The Devil's Tree by Susan McCauley
Genre: YA Horror
Kaitlyn didn’t believe in ghosts—not until one killed her boyfriend and her best friend. Now she must stop the spirit haunting the Devil’s Tree, or she could be next.
Seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn wants to escape her drunk mama and her trailer park home life to enjoy a Saturday night off work. Instead, her boyfriend, Hunter, convinces her to go with him and their best friends, Dylan and Keisha, to photograph a desolate tree with an evil past. A terrifying presence chases them from the tree, killing Hunter and Keisha. Left alive with Dylan, Kaitlyn must struggle with her unexpected romantic feelings for him, come to terms with her loss, and face being trapped in a dead-end town. Kaitlyn is desperate to put the past to rest, but when their friends’ spirits begin haunting them, she and Dylan have no choice but to seek help from a Catholic priest and attempt to set the trapped spirits free.
“Susan McCauley delivers a poignant and frightening tale of love and redemption against a backdrop of evil, both supernatural and not. It’s a fast and exciting read filled with demons, ghosts, and stolen kisses, and it does an excellent job of reminding us that both revenge and love can be eternal desires. This is one teens and adults will both enjoy.” ⎯JG Faherty, multiaward- nominated author of Hellrider, The Cure, and Cemetery Club
“Evil is not always the only enemy you should fear . . . Fast-paced and deftly written, with emotional depth from the darkest of characters, this is a ghost story to savor.” ⎯Peter Adam Salomon, Bram Stoker Award® nominated novelist, author of All Those Broken Angels and Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Hunter’s gaze was transfixed on the rearview mirror.
Lights were reflected there. Headlights.
“Where’d that car come from?” My voice sounded like a stranger’s, deep and totally freaked out.
“I don’t know . . .” Hunter’s voice was frantic, afraid. “It just—just appeared. Out of nowhere.”
“Oh, God . . . Oh, God . . . Oh, God.” Keisha’s voice rose with each syllable. “It’s just like what happened to the boys who came to visit from up north . . . Just before they were run off the road and died!”
“Shut up, Keisha,” Hunter growled, and gunned the accelerator.
“Just get us back to town,” Dylan said, forcing calm into his voice.
The rattling thrum of an engine revved behind us. I looked in my side-view mirror. A black truck had pulled up right on our tail.
“Go faster,” I whispered. “Can’t you go any faster?”
The speedometer reached sixty-five, but the road ahead curved. The posted speed was thirty-five. Hunter’d have to hit the brakes or we’d crash.
“Slow down,” I screamed.
“I can’t.” Hunter’s white-knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel. “My foot—it’s—it’s stuck on the accelerator.”
“Oh, God,” Keisha cried.
Tears streamed down my face. My hand slid over the door lock. Maybe I should jump?
The trees whipped by. No way. I couldn’t jump. I’d never survive. Hands shaking, I tugged on my seat belt. Buckled it. Crap—Hunter didn’t have his seat belt on. Did anybody else?
The speedometer read seventy. Hunter took the curve.
A big tree. Coming fast.
Our tires squealed and my world turned upside down. Glass. Metal. Wood. Splintered. Screaming. Broken.
Susan McCauley was born and raised on the gulf coast of Texas, not far from Houston. She spent several years in Los Angeles, California acting, writing, and teaching college English. In 2002, she moved to London to further explore professional theater. While in London, her stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose" was performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art's George Bernard Shaw Theatre; and, scenes from her play The Prisoner: Princess Elizabeth were performed at HMS Tower of London. She returned to the U.S. in 2005. In 2007, she was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier. She has had short stories published in several anthologies, and her short story, "The Cask," was made into an award winning short film.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Well, I’m very tall (for a woman). I’m just over 5’ 10’’ tall, and I’m naturally quite pale. I’m also a very compassionate and friendly person who loves to write dark/horror stories, which confounds my mother, family, and friends!
Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!
While living in London, I made a trip to Tenerife, Spain. While visiting a zoo there, my ex-boyfriend and I went into an enclosure where we were allowed to feed (and even pet) the animals. There were iguanas, tamarin monkeys, and a variety of other critters. Well, leave it to me, to get bitten by a tamarin and then peed on by the same one!
Where were you born/grew up?
I was born in Webster, Texas and grew up in the Houston area. I lived in Nassau Bay, Texas from birth to age 18. Across the street from my old neighborhood is the Johnson Space Center, which houses Mission Control. So, my childhood was an interesting mix of boating, spaceships, and theater. Something quite cool from when I was a pre-teen: when former Head of NASA, Charles Bolden was an astronaut, he took a poem I wrote up to space with him on a mission he piloted.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love going on ghost tours and researching haunted and historic places. I often listen to these stories and legends in an attempt to spark my imagination for a short story or book. When I heard the story of the Devil’s Tree in New Jersey, my imagination was ignited. However, I wanted to give the story a southern feel and address certain themes, which is why I set my novel in Texas.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I except I’ll have another novel or novella out in the next year, and the first book in a YA ghost story series following that. I’m also a professional screenwriter. One of my short films (“The Cask”) is available now on YouTube, and another of them is currently at festivals. There are two feature films I’ve written that are in development. So, hopefully, in the next few years you’ll see some feature films I’ve written either in the theaters or on Netflix (or both)!
Do you read yourself, and, if so, what is your favorite genre?
I read every night before bed—for at least an hour, but more if I can. My favorite genres are MG and YA horror and dark fantasy. Some of my favorite books are Took by Mary Downing Hahn, The Lockwood & Co series by Johnathan Stroud, and The Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney.
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