You originally wrote The Grownup [which we included in our January box as a special gift to our members] because George R.R. Martin asked you to contribute a story for an anthology he was editing. Are you a big fan of his?

I was a George R.R. Martin fan way before the HBO series. In fact I have a distinct memory of being on vacation in Arizona when his fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, came out. My husband and I drove around Phoenix until we found a late-night bookstore that still had it. For the rest of the trip, we were the two pale bookworms from Chicago sitting side by side at the pool with matching George R.R. Martins.

The narrator of The Grownup is a psychic who makes her living by telling gullible customers about their futures. Manipulation seems to be a theme in your books. What is it about mind games that makes for such great storytelling?

Mind games require a self-con. It's hard to convince someone of a truth they don't want to believe: My "psychic" is less a gifted spiritualist than a grifter who ferrets out what people want to hear. So much of life revolves around how we choose to look at things. "Glass is half full" is simply a very cheerful, optimistic mind game. I like playing with the idea of how we con ourselves.

What were you like as a child? Were you always thinking up creepy stories or did you develop that talent later on?

I was a cheerfully dark kid. I loved to be scared and I loved to scare people. When I played dress-up with my cousins, they were the princesses and I was the witch. The witch was much more interesting to me'”she was the one with the nasty back story. The princesses were just sweet and pretty.

When did you start actually writing?

I wrote my first short story in third grade, entitled "To the Outhouse," about a little pioneer girl who goes to pee in the night and is quickly surrounded by wolves. She spends the very short story being spunky and plucking up her courage to make a run back to her cabin. At the end, she bursts forth from the outhouse...and is immediately eaten alive by the wolves.

Is there one most scary, freaky, spine-tingling thrill ride of a novel that you would recommend our members read (alone in a cabin in the woods at night of course)?

I read Red Dragon once a year and it always scares the hell out of me. And then you can watch the 1986 film version by Michael Mann, Manhunter. It makes for a delightful double-punch to the belly.

Part of our mission at Book of the Month is to find incredible new authors and share their work with our members. Please keep an eye out and let us know if you spot any emerging talent we should consider!

Becky Masterman writes an addictive series with a truly unique and fascinating detective, Brigid Quinn, a sixtysomething bad-ass former FBI agent. Great voice, great sense of place (Arizona, which I will visit someday when George R.R. Martin does NOT have a book out). Masterman's third in the Brigid Quinn series comes out in March and I can't wait.

Log in to add our January extra, Gillian's Dark Places, to your box today!