie asked a question about one sentence in my story “Snow Day” and it made it so much better.

In kid lit, Traci Sorell and Cynthia Leitich Smith were all I had for a while. Now, that field is exploding with fantastic authors. I’m in a writing group with like twenty-five of them, including Brian Young, Dawn Quigley, Stacy Wells, Kim Rogers, Laurie Goodluck, and Leslie Widener. There is a lot of good stuff coming.

April 9, 2016, KWELI, in person, The Colour of Children’s Literature Conference. Front: L to R: Charlene Willing McManis (Grand Ronde); Andrea Rogers (Cherokee Nation); Marcie Rendon (White Earth (Anishinaabe) Nation)
Back: L to R: Natalie Dana (Passamaquoddy); Laura Kaye Jagles (Tesuque Pueblo); Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation); Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki); and Kevin Maillard (Seminole)

Do you have any tips for debut authors about balancing the roles of author and writer?

Always be writing. Write what you’re passionate about. Balance is hard, but remember, in my opinion, you need your body, your community, and people who love you. So take time to show you value all of those people. Make time to enjoy the good stuff.

This guy might have had a creepy cameo in the title story of Man Made Monsters…

How do you celebrate success?

I buy books. I send gifts to people who have helped me and to people I love.

What are you working on next?

I wrote two picture book manuscripts that are in the process of being illustrated. I’m really excited about those. One is for Heartdrum and called When We Gather. It’s about wild onion dinners. There is something about being in community, having a meal, that really embodies Home for me. I have a manuscript called Chooch Helped that Levine Querido is going to publish. It’s about the stress and joy of being an older sibling. I’m, also, working on a science fiction novel about a time traveling art thief.

Cynsational Notes

Andrea L. Rogers is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and writes fiction and nonfiction for young people and adults. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but currently splits time between Fort Worth, Texas, and The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where she is a doctoral student in English. Andrea graduated with an MFA from the Institute for American Indian Arts. Andrea taught both Art (all grades) and English (HS) in public schools in Dallas-Fort Worth for 14 years.

Her work for young people includes:

  • “Lifting While She Climbs” included in Allies from DK Publishing (2021) and “My Oklahoma History” published in You Too? 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories (Ink Yard Press, 2020)
  • Her first book, Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story (Capstone, 2020), is a historical fiction middle grade novel focusing on one Cherokee family and their forced internment and walk to Indian Territory where the Cherokee Nation reestablishes. It has won several awards and was named an NPR Best Book of 2020 and Highly Recommended by American Indians in Children’s Literature. See Andrea’s 2020 Cynsations interview, Writing about the Trail of Tears.
  • Her short story “The Ballad of Maggie Wilson” was included in the award winning anthology Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Heartdrum, 2021)
  • Her forthcoming picture books are When We Gather/Alisdayvdi (pronounced ah-leece-day-uh-di): A Cherokee Tribal Feast (Heartdrum, 2024), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight and Chooch Helped to be published by Levine Querido.

AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from Indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily young adult fiction. She currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or Twitter @amjoyeversole.