By Jordan Houston
Pasadena Weekly Staff Writer
GLendale and Eagle Rock residents Victoria Fulton and Faith McClaren are living proof that success is not linear — especially when it comes to becoming published authors.
The co-authors, who bonded during an online writing workshop, not only managed to land the book deal of their dreams in just five days — but they did it through Twitter.
The opportunity stemmed from a tweet in 2021 by Penguin Random House Senior Executive Editor Wendy Loggia seeking potential young adult writers. Fulton, who hails from Ohio, and McClaren, a Texas native, recalled stumbling upon the request and feeling inspired.
With no manuscript or outline, the duo contacted their agent and spent three hours in McClaren’s backyard brainstorming — and just like that, the plot for their latest novel “Horror Hotel” was born.
“We saw the tweet and we decided we wanted to do it together. Before we contacted our agent, we were like, ‘We really want to do young adult horror.’ Horror for young adult is not as crowded of a market as romance in young adult,” McClaren said. “We went to our agent and were like, ‘This is what’s happening,’ and she got on board and gave us some marking orders.”
McClaren and Fulton spent the next four days fleshing out an 11-page proposal and 42 pages of the novel, chronicling four teen ghost hunters who spend the night in a famously haunted hotel. Loggia passed it along to their now-editor Alison Romig, and the rest is history.
“Horror Hotel,” dubbed “The Blair Witch Project” for the TikTok generation, hit bookshelves on Feb. 1 via the Penguin Random House imprint Underlined.
The paperback version is available for roughly $10 on Amazon. It is also available on Kindle.
“I love that we tried new things. I had been in the industry trying to get published before Victoria and I had started writing together,” McClaren, who writes contemporary romance novels and volunteers with sanctuary wolves outside of Los Angeles, said. “The industry has a lot of rules. I have duality, it’s in my nature, in wanting to follow the rules — but also wanting to go against the rules. The fact that we came together to kind of do both was really special.”
Fulton, who also co-runs a PR agency, added, “It’s one of those things where you get the idea and you just know.”
Inspired by the Netflix documentary “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” “Horror Hotel” follows the YouTube-famous Ghost Gang as they tour a notoriously haunted LA hotel to film after dark.
The group, comprised of Chrissy, Chase, Emma and Kiki, anticipates the stint to be “spooky enough to attract subscribers” but ultimately harmless — such as their previous paranormal huntings.
The young adult novel takes a turn when the Ghost Gang confronts an ominous twist in the former room of a gross serial killer. Fulton and McClaren tease the notion that, “sometimes, it’s the dead who need our help — and the living we should fear.”
“We just want them to have a good time with it,” Fulton expressed of the plot. “I kind of call it a ‘popcorn read’ or ‘popcorn horror.’ It’s meant to be really fun. With young adult readers, you want them to be engaged and you want them to become lifelong readers.
“I think one of the things we’ve been really vocal about throughout this process is sometimes kids need to read stuff for fun,” she continued. “A lot of times, libraries promote a lot of books that are important for them and have unique perspectives, but sometimes you just want to have a good time. That’s what we feel like this is — a form of escape.”
But it’s not just young adults who are raving over the new novel.
New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake, of “All these Bodies,” “Three Dark Crowns” and “Anna Dressed in Blood,” recently described “Horror Hotel” as “fast-paced,” “freaky” and “perfect for fans of true crime.”
Although the origin of McClaren and Fulton’s business relationship is rather unique, the knack for writing has always been in their cards.
Fulton, who boasts a chemical engineering degree from the University of Dayton, met McClaren, a screenplay writer and former aspiring actress, in an online class for striving young adult and middle grade authors.
The two read and gave feedback on each other’s work, bonding almost immediately over their shared drive and mutual passions. They went on to co-author the international Wattpad phenomenon “Ellie is Cool Now,” putting them both on the map as up-and-coming novelists.
“We were writing this book chapter by chapter with an audience. It was super fun developing this book with the audience, and we kind of blew up on the platform,” Fulton explained. “We worked out with Wattpad quite a sizable book deal. But because of the logistics of working with Wattpad, and the ins and outs, we ended up kind of being in a weird limbo. The deal took three years.”
The 2018 Watty award-winning rom-com is now slated to be published through Forever Publishing in the winter of next year.
The co-authors attribute their skyrocketing success to the strength and dynamic of their own friendship, they shared, a theme highlighted throughout “Horror Hotel.”
“Victoria and I’s friendship plays a huge role (in the book) and the dynamics of our friendship, because it’s a gang of kids and their friends going about this adventure together,” McClaren expressed. “We really wanted to highlight the way friendship plays out and the importance of it to have people you can lean on or rely on.”
To stay up to date on McClaren and Fulton, as well as upcoming releases, follow their socials at @victoriaxfaith on Instagram and Twitter.