Danica Mendez-Liakos was in elementary school when she first picked up a “Goosebumps” book, and became interested in reading.
“R.L Stine is my hero,” she said of the novelist who penned the children’s’ horror series in the 1990s. “He changed my life as a reader.”
Now, Mendez-Liakos said, she wants to be the one to spark children’s interest in reading. She spent the past six months writing the first book in her “The Phantom’s Tea” trilogy, “All are Welcome at the Silent Circus … but how do I get out of here?”
She would write chapters whenever she had a free moment, she said, whether it was on a plane to California or while she was serving hallway duty at the Evergreen Charter Middle School in Franklin Square, where she teaches sixth-graders math and science.
“I just live my life,” she said, “and then I get inspired by random things I see.”
The “Silent Circus” is about a bully named Hal, who finds himself at the center of a carnival in an alternate dimension, where he must face his demons to escape. “The moral really is to be kind to others,” Mendez-Liakos said, explaining, “I feel like the best lessons in life are learned from fear or anxiety.”
Throughout the trilogy, a bitter phantom interjets into the plot to comment about what he is seeing. The series title, in fact, comes from the expression, “What’s the tea?,” meaning, “What’s the gossip?”
Each book has a mystery to be solved, Mendez-Liakos said, and is filled with imagery to keep children under the age of 12 hooked on every word.
Mendez-Liakos even got the illustrator who designed the covers for the “Goosebumps” series, Tim Jacobus, to design the cover of the “Silent Circus.” When she posted the artwork online in May, R.L. Stine privately messaged her to wish her luck and say, “I think it’s a very intriguing cover.”
“I’m just really excited to contribute to a genre that R.L. Stine paved the way for,” Mendez-Liakos said.
The “Silent Circus” is now available for purchase on Amazon.com. It costs $7 for a paperback and $4 for an eBook. For more information, visit www.ThePhantomsTea.com