You might not have ever heard of Paige McKenzie. But for teenagers she is a really big deal. As the star of the scary-funny YouTube series The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, McKenzie has about 100 millions views and 63,000 fans on Facebook. The series is about the incredibly creepy events that unfold when a teen girl and her mom move into a haunted house in the Pacific Northwest. The novel, which is also called The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and comes out this week, explores the same themes of a precocious teen living in a creepy house in a rainy town. The publisher, Perseus’s Weinstein Books, has predicted this is going to be the next big YA crossover hit, along the lines of Harry Potter or Twilight. Yahoo Style spoke to McKenzie from her home in Portland, Oregon about what she thinks of all the hype.
Yahoo Style: Would you explain the series to adults who might not be very up to date on YouTube?
Paige McKenzie: The web series is Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity. I think that gives you a pretty good indication of what it’s like. But the book is a little more Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars. It’s a little more biting, and there’s more in terms of the girl power aspect. You know, “I don’t need a man to help me.” There’s no love triangle in the book. Boys are not that significant.
YS: That’s interesting because with the success of Twilight or The Hunger Games, romance played such a big part.
PM: It’s a way of escapism. Girls—and boys—have fictional characters they love. I am obsessed, just all on board, with Mr. Darcy. But it’s time we don’t have a love interest. There is a boy in the book she likes, but nothing really happens. There’s no kiss.
YS: Do you have a favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation?
PM: My favorite is the Keira Knightley/Matthew McFadden version. It’s my favorite hands-down. People don’t obsess about it as much as they should.
YS: How did you get involved with the series in the first place?
PM: It was the creator Nick Hagen’s idea. He did the research and figured out that ghosts were the number-two searched thing on YouTube after Lil Wayne, which would be a hard web series to make. He had worked with my mom before and knew that she had a possibly attractive, probably funny young teenage daughter.
YS: Do you watch a lot of YouTube?
PM: No, I’m not a typical teen. I don’t watch a lot of YouTube. I read a lot of books and stay home a lot and spend all my time in an art studio in my house. My garbage goes out more than I do. [Shrieks.] I just saw a spider.
YS: Are you afraid of them?
PM: I am. My mom’s trying to get it now. I just read this book by Kristin Newman called What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding and she talks about why we have fear and how there’s no need to have it. And I thought, “Whoa, why do I have so many?” So I’ve been working on it recently, trying to be less fearful of tiny things that are probably more scared of me.
YS: And what about your Sunshine Girl alter ego, what is she afraid of?
PM: She’s not scared of anything. She’s like a better, awesomer version of me. But 99.9% of her is me.
YS: Your fans call themselves Sunshiners, right? What are they like?
PM: They’re great. I don’t have that many crazy ones. I get amazing packages in the mail, like I just got chocolate from Germany. I get a lot of things they make me, bracelets and drawings.
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