House of Hollow

The Hollow sisters – Vivi, Grey and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious.

They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. They share the same birthday, spaced exactly two years apart. The Hollow sisters don’t have friends – they don’t need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters are. Because one day the three Hollow sisters simply disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed.

Almost nothing, apart from, for example, the little scar that had appeared in the hollow of their throats … and a whispering sense that something is not quite right about them, despite (or maybe because of) the terrible passion to be with them that they can exert on anybody at will…

A thrilling, twisting, novel that is as seductive and glamorous as the Hollow sisters themselves….

Hot Key Books

I don’t really know how to describe this book…it is mysterious, creepy, glamorous, gross, fantastical and modern…Haunting & unsettling but totally gripping. I was so taken in I could nearly smell Grey’s perfume. I was thinking about it for a long time after finishing reading, and just had to ask the author some questions:

House of Hollow is an…unsettling novel, did you have any routines when writing to get yourself into the right mood?

I listened to the Annihilation soundtrack over and over and over again to keep me in an eerie headspace. I find music and movement to be particularly good gateways into a story. If I used to do this thing when I was a kid called “imagination time” where I would just walk around in the back yard for hours or jump on the trampoline and imagine my way through stories. It was my favourite hobby! Now I walk or drive or (in the Before Times) catch public transport while listening to music to get my imagination flowing.

What first idea sparked the story?

It’s a scrapbook of different ideas that eventually merged together. The first spark came to me when I was out hiking with my sister and I thought, “What if I turned around right now and she was just gone?” If there was no sound, no struggle, no one else around – it was such a horrifying thought.

The story really started to percolate after I visited Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and saw “ghost doors” scattered around the forest – ruins where every part of a structure had fallen away except the doorframe. They felt at once inviting and dangerous, like fairy circles. I wanted to walk through one, but found myself afraid that if I did I might end up somewhere… else. Those two elements really drew me in and I started to build the story and characters and world around them.

Liminal spaces are such an interesting concept, did you read lots about them before writing the book?

I actually started an Honours thesis on liminal spaces while I was writing House of Hollow, so not only was I creating my own liminal space, I was researching other liminal spaces in literature at the same time.

Liminality feels particularly relevant to young adult stories. To borrow an idea from the Chemical Hearts movie, the teenage years really are like of limbo between childhood and adulthood. It’s very much an in-between time; you feel stuck halfway between no longer and not yet. I wanted to explore that in House of Hollow, albeit in a more overt way. 

Who is your favourite of the sisters?

Ugh! I love them all, don’t make me choose! I suppose I’m most like Iris, who’s quiet and studious and keeps her head down. Vivi and Grey were a lot more fun to write though. They’re dream girls, you know? They’re the women I wanted to be when I was growing up. Vivi is rough and wild and heavily tattooed. Honestly, is borderline feral, a ball of walking chaos. Grey is the opposite: The height of glamour and the embodiment of control. I think Grey is the most morally grey (and appropriately named) character in the book, so I’ll say she’s my favourite.

Was there anything your editors asked you to tone down?

Surprisingly, no. I’m always a little shocked by what I’m allowed to do! The director of Chemical Hearts was an early reader of House of Hollow and his feedback was something along the lines of, “How the hell did you get away with this?!” So far the reaction to the book has been hugely positive, but I was worried for a little while that I might have pushed things too far!

In an ideal world, what kind of events would you like to be doing with your readers?

In an alternate universe in which COVID didn’t exist, I’d love to host a House of Hollow fashion show. Everyone would get dressed up in their most eccentric, lavish, Alexander McQueen-esque outfit and we could all hang out looking glamourous and creepy. Sigh.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m reading The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold, who’s probably most well-known for Mosquitoland. It’s pitched as “Station Eleven meets The 5th Wave” which might not be everyone’s cup of tea at this particular moment in time, but I’ve found it full of hope.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on the first draft of my fourth YA book which, like House of Hollow, is set in a version of London that brushes up against the supernatural. In a world where only women can use magic and the men who know about it seek to eradicate them, three lonely teenage girls – one cursed, one hunted, one out for revenge – team up to track down and take out a brutal killer. It’s a lot of fun!

Huge thanks to Krystal for her great answers and to Hot Key Books for giving me a review copy and facilitating this interview!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland is out now

(Hot Key Books, £7.99)

About Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

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