Abandoning one slow read in the summer of 2012, I scanned through my downloads for something more suited my macabre mood. I didn’t expect to find anything; after all, I’d only downloaded a dozen books and I’d read most of them.
But I found Graveyard Blues, and I was captivated from its very first word straight through its final ones. My June 2012 review was glowing:
As a lifelong reader of horror, I’ve come to expect that most horror will neither actually scare me nor stick with me after I’ve finished reading it. It’s exhilarating to find a horror novel that engages me from its first pages and only gets better as it goes. Graveyard Blues is such a novel.
Hettie and Henry, the book’s protagonists, are some of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered not just in horror but in fiction. They’re very real, very funny characters with whom I’d be happy to travel even if the story itself weren’t so engaging. But let’s be clear: the story is compelling.
When its protagonists came up against obstacles at every turn, I found myself holding my breath and hoping all would turn out well for them . . . even if, as the story progressed, that seemed an increasingly unlikely outcome.
The end more than satisfied. Best of all, it’s not so much an end as a resting point. I normally prefer standalone books, but THIS is a series to which I’ll happily return.
It’s both my pleasure and honor to be interviewing Graveyard Blues author Reina Salt today.
Have you always felt compelled to write? If not, what inspired you to pick up the proverbial pen?
Well, as I child, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Actually, that’s not entirely true — I wanted to be Indiana Jones and Elvira, but failing that, I wanted to make art. For years, I painted, but I didn’t have much by way of success. When the economy crashed, I was left unemployed at my day job, battling depression on a daily basis, and trying to find more ways to channel my creative energy to make some money. I taught myself to sew, and sold things I made to people around the world for a few years. I dabbled in writing in the past, but for a long time, it was just another tool for me to make art with; an unused paintbrush, if you will. That is, until my character Henry came to me in a very intense monologue which I use in his first scene. I tried to put it out of my head several times, but he remained, persistent, and getting louder. Writing wasn’t a conscience decision for me, so much as it was a compulsion. I was driven to write after being haunted by my own creations, as it were.
10/30/08, a few hours into being 30
As I start to type this, my 20s are 38 minutes departed.
Now, for the first time, I say:
I’ve looked forward to this birthday for years. Striving for Gandalf-like wisdom and awesomeness, I have dismayed in my youngness and lack of gray hairs.
To answer your questions before you ask them, no. No, I do not possess a magical staff the likes of which to defeat mad, powerful, and mad powerful wizards with. No, I have never defeated a balrog. And finally, yes, 30’s a far cry from 400…
…but it’s a step in the right direction!
I no longer wish to actually be Gandalf, but I remain excited by this birthday. I’m excited to know not only that I made it this far, which given my childhood was not a certainty, but that I made it.
I haven’t just lived to 30, which alone would have stunned me half my life ago to foresee. I’ve lived.
5/24/11, about halfway between 32 and 33
Yesterday, author Rusty Fischer gave my novel The Monster’s Daughter a five-star review, the title of which I’ve borrowed for this entry.
Even if I’d navigated away after taking in the stars and the title, I would have been exuberant.
I absolutely did not stop with the title. That’s a good thing, too, because the review itself was even better. See, for example:
Often funny, majorly sad, equally scary and powerfully poignant, Ginny is such a great character; one of the most realistic I’ve read in YA fiction — and I’m not just talking YA vamp fiction, either! It struck me as I read The Monster’s Daughter how without the vampire parts it would still be a riveting, dark and lyrical tale of one dysfunctional family; almost any dysfunctional family.
To me, this said: Your book accomplished exactly what you hoped it would. That’s exhilarating stuff.
As I drove home twenty minutes later, I reflected on that review. I thought of how, because of my childhood, my hopes have always exceeded my expectations for my life.
Every time something wonderful happens, I recall my birthday letters to my friends. In those letters, I’ve thanked my friends for helping my life become more full of wonder by far than I ever allowed myself to believe it might. What could be a better time to reflect on the came-before and the yet-to-come than a birthday, after all?
My next birthday email will include a few new bullets. As I type out those bullets one October to come, I’ll be thinking of where I came from. Where I’m going. All the people whose actions and words have helped get me there. And I’ll be thankful, as always, for people taking time out to lend a hand or share a kind word. It’s those graces that get me through the hard times . . . and make the already good ones, those such as I am blessed to live right now, a millionfold brighter.
ETA: I’ve added a few date references to clarify it’s not actually my birthday today, though this entry refers to a personal birthday tradition. I’m loving the preview of the warm wishes I can expect for my 33rd birthday!
A couple of months ago, a friend sent a short list of recommended YA reads. On this list was A Brief History of Montmaray, with the note: “I don’t normally go in for princesses but this one is pretty awesome.” I’ve never been interested in princesses, either, so the note piqued my curiosity. What would make a princess interesting to me?
A Brief History of Montmaray, apparently!
Sophia, whose journal entries comprise this brief history, is one of several princesses of the island of Montmaray. The eldest princess, Sophia’s cousin Veronica, is daughter of the current–not-quite-sane–King John. Sophia’s sister is the youngest princess (who’d rather be a prince, thank you very much); her brother, the prince, is away studying in England. As the number of villagers grows increasingly sparse, the girls must manage the castle virtually on their own.
Even before Nazi-related trials and tribulations enter the story, it’s a captivating tale of survival, humor and grace. The girls matter-of-factly face a unique set of circumstances that, to them, are simply ordinary life. Each girl is so vibrantly portrayed and so realistic, I felt increasingly as I turned the pages they were good friends I’ve known my whole life. Part of this might be a testament to how deeply I relate to their circumstances, given that I was one of four siblings who survived childhood despite poverty, isolation and a parental figure whose mental illness made her more of a parental figurehead than a parent in some regards. Mostly, though, I think it’s Michelle Cooper’s compassionate, loving, poignant depiction of each of the girls and all the other characters of this stunning novel.
When everything goes awry even by the girls’ standards, the book becomes impossible to set down. (It was merely “extremely difficult” before.) I plowed through the last 100 pages this morning before my son awakened. I rejoiced at the book’s beautiful conclusion, which so comforts me given how it mirrors my own life questions at the moment, and also at the fact there are more Montmaray books waiting to be devoured by me. If only I’d checked them out preemptively!
If you don’t enjoy princess tales, you might nevertheless enjoy this princess tale, and the fiercely independent, precocious princesses who make it such a beautiful, delightful tale of survival.