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Two sisters, two brothers, and the rebirth of the Deadtime Stories

Grave Secrets by Annette Cascone and Gina CasconeBy Annette and Gina Cascone

When our editor offered us the opportunity to contribute an article to this newsletter about our middle grade horror series, Deadtime Stories, we were hesitant—until she wrote, “What we are unequivocally NOT looking for is an article about how you got your ideas …”

We couldn’t have been more relieved.

It’s not that we are incapable of waxing poetic about our creative process; it’s just that we don’t want to. Nor could we, really, without offending someone. Even our muse walked out on us—with good reason. Nobody wants to be trapped in a room with two menopausal women who act like eight-year-old boys.

It’s not that we don’t take our work seriously. We do. In fact, we take it so seriously that it is important to us that we identify with our audience. As a result, we have no choice but to play “What if …” for hours. No booger joke is beneath us; and there are entire days when bathroom humor rules.

Yes. That’s our process.

Poster Placeholder of - 80Writing horror and humor for middle grade readers is not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, since we’re not going to discuss the birth of our series, we thought it would be fun to tell you a little bit about its rebirth.

A couple of years ago, in a land full of tinsel, two filmmaking brothers, David and Scott Hillenbrand, were looking for brides …

Wait. We lie. We are, after all, fiction writers. The brothers weren’t really looking for brides; they were looking for projects suitable for children to produce as a live action film series. And so, we shipped them one—in the form of the original series of Deadtime Stories books published in 1996.

It was love at first sight.  One month later, a marriage really was made.

Luckily for the brothers, we all live in different houses, on two different coasts. No way they wanted to be trapped in a room with us while we adapted the first two books into screenplays. Even Skyping was out of the question. If the honeymoon was to be a success, there could be no visuals; and no conversations about “special effects.”

With the screenplays for Grave Secrets and The Witching Game complete, the honeymoon was over, and the real magic kicked in.

It started with the casting of Diane Ladd and Jennifer Stone; and ended with a food truck.

Yes. That’s right. A food truck.

No. We’re not lying to you this time.

That food truck was magical. We couldn’t believe the meals that came out of that thing. No wonder everybody wants to work on a film set—you’ve got catering chefs feeding you morning, noon, and night! Talk about a dream come true. No cooking; no cleaning; no kidding!

In all seriousness, if we could take just one thing away from our entire movie making experience, it would have to be that truck.

Now, if we could only convince the brothers to add some massage tables to the set of The Witching Game, this really would be a marriage made in heaven!


From the Tor/Forge January newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


More from our January newsletter:

Starscape and Hill & Brand Kids Announce Deadtime Stories Books and Movies

Starscape and Hill & Brand Kids are thrilled to announce the upcoming DEADTIME STORIES for Kids books and movies, featuring Disney Channel star Jennifer Stone and
Oscar-nominated actress Diane Ladd!

Image Placeholder of - 49New York, NY; August 2, 2011: Starscape, an imprint of Tor Books, is pleased to announce an exciting publishing project in association with Hill & Brand Kids – a delightfully scary series of middle grade books and coordinating films known as DEADTIME STORIES FOR KIDS!

Cool and creepy, funny and frightening…DEADTIME STORIES for Kids by the seasoned team of writers, Annette and Gina Cascone, offer thrills and chills without violence or gore.

Filmmaking brothers, Scott and David Hillenbrand, of Hill & Brand are producing and directing the DEADTIME STORIES films, which began production in July 2011. Tor’s Starscape imprint will be publishing the books the films are based upon, launching in January 2012 with Grave Secrets.

Each of the DEADTIME STORIES for Kids films will show one of the books being read by a babysitter to her young charges, and Hill & Brand have cast Disney Channel star Jennifer Stone (Wizards of Waverly Place) in this starring role.

Hill & Brand Kids are also pleased to announce that the first film, Grave Secrets, will feature Academy Award-nominated actress Diane Ladd.

“I have 10 grandchildren and I chose this project to leave something wonderful for them,” shared Ladd. “I love the story and the message it sends to children, as well as adults — that you should never judge someone without knowing their story.”

