SPOILER ALERT: 

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR

SAVAGE SPELLS BOOK ONE: EVERYONE LEAVES THIS PLACE

TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.

So, SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t read Savage Spells Book 1, “Everyone Leaves This Place,” then you should STOP reading this interview and read that book. Book 1 has received rave reviews, including from about a couple of dozen readers, an award-winning author, a professional review site, and Sue Naegle, the Chief Content Officer of Annapurna Pictures, a major motion picture/entertainment company.

 

For those who’ve read Book 1, let me tell you some about Savage Spells Book 2, entitled “Love’s Heavy Spell.” The book picks up where Book 1 left off, in fall 2019, with Evee and Mark both attending college at the University of Miami.

 

Evee, of course, has been freed from the evil witch’s body, and she takes a breath, expecting college life in Miami to simmer down. But then tragedy strikes close to home, and a bizarre coven calls on her to help fight for their cause. I don’t want to say more about this and spoil the fun.

 

Evee’s new calling puts a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, and, even worse, thrusts her into a cat-and-mouse game with a narcissistic, billionaire witch.

 

In this mystical story of love and loss, Evee must figure out how to stop this wicked witch from corrupting a budding AI technology with dark magic, or she could become his next victim.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLE FOR THIS BOOK? 

The title of this book refers to a specific spell that protects people who aren’t part of a magical family, but who need protection from evil forces. The name of the spell is, indeed, a metaphor for the magical role that love—monumental, sacrificial love—plays in our lives. And the tone of this book is, in places, somewhat darker and heavier than in Book 1, as implied by the word ‘Heavy.’  Like most titles of books and chapters, it popped into my head and felt perfect. So, I used it.

 

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK? IS IT PART OF A SERIES?

Well, I knew there was more to the Evee’s story, because she and Mark, while having experienced magic, are still young; they still have much room to grow and learn. And, in the mythology I’ve set up, there are five evil witch families, and we only saw one in Book 1. Moreover, in Book 1, we didn’t learn much about the good ‘witches’ (don’t call them witches, they don’t like that). And, I’ve been carrying around this strange idea in my head about a type of secret coven that exists across America, below the surface of everyday life, and is more bizarre and connected with each other than we could imagine. So, I needed to build that in.

 

Also, I was inspired to write this book by my friendship with Dr. Paul Esposito, a fraternity brother from Miami who passed recently at the age of fifty in 2017. Paul was one of these people who was, simply, a shining light, always there to encourage others. And he came into my life early in my sophomore year of college when I was feeling lost, and he (and the people who revolved around him like planets around a sun) changed the course of my college career and probably my life. He taught me a lot about the power of positive, bold thinking. I hadn’t kept up with Paul as much as I should have, maybe once every few months by phone. I always wondered if he felt as close as a friend to me as I did to him because he, as an extrovert, had so many good friends. And, because of this, I kept quiet at his funeral and didn’t testify about what kind of person he was and what he meant to me. I still feel like I should have said something then, and this book about love and loss is my way of telling him, or his spirit, how much his friendship means to me. The book is dedicated to Paul, and there are pieces of him in it throughout the story. People who knew him will spot “Espo” references, such as how Mark’s mother tells him to walk into a nightclub with a bit of swagger (Okay, now I’m saying too much). 

 

HOW MUCH OF YOUR BOOK IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?

The book is alternately set in the Philadelphia, PA area (Philly and fictional Dairytown, which is inspired by Doylestown, PA) and the Miami area (Coral Gables, Little Havana, South Beach, etc.). A lot of it is inspired by real places. For instance, Miley Arculano’s apartment might look a bit look my first apartment when I moved to Philly thirty years ago. The University of Miami where Evee and Mark go to school is an alt-world college (e.g., Evee lives in Hetch Residence Hall, which, in real world, is Hecht Residence), but it is similar to the real thing. There are a bunch of places and people within the Miami portions of the book that are drawn from places I’ve been to and people I’ve met. But, it’s all fictional in the end.

Also, there are a couple of scenes in the book related to business, including how Marketing creates and tests concepts, which will be important in Book 3 (again, I don’t want to give away too much). I drew upon my decades in business to write these scenes.

My daughter attends college for Computer Science (CS), and I used what I know about her program to fill in some of the blanks regarding Evee’s knowledge and other characters’ knowledge of CS and programming.

The idea that one of the smartest kids in the world (Parker Twiddle, also a character in one of my short stories) comes from Dairytown sounds fantastic. But, recently, my real-life hometown of Doylestown, PA produced one of the smartest kids in the world when it comes to puzzle solving. And, as everybody knows, Evee Salazar is a phenomenal singer; correspondingly, there are so many young people with angelic singing voices in Doylestown, it makes me wonder if there is magic at work here (FYI, the pop singer, Alecia Moore, a.k.a., Pink is from Doylestown, too). I need to stress though, my characters—their appearance, behaviors, flaws, etc.—are FICTIONAL. But some very high-level traits, such as intelligence or singing ability, have been inspired by real-life people.

