*Interview by contributing writer Erin Potter
Family Review Guide: Tell us a little about yourself.
Annette Cascone: Oh my gosh I hate this part. I never know what to answer. I’m a writer and a dog trainer. Love the dogs. I live in New Jersey. I grew up in New Jersey. I’m actually quite a boring person.
Family Review Guide: What made you interested in this type of genre especially for kids?
Annette Cascone: A couple of things: I grew up with 2 sisters and we used to love to be scared. We used to go out of our way to scare one another, who could top who and I’ve always as a kid interested in paranormal stuff, ghosts so intrigued by it. So I worked with my older sister Gina and we decided to start writing for kids. We thought it would be fun. We also loved comedy so we thought it would be fun to combine comedy with scary stuff for kids because that’s the kind of thing we were interested in as kids.
Family Review Guide: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Annette Cascone: I have or I believe I have. It seems silly I know. Unfortunately we have had a lot of loss in our family, death in our family. And I believe I have had moments where I have been with people that have passed on. I love when you know that they’re there. It’s wonderful!
Family Review Guide: Tell us a little about Deadtime Stories the TV show.
Annette Cascone: Deadtime Stories the TV show is actually based on Deadtime Stories the book series. It all started with the books. David and Scott Hillanbrand who direct and produce the TV show came across the books series and were looking to do a project that would target middle graders because there is a lack of fun content for that age group as far as they were concerned. We originally did a film. The first book we did as a film was called Grave Secrets. From the film we got interest for the television show. Nickelodeon came on board as a result of that first film Grave Secrets.
Family Review Guide: Is the television episodes based on each book (i.e. one book per episode) or are they just similar to the books?
Annette Cascone: The television shows, the first season is based on the books series. Each title stands alone as does each episode of the series. None of them are blood and gore. I don’t think blood and gore is scary just gross. We tend to stay away from it so that each episode is age appropriate. We even cast age appropriately. So if the character is supposed to be 10 in the show they really are 10 not 17 playing 10. We really are happy about that. So yes each one of the episodes coincides with the books.
Family Review Guide: So you write each episode of the television series?
Annette Cascone: Yes. Every episode of season 1 was written by me and my sister Gina.
Family Review Guide: Do you help with casting and the scenes? Are you onset when they shoot it?
Annette Cascone: I am very grateful and very lucky to be able to be. I am getting more and more involved with the casting process which I also love. The show is created by Gina, my sister and I and David and Scott Hillenbrand.
Family Review Guide: What is it like working with your sister because I think if I had to work with my sister I might kill her?
Annette Cascone: HAHAHA! I can show you some scars both physical and psychological!! HAHAHA!!! All of the books Gina and I wrote together. She is not on set every day. She is lucky and sits at home eating bon-bons. HAHAHA!!!
Family Review Guide: What is the age range and reading level of the book series?
Annette Cascone: The reading level is middle grade so about 7-12. Its certainly appropriate for the younger audience. I was a reluctant reader as a kid. So you had to twist my arm to get me to read. Part of what I love about Deadtime is while we were writing deadtime we kept in mind the fact that it’s very hard to engage kids to read anymore. With all the technology and gaming now-a-days, so each chapter is short. As an adult if I look at a book and I see that there are 27 pages in the chapter I’m like oh no forget it I’m not doing this I don’t have time! Little ones are the same way so chapters are short. Each chapter has a cliffhanger ending to inspire them to turn the page and keep going. So it’s appropriate for good readers at 7 and reluctant readers at 12-13. I have even heard from teenagers that they enjoy the content.
Family Review Guide: We talk a lot about ghosts in my house because of my investigative team Paranormal Housewives. So he is already interested in that genre and I think that your stories might get my son who is a reluctant reader to read. I think the TV show would make him want to read the books.
Annette Cascone: That’s the point! What was wonderful for all of us, I mean, we all knew from the beginning that we had the possibility of trying to do just that. Inspire kids to read. So each episode of the TV series actually opens with the babysitter character, who’s played by Jennifer Stone. She used to be in Wizards of Waverly Place. She played Harper. Everybody loves Jennifer! Each episode opens with Jennifer reading to the kids she’s taking care of. So each week she brings a scary story to different kids. You remember the movie the Princess Bride? So like the Princess Bride we use the book as the conduit into the live action and back out to remind kids that its just a story,. If you’re too scared we can stop. And just by having the babysitter character, someone as cool as Jennifer Stone opening the book we are hoping to say to kids reading is cool! It’s fun! You can go on an adventure. And the fact they can watch an episode and then read the book or vice versa also we are hoping inspires them to pick up obviously Deadtime stories but other books because once you do it and realize that it is fun and you can enjoy it you are more willing to pick up other things.
Annette stopped me here and said: “Can I ask you a question? Is it true that little ones are closer to the other side and more in tuned”?
Family Review Guide: Yes! It is very true! Parents tell their children that ghosts aren’t real because they don’t want them to be scared. Because of this kids shut off that sensitivity or 6th sense that everyone is born with. In my household we don’t do that. I teach my children that a ghost is just a person without a body so my kids aren’t scared. One of the reasons why I love your books and your TV show is that I want more people to be ok with paranormal stuff.
Annette Cascone: Yes and look, even if you don’t believe in ghosts every kid loves to explore this. Every kid loves that feeling of maybe it does exist! Maybe there is something out there. And kids like to be scared! They like that boo factor. And if you provide a safe ride it’s a lot of fun. And it gives them the ability to work out their own fears in a safe way. I find that its all positive. Like I say we don’t do and won’t do anything gratuitous or out of line because that isn’t scary and that isn’t fun. That’s just being assaulted.
Family Review Guide: Do you have a website and can we buy the books on that website?
Annette Cascone: Yes it is www.deadtimestories.com. You can buy the books anywhere books are sold. We are working on getting more copies on the shelves but the bookstore can order it for you. Also if you go to the deadtime stories the website there’s a tab that says “the books” , that will link you to where you can order them.
Family Review Guide: It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I can’t wait to see Deadtime Stories! Is it on right TV now?
Annette Cascone: It’s been a pleasure talking with you too! Thank you so much! It’s on Nickelodeon Thursday night at 8pm (check your local listings). You can also watch full episodes online. If you go to Nick.com you will see one of the episodes, Invasion of the Appleheads is being viewed. If you click on that it will take you to the Deadtime homepage and the episodes that are available. It’s also available on Nickelodeon onDemand. You can see them on the computer and on the internet. As well as on Thursday nights at 8pm. Also go to our Facebook page and like us!