Lindsey Duga. Photo by Collin Richie

This local author writes spooky stories perfect for your kids—and you

Pop your head into Red Stick Reads or the Main Library at Goodwood this spooky season and you’ll surely spot one of local author Lindsey Duga’s colorful books on the shelves. And sure, her young-adult and middle-grade fantasy novels have long garnered plenty of readers in and beyond the Capital City—with likely many more to come, thanks to this story in the September 2021 issue of our sister magazine 225but Duga’s works stands out during this time of year, with her cast of ghosts, spirits, sirens and star-crossed warriors shining extra bright in the quick-setting sun of autumn. 

Photo by Collin Richie.

“In my young adult novels, the darker, monstrous elements speak directly to my characters’ inner demons—their guilt and regret,” says Duga. “I love working in those black-and-white evil creatures and elements as a metaphor to my characters’ turmoil and angst, and their shades of gray.”

Her middle-grade novels, on the other hand, unfold with a more straightforward approach suited to a slightly younger audience.

“It’s more of an extension of the characters’ own fears,” she says. “The fear of being left behind, of not fitting in. It comes out in ghosts and nightmares. At the end of the day, these darker, scarier elements set the tone for really solid, complex character development.”

Anyone who remembers being a tween or teenager can remember how crucial that character development can be—and confusing, given how unequipped we could be for dealing with the new emotions and relationships suddenly crowding into our hearts and heads. It’s why Duga, 31, first became a fan of classic YA series like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and The Lunar Chronicles, and why she landed on the YA fantasy genre when she first set out on her authorial career.

“There’s something special about the way these stories are told,” she says. “YA focuses on personal growth and the protagonist’s understanding of themself, which is so important for a teen, while the middle-grade hero is still coming to terms with the world and all its mysteries. That’s why so many of them are focused on ‘saving the world.’ You have to love the character’s voices in these novels because they feel so deeply relatable. We all went through the process of growing up, so we can really connect with and lose ourselves inside these kinds of stories.”

But no story unfolds on the page without a little blood, sweat and tears. To get in the right headspace for creating her spunky young protagonists, Duga often finds herself revisiting some of her favorite TV shows or books she enjoyed as a young teen—the same ones that spurred her to start writing fiction as a middle-schooler. Sometimes, when writer’s block strikes, she’ll even listen to special music playlists she creates for her novels-in-progress, helping her envision an action-packed or emotional scene, or to see what she wants her readers to see. 

“I’m a huge nerd, so finding inspiration in things like other books, TV shows, movies, graphic novels or even video games is sometimes way too easy,” she says. “But how they tend to come together depends on a little game of what if. What if true love’s kiss was used as a weapon? What if a spirit world existed in the Smoky Mountains? What if monsters ran with mobsters in the Roaring Twenties? Taking a setting or a thing that I love and inspires me and adding a really weird twist is what gets my brain turning. Then things start to snowball. My fictional world begins to unravel before me as I ask myself more and more about how this ‘what if’ scenario would work.”

Considering that Duga always has more than one new novel in the works, we’re confident that our autumn evening reading chairs will be well-occupied for many seasons yet to come. To learn more about Duga and her books, visit or follow her on Instagram @linzduga and on Twitter @LindseyDuga.