 

Growing up in South Florida/Miami, I had friends in the Cuban American community. Given this represents an important part of Evee’s heritage, I wanted to portray the Cuban American community, including Evee’s ties to this culture, accurately and positively in the novel. I drew upon my experiences in Miami. And I also called on a good friend of mine, Teresa Garcia, mostly to check my Spanish, which is sprinkled in some of the chapters. Teresa also helped me pin down certain details (e.g., what types of shoes would Evee’s Tio Robert—Uncle Roberto—wear?), because little things count when you’re writing (People who don’t speak Spanish, rest assured, I wrote things in a way that you’ll be able to follow what’s going on and the meaning of what people are saying in the few instances where Spanish is used). If there are mistakes here, they are my fault, though.

 

As for the tone and relationships in the book, see my comment above about my good friend, Paul.

 

WHAT CRITERIA DID YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVER FOR YOUR BOOK?

I wanted the cover to be evocative, maybe a bit sexy, because there is some light romance in the novel (I don’t write graphic sex scenes, but there are a couple of sensual scenes). I found this photo that looked exactly what Miley Arculano looked like in my head. And Miley (the good ‘witch’), in many ways, is central to this story—I can’t say more than that. I felt like, in this pic, Miley is challenging us with her eyes. And that’s what I want this book to do, in part, challenge peoples’ thinking about the nature of love.

 

WAS THERE A MESSAGE IN YOUR BOOK THAT YOU WERE TRYING TO CONVEY?

Book 1 examined themes related to hidden battles and the ephemeral nature of relationships—that we only have so long to tell and show the people we care about that we love them deeply and truly.

This book, Book 2, digs deeper, using allegory to explore what it means to be strong versus weak (worthy versus unworthy), pose questions about where the right to exercise our free will stops and the need to ensure our safety begins, and depict the sometimes heavy price of faith and loyalty. Love is not always easy and breezy. It can be tough. It can cast…a heavy spell upon us. I want people to come away from this novel thinking about how they can love more deeply and truly, in a sacrificial way.

The reader will hunger for the third and last book in the series (I’ve entitled Book 3, Still Running Deep, and I have mapped out the high-level plot for this final story). The message of Book 3 will be about dealing with failure, without saying too much.

 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOK?

Nope.

 

IF YOUR BOOK WOULD BE MADE INTO A FILM, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE LEADS?

I’m still focused on Camila Cabello playing Evee. I’ve got it in my head that Evee must be played by a Latina singer. But they would need to be able to act well to do the body switching stuff as Gramma Cynthia from Book 1.

I’ve gone through this exercise in an earlier interview for Book 1, in which I said a cameo would be played by an actress for a specific character. I couldn’t reveal it at the time, but the character was Miley, and the actress was Sophie Turner (I’m not sure Sophie’s hair is truly red, but I’m picturing her from GOT).

Other important characters who pop up in this book are Betty/Lizzie Perrino and Giueseppe Verdi. Not sure who would play them though.  I don’t know who would play Sinclair Smith either. I’m afraid I’m not very good at this game today…

 

WHAT ARE YOU READING NOW? 

I just finished Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, and I liked it. Chuck is a NYT best-selling author who lives in my area. This book is very reminiscent of Stephen King—sort of epic and cool, fantastical stuff. Long, but a rich, meaningful read.

I’m currently reading The Altered by Maria DeVivo, another Solstice author, and I LOVE it. It’s this first-person YA, PA (for non-writers, that’s Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic), zombie book, which is written in such an engaging style. And I just hit a turbo-charged part too. Can’t wait to see what happens. It’s carrying me along.  I’m also alpha reading a book for one of my readers.

 

WHAT KIND OF MUSIC (FROM BOOK 2) TOUCHES YOUR SOUL?

I’ll answer this question for this book, Book 2, “Love’s Heavy Spell.” Every novel I write has sort of a musical theme and a playlist. It may seem cheesy to some, but it’s what I do, and it’s who I am as a writer. In this book, there are a lot of pop songs, partly because there are some fun parts where young adults are out on the town in Miami or elsewhere in Philly.

But, in Book 2, many of the songs noted possess MYSTICAL and/or DARK/SAD tones or lyrics, which represent the tone of the book. These include: The Night We Met by Lord Huron, It Ain’t Me by Selena Gomez, I’m Still Here by Sia, Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored AND No Tears Left to Cry by Ariana Grande, Stubborn Love by The Lumineers, and July by Noah Cyrus, to name a few. Ariana songs typically play in this book when Sinclair Smith is around; I’ll let the reader figure out why that is for themselves.

Songs like I’m Still Here by Sia and July by Noah Cyrus (Miley Cyrus’s sister) which are both haunting and bittersweet, reach down to something in my core. Listen to them before reading, maybe.

(Note: I NEVER write the lyrics into the novel, I merely mention the song titles and singers, which people can look up themselves online if they don’t know them.)

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