Paige McKenzie, young author and YouTube phenom, recently released her first book. Based on her incredibly successful YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl tells the story of Sunshine, a 16-year-old girl living in a haunted house. Described as “Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity,” The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is certain to delight readers young and old. A few weeks ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to read Paige’s book and I can say with confidence you will not be disappointed. Afterwards, I spoke with Paige about her book and her plans for the future. Find out what she had to say below:
Q: You started your YouTube channel four years ago, a channel which now has over 250,000 subscribers and over 132 million views. What inspired you to create a fictional web series about ghosts? Did you ever expect your channel to have such a large following?
A: I knew I had something special with the views (and the comments!) started rolling in. I was cautiously optimistic when I started. Now I am looking forward to the continued growth and all the new fun to have!
Q: Sunshine, the protagonist, is a strong yet quirky female character. She likes vintage clothes, old records, and old-fashioned photography. How did you come up with her character traits? Do you see yourself in Sunshine?
A: I always say that I am like 99.5% Sunshine! We look a lot alike, we have similar interests, she is celiac and so am I, she has a love/hate relationship with her curls as do I, etc. I knew that a huge part of any success on YouTube had to come from being very authentic. I also knew I wouldn’t have time to really create a character. So the answer was easy – be myself! Plus, I am good at it!
Q: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been called a “must-read” by USA Today and praised by renowned horror writers like R.L. Stine and Wes Craven. How does that make you feel?
A: Honestly, I am so proud of this book. I wanted the existing fan base, my Sunshiners, to like the book and I really hoped that people that just like to read scary young adult books would also enjoy the read. The fact that these “horror gurus” like it is such an amazing bonus. I am completely humbled!
Q: What challenges have you faced in making the web series and in writing the book?
A: The biggest challenge with the YouTube web series is the fact that telling a story on YouTube is still a very uphill battle! YouTube is not very easy to navigate if the channel you are watching is best watched in a certain order. The struggle with the book was figuring out how to take a story that already existed and expand it for a book. So many more details and so many choices had to be made. But my co-author Alyssa made it so much easier than I could have ever dreamed of!
Q: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, although your first book, is certainly not your last. Your second book, The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl, is due to be published in March of next year. What else can we expect from you?
A: Book 2 is due out in March 2016 and book 3 a year after that! Then there is the TV show (and maybe even a film or two!) and hopefully a series of books for younger kids. I would love to do that! I also am starting to get some opportunities to do roles outside of Sunshine which is a fun bonus!
Q: What has been your favorite part of the entire Sunshine Girl process? What is your favorite part of the book?
A: I have had so much fun from the very beginning! I can remember the first time my mom told me about the idea for a YouTube channel. I know right then that there was something special about the idea! I have loved every moment since then. Doing the book is extremely fun because it introduced me to the literary world, a world I love: books books books! But really, my favorite part is yet to come: The Weinstein Company turning The Haunting of Sunshine Girl into a TV show with me as Sunshine is literally a dream come true!
Q: What advice can you give to young girls out there who want to become an author?
A: Write, write, write! I mean, really. Write every day. Keep a journal, write letters (even emails), write short stories. My other piece of advice is to find authors you admire and follow them on social media. Pay attention to the advice they give. Almost every author has a blog or website (or both) where they will answer questions and share their story. Take advantage of that!