A few months before The Fifth Petal came out, my agent remarked that she hadn’t been able to read the manuscript before bed because of the nightmares it invariably provoked.
Her statement shocked me, as I didn’t consider it a very scary book. It was definitely dark, but all my novels are dark. Part history, part mystery, each has been set in Salem, MA, and there’s no way the dark history of place hasn’t informed every narrative. But my home city doesn’t scare me, rather it takes on a cautionary role in each story, a dark reminder of the errors in judgement we humans often make as well as the consequences of our mistakes.
Along with being shocked by her statement, I was insulted. “If I’d wanted to scare you, I wouldn’t have written that book,” I declared, knowing that nothing I’d yet set down on the page could match the dark recesses of fear I believed I could conjure at will. Unable to let it go, I went on to brag: “If I let my imagination run wild, I could scare the hell out of you.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. I could feel her smiling as she voiced the challenge that would inspire my next book. “Do it!”
My mother always warned me not to temp the imps. To that sage advice, I’ll add a bit of my own. “Don’t temp your agent.”
The challenge she threw down seemed easy enough at the time. It was Halloween of 2016. I was confident I understood the world, as well as the deepest fears most of us harbored. I knew myself, too, knew what I was most afraid of and was pretty sure I could express it.
But that was then.
Two years later, our world has changed so radically I sometimes wonder if I’m living inside a nightmare. And with it, my fears have changed just as much, morphing into something far darker than I ever imagined. [Read more…]