Laurie: Breaking in was easy. Getting out will be harder.Could you share a bit about the main character of your book and what makes him unique?
High atop Hathorne Hill, near Boston, sits Danvers State Hospital. Built in 1878 and closed in 1992, this abandoned mental institution is rumored to be the birthplace of the lobotomy. Locals have long believed the place to be haunted. They tell stories about the unmarked graves on the premises, of the cold spots felt throughout the underground tunnels, and of the treasures found inside: patients' personal items like journals, hair combs, and bars of soap, or even their old medical records, left behind by the state for trespassers to view.
On the eve of the hospital's demolition, six teens break in to spend the night and film a movie about their adventures. For Derik, it's an opportunity to win a filmmaking contest and save himself from a future of flipping burgers at his parents' diner. For the others, it's a chance to be on TV, or a night with no parents. But what starts as a playful dare quickly escalates into a frenzy of nightmarish action. Behind the crumbling walls, down every dark passageway, and in each deserted room, they will unravel the mysteries of those who once lived there and the spirits who still might.
Laurie: Derik LaPointe is just about to graduate high school and go straight to work at his parents’ diner. He hates the idea. All he really wants to do is make his own films. So, when he hears about a reality TV contest where he has the opportunity to have his indie film shown on national television, he gets to work, hoping it’ll save him from flipping burgers for the rest of his life. Derik, commonly known by characters in the novel as Derik “LaPlaya” LaPointe because of his seedy reputation, seems to be lacking in ambition and depth, but what he learns from his experience at Danvers State, is that he’s so small in the grand scheme of things. His goals start to shift when he realizes it’s no longer just about the contest.
How did the idea for this novel come about?
Laurie: I wanted to do a companion book to Bleed, using one of my Bleed characters. Around the time I was thinking up ideas for a new project, the newspapers in my area were flooded with stories surrounding the controversial teardown of Danvers State Hospital, an abandoned mental hospital 30 minutes north of Boston. Many people were against tearing it down because it is considered an historical landmark, built in 1878. But, still, developers wanted to use the land to build luxury apartments and condos. In the end, the developers won, and two-thirds of the hospital was torn down. People are now living in the new developments.
Growing up, the hospital, which was finally shut down in 1992 due to budget cuts and overcrowding, was rumored to be haunted and became a notorious hot spot for break-ins and dares. Coincidentally, in Bleed, one of my characters, Derik LaPointe, breaks in to the hospital to go exploring. This is how the initial idea for Project 17 sparked. I thought, why not have Derik break in with a group of teens, on the eve of the demolition to spend the night and film a movie? There are six teens who break in in total, all with their own motivations and agendas, but what they end up finding is far beyond anything they could ever imagine.
Wow, sounds intense! What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?
Laurie: A thrill ride. It’d also be nice if they saw that even though we’re all so different on surface, we’re connected in so many other ways. We all want the same basic things.
Thanks for sharing, Laurie. Best of luck with PROJECT 17. Would you like to close with a novel you highly recommend and why?
Laurie: I highly recommend Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman. It’s so fun!
Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. She is currently working on Deadly Little Secret, the first book in the Touch series, also for young adults. To learn more about Laurie, please visit her website: www.lauriestolarz.com.