With: Meg Kassel
My short answer to that is, probably not, but… It’s difficult to write fiction in a vacuum. Most stories are inspired from something else. That “something else” is usually a story or movie or life experience that had an impact on the author. Whatever it was, it stayed with them and worked its way into the creative process. Stephen King talks about in his memoir, On Writing, that he enjoyed an early fascination with horror movies, and often hitchhiked to the nearest theater to watch them.
Sometimes it’s the thing that scares us that inspires us. In my case, I am frightened of large numbers of insects. A few summers ago, we had not one, but two hornets nests high in the branches of the maple tree above our driveway. We couldn’t safely get rid of them, so we lived with them all summer, keeping a fearful eye on those branches. I was writing Black Bird of the Gallows at that time, and that worry, every time I went outside with my toddler played into the character of the Beekeepers. There were also many other things that formed both them and the harbingers of death. But there you have it: other things. Yes, the mythology in my debut novel isn’t common. I don’t write vampires or zombies, but the paranormal characters in my worlds are the product of my influences, interests and yes, my nightmares.
The most interesting thing I find as a reader, is to find a book that takes a familiar myth and puts a new spin on it. I enjoyed Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies (and the movie adaptation) because it really turned the zombie story upside down. It was fun to root for one of these reanimated corpses, instead of being afraid of them. Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement did a fantastic job with the changeling mythology, creating a fresh story about a boy who knows he is the creature placed in the crib of a stolen human baby. And Holly Black did a gorgeous reworking of vampires in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, where the dark, decaying world of the vampires is hidden behind the sleek production of streaming online video. Because I write young adult fiction, I also love reading it, so most of my favorites are from that genre.
Inventing a new paranormal world is a challenge! Authors of fantasy and paranormal books enjoy coming up with something new (like the Beekeepers) or putting a new story behind a known idea (harbingers of death) and hopefully, giving readers something they haven’t seen before. What kind of paranormal creatures would you like to see more of in fiction?
BLACK BIRD OF THE GALLOWS
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
I’m seriously questioning the wisdom of coming here. Who is this boy? Who are these people? I may not want these answers. Whatever illusion I had been weaving about this being a normal family can’t be true. This is a family, yes, but one putting on an elaborate show to appear to be something they are not. “Everyday life can’t be so bad,” I say lightly, eager to change the subject before I start luring myself down a hole. “You have a beautiful home, a nice family. You’re popular at school. Kiera Shaw certainly likes you.”
He turns his gaze to me, slowly. “Kiera Shaw? You think I like her?”
“I don’t know what you like.” I don’t blink. I don’t look away. “I know only what I’ve seen.”
Reece leans close, gently entering my personal space. Close enough to put me on edge, but not close enough to intimidate. His voice is silk on gravel. His narrowed eyes glitter down at me. “And what, exactly, have you seen, Angie?”
Shivers race up my skin. I want to defuse this so badly, but I feel like this is a challenge I can’t lose. “I’ve seen and heard things that don’t make sense. Things I can’t understand.” I shift my gaze to my crow sitting on a branch above my head. It watches me with an intensity that would scare me if I wasn’t accustomed to it. “Tell me about the crows.”
He shakes his head. “Sorry. Either you know about them, or you don’t.”
My jaw tightens, even as I step toward him. I can feel his body heat. His clean, guy scent fills my senses with a unique magnetism that draws me close. Closer still. “I will find out.”
His gaze sweeps my face, lingering on my lips. “I hope not.” His breath warms my temple, sending a shiver under my skin. “There are worse things out there than a few watchful birds.”
About the Author:
Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.