Jennifer Stone added that she was thrilled to be a part of a series that she would have loved to watch growing up. “As a kid, I always enjoyed things that were a little different. This isn’t your typical children’s programming. It’s smart and a little bit eerie, which is right up my alley.”

Also joining the cast that will bring the book series to life are Ashlee Jones (True Blood and The Bold and the Beautiful), Christian LeBlanc (The Young and the Restless and As The World Turns), Taylar Hender (Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer) and The Middle’s Devan Leos and Mackenzie Brooke Smith.

Poster Placeholder of - 63Further DEADTIME STORIES for Kids books and films will follow, including The Witching Game (March 2012), The Beast of Baskerville (May 2012), and Invasion of the Appleheads (July 2012).

“We are thrilled to partner with Hill & Brand on this very unique project. DEADTIME STORIES for Kids books and films promote the importance and lasting power of books,” says Starscape Publisher Kathleen Doherty.

Grave Secrets was adapted for the screen by the DEADTIME STORIES  for Kids authors, Annette and Gina Cascone, who are looking forward to seeing their spine tingling storytelling come to life. Annette says, “There’s a reason Dianne Ladd is a three time Oscar nominee. We are in awe of her work. She makes us laugh, she makes us cry, and she definitely gives us more than goosebumps.  And Jennifer Stone’s future is so bright, I’m putting my sunglasses on now!”

Gina says, “This is a writer’s dream.  We are very proud to be published by Starscape.  Everyone at Tor has shown so much enthusiasm and are a complete joy; and we couldn’t have asked for better partners in Hill & Brand. They are professional and creative, with complete respect for our screenplays.”

Educators, librarians, parents, and kids alike will find much to love about DEADTIME STORIES for Kids books and the coordinating films will help to promote the fun of reading.

About Annette and Gina Cascone

As sisters, Annette and Gina share the same last name.  As writers, they share the same brain.  As children, they found it difficult to share anything at all. The Cascone sisters grew up in New Jersey with their father, a criminal defense attorney, and their mother, who claimed to have ESP. They honed their storytelling skills early on in life, mainly to stay out of trouble.  Now, they are telling their crazy stories to anyone who will listen.

The stats: Gina is older; Annette is not. Gina is married; Annette should be.  Gina has two children; Annette borrowed one. Gina has a granddaughter; Annette has a grandniece. Gina has cats; Annette has dogs. They both have a sister named Elise.

About Tor Books/Starscape

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books. Founded in 1980, Tor annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher.  In 2002, Tor launched Starscape, an imprint dedicated to publishing quality science fiction and fantasy for young readers, including books by critically acclaimed and award winning authors such as Cory Doctorow, Orson Scott Card, and David Lubar. Between an extensive hardcover and trade-softcover line, an Orb backlist program, and a stronghold in mass-market paperbacks, books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, and has been named Best Publisher 24 years in a row in the Locus Poll, the largest consumer poll in SF.

About Hill & Brand Kids

Hill & Brand Kids is the family-friendly entertainment division of Hill & Brand was founded by filmmaker brothers Scott and David Hillenbrand. Specializing in the development and production of film and television, Hill & Brand regularly secures financing, worldwide distribution and manages projects across all genres. The brothers have served as producers and directors on the National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze franchise (MGM & Lionsgate), the vampire action comedy Transylmania (SONY), and the Lionsgate sci-fi thriller King Cobra and gamer cult classic Game Box 1.0. Based in Los Angeles, Hill & Brand Kids was launched in 2010, returning the Hillenbrands to their roots in family entertainment. The brothers’ previous experience includes popular kids television shows (live action and animated) such as Sweet Valley High (FOX), Power Rangers (FOX), Spiderman (FOX/Marvel), Pinocchio (HBO), and Space Cats (NBC). Off to a bold start, Hill & Brand Kids has acquired the rights to the book series DEADTIME STORIES for Kids and The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach (in development with KCET).

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