Cusick, Richie Tankersley 1952-

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CUSICK, Richie Tankersley 1952-

PERSONAL: Born April 1, 1952, in New Orleans, LA; daughter of Dick (a petroleum engineer) and Louise (a homemaker; maiden name, Watts) Tankersley; married Rick Cusick (a book designer, calligrapher, and graphic artist), October 4, 1980. Education: University of Southwestern Louisiana, B.A., 1975. Hobbies and other interests: Animals, reading, watching movies, listening to music (country, ethnic, pop, soundtracks), collecting, traveling.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER: Ochsner Foundation Hospital, New Orleans, LA, ward clerk, summers, 1970-72; Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, MO, writer, 1975-84; freelance writer.

MEMBER: Humane Society of the United States, National Wildlife Federation, Doris Day Animal League.

AWARDS, HONORS: Children's Choice Award, International Reading Association, 1989, for The Lifeguard; Book for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 1990, for Trick or Treat; Edgar Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for Help Wanted.

WRITINGS:

Evil on the Bayou, Dell (New York, NY), 1984.

The Lifeguard, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1988.

Trick or Treat, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1989.

April Fools, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

Scarecrow (for adults), Pocket Books, (New York, NY), 1990.

Teacher's Pet, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1990.

Vampire, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Fatal Secrets, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (novelization of screenplay by Joss Whedon), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

The Mall, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Bloodroots (for adults), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Silent Stalker, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Help Wanted, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.

The Drifter, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

The Locker, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Someone at the Door, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Overdue, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Summer of Secrets, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Starstruck, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Harvest (based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series by Joss Whedon), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.

The House Next Door, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Richie Tankersley Cusick writes horror novels for teens and adults, and while she enjoys exploring the dark side of human nature, her young adult books usually focus on some aspect of growing up, as well. As Cosette Kies explained in St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, "Teen readers can . . . identify with her central characters, who often come from broken homes and must deal with difficult relationships, some familial and some romantic. They often learn self-reliance in their struggles with the unknown evil and begin to understand the complexities of human behavior." A typical example is Cusick's 1992 book Fatal Secrets. High school senior Ryan McCauley is grieving over her sister's death in a tragic accident. The college girl had fallen through the ice, and Ryan feels guilty because they had recently fought. Ryan's single mother is consoled by one of Marissa's young college friends, whom she begins to date. Ryan soon discovers that Marissa knew about a drug stash near their house, and strange things begin to happen to Ryan who begins to believe that her sister's death might not have been an accident after all. Stacey M. Conrad, reviewing Fatal Secrets for Kliatt, thought "this story has a nice mix of suspense and romance."

Cusick's 1994 book The Locker is a thriller about a young girl named Marlee whose parents were killed in an accident. She and her brother live with a free-spirited aunt who is constantly moving, and when the story opens, Marlee is again the new girl in school. She soon finds out that the locker assigned to her used to belong to a female student who mysteriously disappeared, and when Marlee opens the locker, she sees a horrifying vision. Apparently Marlee is able to see events that have happened to people when she comes into contact with their possessions. She resigns herself to solving the mystery of the girl who disappeared and herself becomes involved in unbelievable events.

Elaine Baran Black of School Library Journal called The House Next Door a "hauntingly good read." Emma Donavan accepts a dare from her twin brother to spend the night in the creepy house next door, which is said to be haunted. While there, she meets a ghost who turns out to be her true love from another lifetime, who was killed trying to rescue her from her abusive father. His spirit is trapped and Emma risks her life to set him free, while her brother and friend Val try to stop her before history is repeated. Booklist's Roger Leslie observed that this supernatural story had "brisk dialogue, ingenious plot twists, and nerve-wracking suspense."

Cusick once told CA: "I've always believed in the supernatural, and I grew up with a ghost in my house. I've always loved scary books and movies—even though my parents didn't want me to watch horror films. I'd sometimes manage to sneak in and turn on the television when my folks weren't in the room. In Girl Scouts, I was the troop storyteller and would make up tales of haunted houses and murderers. Next to Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I really decorate—including a hanged woman in our front hallway, a dead body laid out in our parlor, and tombstones around our front porch.

"I've always loved to write—being an only child, I found it a great way to entertain myself and invent friends and adventures. My best buddies and mentors were my dog and my grandmother Dereatha Tankersley. She has always been my biggest inspiration.

"I love working at home. I'm happiest being with my husband and our cocker spaniel, Hannah....My studio is upstairs at the back of our house, and my favorite tree, Emily (yes, I name all our trees), stands guard outside my window. I love storms, rain, fog, and dark winter weather; my favorite part of the day is twilight—that dream state between dark and light. I love to watch the seasons change on Emily as I sit and write at my haunted roll top desk, which belonged to a funeral director in the 1800s.

"The hardest part of writing is going up to my studio. Once I'm up there, I can lose myself in my research and writing and am very comfortable surrounded by all my clutter. But getting up there is the procrastination I'm best at—my husband refers to it as 'the long walk upstairs.'

"Writing is very important to me—being able to create people, adventures, worlds where readers can lose themselves for a little while. It's very hard work, but very rewarding. I hate it when a book ends and I have to tell my characters goodbye. I get so close to them that they linger in my own personality for days . . . and I guess when it comes right down to it, I never really lose them. They just become another part of me . . . or perhaps they were all along!"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 14, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1995.

Drew, Bernard, The 100 Most Popular Young Adult Authors, Libraries Unlimited (Englewood, CO), 1996.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 1, 2002, Roger Leslie, review of The House Next Door, p. 841.

Books for Keeps, March, 1999, p. 16; November, 1991, p. 10.

Kliatt, September, 1990, p. 8; April, 1992, Stacey M. Conrad, review of Fatal Secrets, pp. 4, 6; November, 1994, p. 18; January, 1995, p. 6; September, 1995, p. 20; November, 1996, p. 8; January, 1997, p. 6.

Locus, July, 1991, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1978, pp. 119-120; July 8, 1988, p. 57.

School Library Journal, December, 1984, p. 101; February, 2002, Elaine Baran Black, review of The House Next Door, p. 130.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1989, p. 26; October, 1990, p. 215, p. 226; June, 1992, p. 93; February, 1993, p. 346; April, 1993, pp. 19-21, 24, 38; October, 1993, p. 224; August, 1994, p. 155; December, 1994, pp. 285-286.*

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