Thriller/Mystery

On Tour with Chameleon by Zoe Kalo and Meet the Author

I got freaked out at the mention of the convent…. This will give me trouble with the dark for some time.

Chameleon by Zoe Kalo released a couple of years back in the YA Paranormal Psychological Suspense genre.

I can’t believe it has come to this. The way things have blown out of proportion. I only wanted to contact my dead father. Ask his forgiveness.
Seven months.
Seven months isn’t that long, is it?
I’ll go through the motions, no need to make friends that I’ll never see again. When you get close to people, you end up getting hurt.

Puerto Rico, 1973

17-year-old Paloma only wanted to hold a séance to contact her dead father. She never thought she would be kicked out of school and end up in an isolated convent. Now, all she wants is to be left alone. But slowly, she develops a bond with a group of girls: kind-hearted Maria, insolent Silvy, pathological liar Adelita, and their charismatic leader Rubia.

At night, the waterfall’s dark music haunts her dreams of drowning…

When Paloma holds another séance, she accidentally awakens an entity that has been dormant for years. The body count begins. Someone doesn’t want the secret out…

Are the ghost and Paloma’s suspicions real—or only part of her growing paranoia and delusions? 

If you love the vibes in “The Orphanage,” “The Craft” and “Pretty Little Liars,” you’ll enjoy this mess-with-your-head, YA supernatural/psychological thriller!

FIVE GIRLS. AN ISOLATED CONVENT. A SUPERNATURAL PRESENCE. A DARK SECRET.

SHORTLISTED for the 2017 Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction!

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Madre Estela remained standing by the door. “Get a bucket and fill it with water.”

Her hypercritical eyes sliced through my self-worth as I grabbed one of the metal buckets, lifted it into the sink, and turned on the faucet. I watched, transfixed, as the water gushed like a torrent spurting from an open artery. The cold spray raised goosebumps on my arms.

Madre Estela snapped her fingers. “Move.”

As I hauled the bucket to the door, some of the water slushed over the edge and splattered to the floor.

“Add the detergent,” she said stiffly, irritated by my clumsiness.

I chose a green bottle, twisted the cap, and poured. The acrid pine smell stung my nostrils.

“Get a sponge and a brush from there. Get going. We don’t have all evening—unless you want to work in the dark.”

I gritted my teeth, but pretended not to be bothered. I suspected that the one thing that this nun couldn’t stand was indifference.

Outside, it was almost dusk. In spite of the intense screeching of the coquíes, the drum of the waterfall hit my ears. It was louder now than the last time I’d been here. How was that possible?

I felt a drop of rain. Great.

Madre Estela put one hand out, palm up. “My, my. What’s this?” She looked chagrined, and I suddenly realized why. If it rained, I would have to go inside, ruining her plans. “What are you standing there for? Start scrubbing.”

I was tempted to throw the bucket of greenish water at her face. Instead, I prayed for rain as I walked across the rose garden. Once at the gate, I glanced back at her.

“You’ll work until I come for you, understood?” she said, hands on hips in her usual stance. She pointed to one of the second-floor windows. “I’ll be watching from there.”

And that was it. She was gone.

For a moment I just stood there. If only my friends could see me now. They would never believe it.

About the Author

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

She’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Comparative Literature. She lives in Belgium with her husband and two evil cats.

Hi Zoe, and thank you for being here today!

What was your inspiration for Chameleon?

Like Paloma, I was partly educated in a convent school run by Catholic nuns. The convent was also an orphanage for girls, and actually some of the girls—Ramona and Sylvy—were based on real people. Adelita and Rubia were pure creations of my imagination. I did attempt to do a séance in one of the classrooms once, an act that made me end up in Madre Superiora’s office…but I didn’t get kicked out…nor experienced a ghost.

Some of the scenes in the book depict the nuns in a very negative way. Can you comment on that?

Some of the nuns are nice, others…not so nice. That’s just the way it was. Except for Madre Superiora, all of the nuns in my book are based on real nuns. Madre Estela, Madre Julia, Madre Margarita were all real. Yes, Madre Julia with her giant wooden spoon, real. It may seem hard to believe, and certainly it would be tough to believe nuns can behave like that nowadays. But remember the story takes place in 1970s Puerto Rico. Catholic nuns were very strict back then, their disciplining methods cruel, but this was considered normal.

How long did it take you to complete the book?

On and off, about two years. But the story and characters simmered in my mind for years before then.

Did you have to do a lot of research?

I did a tremendous amount of research on psychopaths and psychopathy, and a fair amount on natural drugs found in tropical forests, though I ended up using only a tiny fraction of the material. I also consulted a police officer for the parts about police procedural and interrogation.

You like to use mimic writing, don’t you?

Yes, I do! I used it in Daughter of the Sun when the protagonist was drugged, and also in this book in the climax with Paloma. The writing becomes erratic and stream of consciousness because it reflects and mimics the altered mind of the character. No commas, no punctuation, one run-on sentence after another. I love using this literary technique but sometimes it can be confusing for the reader, so trying to find a balance can be very challenging.

Did you listen to any particular kind of music while working on the book?

I sure did! I can get quite obsessed about that, listening to the same compositions again and again. This was my music list for Chameleon… all of them haunting, mysterious and dark!

Beethoven’s Figlio Perduto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wuo6PUeyHmA (Performed by Sarah Brightman)

Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiMcXzfm9Mg

Agnes Obel’s Riverside: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjncyiuwwXQ

Revenge Series soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOgHd_iM5ok

Interview with the Vampire soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6aPxaCpP78

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