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Interview: THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD’s Chrysler Szarlan

szarlan-hawleybookThe Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan is in fine bookstores now!
The debut author has an interesting story. She works part-time at Odyssey Bookshop, an independent bookstore in South Hadley, Massachusetts. I love booksellers who become writers because you can bet your ass they read a lot. And reading a lot is the first thing good writers begin with.
Chrysler also has an interesting work history where she has worked as a magician’s assistant. If that doesn’t help someone write a magical tale, I don’t know what else will.
The Hawley Book of the Dead is her first book. And people are already comparing it to A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. Why? Because The Hawley Book of the Dead is filled with the same sense of magic, history, and wonderfully realized characters that those other two books possess.
I decided to ask Chrysler a few questions. Here is the interview!
Shawn Speakman: THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD is now in fine bookstores! Tell Suvudu readers about the book and its intriguing main character, Reve Dyer.

photo-chryslerszarlanChrysler Szarlan: First of all, thank you for the interview. So glad to be here in the virtual Suvudu world.
My heroine, Reve Dyer, is a wife, a mother, and a Las Vegas illusionist who accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage, in a trick gone horribly wrong. She then discovers that the man responsible for switching the bullets in her trick pistol is stalking her. She flees to her ancestral home of Hawley, Massachusetts, the home of those ancestors, a family of women with special powers, descendants of a very long matrilineal line. She hopes to keep her daughters safe there. But Hawley is haunted, and she isn’t sure if she’s done the right thing. She doesn’t know if she’s escaped her stalker, the ghosts, or the magic in the real world that is her inheritance (of course she hasn’t!)

Shawn Speakman: Most writers can pin-point an idea — a story seed — that wouldn’t let go and through hard work becomes the novel. What was the seed for THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD?

Chrysler Szarlan: I think the title. It just came to me one day. Hawley, Massachusetts is a real place, a town of 300 people bisected by a huge state forest. I walked and rode my horse in the (haunted!) forest nearly every day. And the title just popped into my head during one of my rides. Then it took a few years of kicking around in my head until I found its story.

Shawn Speakman: Obviously, you live in Massachusetts where much of this book is set. And you used to be magician’s assistant as well. Why did you go about weaving those two things into a narrative? How organic was “writing what you know?”

Chrysler Szarlan: It oddly doesn’t seem to be autobiographical to me at all. I WAS a magician’s assistant, but not for very long. It took Reve a while to let me in on the fact that she was a magician. Then it just seemed right. It didn’t really have to do with my own personal history. I had to do tons of research about the history of magic, how to perform magic tricks, etc. But western Massachusetts, that’s in my blood. I was born in western Mass, and then lived near Hawley for many years. I always set my books in the western Mass hilltowns (this is really my third novel, just the first to see the light of publication). The hilltowns are a magical place, they have layers of magic, just as Las Vegas does. And I’m not just talking about stage magic, but magic in the real world. Which I totally believe in.

Shawn Speakman: I know you work in Odyssey Bookshop as a part-time bookseller. What do you like most about working in a bookstore? And what do your fellow booksellers think of you publishing a major release with Random House?

Chrysler Szarlan: It’s the best job in the world, next to writing. Walking in and smelling the books! I’ve always been a bookaholic. I’m an Advanced Reading Copy junky now. I get to read and recommend all these great new books. It’s heaven. And my colleagues at the Odyssey are so wonderful. They have been on this journey with me every step of the way, especially Odyssey’s owner, Joan Grenier, and Emily Crowe, Odyssey’s manager. Last night at my launch party –which was huge, and hugely fun — they made me cry. All the booksellers I’ve ever worked with stood up and made a cat’s cradle with red string, as a kind of salute to the book (Reve’s daughter, Caleigh, makes magic with her string games). It was amazing.

Shawn Speakman: THE HAWLEY BOOK OF THE DEAD is the first book of a set of four. Where are you in writing the sequel and do you have a title that you can share?

Chrysler Szarlan: Yes, indeed, and thanks for asking! I’ve discovered lately that there might be more than four books. So am not tying myself to a number: I’m calling the series The Revelation Chronicles now. The title of the second book is DREAMLAND, and I’m off to a ripping good start, I think. Many more adventures with Reve, her daughters and their horses, all the great minor characters of Las Vegas and the western Mass hilltowns, and of course, Simon Magus, Reve’s real and deadly nemesis. I love a good villain!

If you are looking for a new book this weekend, The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan is available now in fine bookstores!
To learn more about Chrysler and her debut novel, visit www.chryslerszarlan.com!
Find your magic!

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