To get you in the mood..check out the trailer here:
First off can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the book?
I've always wanted to write a novel about a witch, ever since I was traumatized by Roald Dahl's The Witches (I mean, I was seven at the time...) and spending a night in the woods after seeing The Blair Witch Project (I was fifteen, then). In the former, witches are everywhere. In the latter, the scary part is that you do not see the witch. Katherine van Wyler, the witch in HEX, has influences of both. Of course she has this horrible, disfigured face because her mouth and eyes are sewn shut... but for exactly the same reason, you never really get to see her. If you can't see someone's eyes, you'll never know what they think. That makes her so scary. But what made the book really work for me, was that the townsfolk are actually used to her. You know, if a disfigured ghostly witch would appear in the corner of the living room, you'd probably run and scream. But if a disfigured ghostly witch would appear in the corner of the living room for the sixtieth time, you'd hang a dishcloth over her face, pour some coffee, and read the paper.
What scared you most growing up as a child?
Death. I saw Death as this dark thing that lived in the attic of our house, where my mom would
always hang the laundry. Whenever I was in the hallway on the ground floor, I always feared I couldn't make the slightest bit of sound, or that darkness would come and reach out down the stairs to get me. And whenever my mom would go up to hang the laundry, I was always terrified that she would never come back again. It probably had to do with my dad dying at a very young age. But I also had a vivid imagination, that made everything inanimate come to life.
What was the first horror novel you read that really scared you?
It was told to me as a bedtime story: Bram Stoker's Dracula. I was eight or nine and my sister and I would sleep over at my uncle in Amsterdam, and he was the greatest story teller ever. The room was dark and he would sit at the edge of the bed as a silhouet in the light that poured in from the landing. When he came to the part about the Demeter's Log, the diary of the ship captain who transports the count's coffin to Britain... man, I did not sleep that night, I can tell you that. Of course I reread the book later, but it never matched the brilliance and the fright of my uncle telling it to me.
What are the key elements in writing a horror story?
It's gotta be scary. That sounds obvious, but it's the key thing. If a horror story isn't scary, it failed in it's primal goal. And it's a tough job. There's not a lot that scares people anymore these days, and for everyone it's different. Except, that's bull at the same time. In our core, humans are still easily scared - that's what HEX is about. You just have to hit the right buttons.
How do you think people in larger cities…say London...or even Hodder towers, would react if Katherine turned up in their rooms?
It's an interesting idea - what if something like this would have happened in a big city? What if Black Spring had grown out to be a major city? It would surely be getting impossible to hide it from the outside world. Katherine would be an instant social media hit - this is actually Tyler Grant's dream come true! World politics would start to mess with it - always a bad idea. Also, tourism would probably decline. But the primordial reaction of the people would be the same: they'd be terrified of her! After the book came out in Holland and Belgium, I got hundreds of messages from spooked-out readers who had images of Katherine appeared next to their own beds at night... imagine the happy grin on my face when I read those!
As well as the paranormal, there is a large element of human fear and how this impact that has on the town, why was it important for you to highlight this.
I thought it was a much more frightning idea if the real evildoers in the book are the townsfolk themselves, not the witch. The novel is a parable about mankind’s depravity and the depths of evil of which we are capable. When things go bad in Black Spring, hidden tensions and human weakness trigger a whole nother kind of witch-hunt that boils over into persecution and scapegoating, with shocking consequences. I wanted to show that even today, little truly separates us from from the time when we really used to persecute people on the grounds of our primal fears like witchcraft. And we have a lot of primal fears in our society at the moment...
Is there a favorite part you are looking forward to people reading?
Oooh, there are many! For me personally, there are so many memorable moments in the book. Also because although it's a horror novel and it turns pretty dark, it actually starts out with a lot of humor. I just love the scene where Griselda Holst, the butcher woman, tries to think of a sacrifice she like to make for Katherine, in order to stay on her good side. She has a habit of sacrificing pâté to her, and now has raised the stakes with a pig's head, so she really has to come up with something good this time. Except it needs to fit in a big shopping bag, as she don't want the townsfolk to find out about her. So she comes up with a living peacock. Except, she first has to catch a living peacock. This, I think, is one of the funniest scenes of the book. And the witch is just staring at her, behind those stitched-up eyes of her...
Did you have a favorite character you liked to write?
In HEX, it's probably Tyler Grant. He's the tragic hero of the story. He's young, only seventeen, and always wants to do good, not only for his own interests, but for the rest of the town. And at the same time, there's a nasty little surprise about him, for readers...
Something I really like asking authors to talk about when writing a book is the senses, but I would love if you could talk about Katherine briefly in relation to each of the senses:
1. Touch – Better not touch her! She is very tangible indeed, but you know what happened to the peacock, or the RayBans, when she does her disappearing trick. You don't want that to happen to you.
2. Smell – how doe she smell? She smells like you'd imagine the year 1665 would smell like. Characters mention that, several times. It's the smell of old age, disease, cattle in the streets, mud, bad omens...
3. Sight – Of course, her eyes are stitched-up, so she seems blind. But is that actually true? Does she really not see what's happening around her, or does she have some other, older kind of sense, that makes her see. And what if, what if, what if ever her eyes would open?
4. Sound – In the 60s, they tried to cut open the stitches in the corner of her mouth. Thinking she wasn't all that bad, as nothing had really happened all these years. Big mistakes. Several people died, and she's been whispering from the corner of her mouth ever since. The kids in town call it her death whisper, and you don't want to listen to it if you know what's good for you.
5. Taste – t Let me see, what would a witch taste like? As the abuse of the witch by the town's bad boy Jaydon Holst grows more and more immoral, it could well be one of his experiments to find out...
If HEX could have a theme song what would it be and why?
How about Beethoven's Fifth or Siegfried's Funeral by Wagner? Nah, let's not go there, let's pick something happier to counterbalance its darkness. I think I'd go for Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis. I know, it's a cliché and so Stephen King, but I love rock 'n roll and I can't help it. [Parental advisory when listening to this song!]
and because we're mean and want to give you those vibes we're putting this in anyway!
Hex is out NOW, don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour and let us know what you think!! #BreakTheHex