Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A simple but forgotten truth - Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

"There are so many things about the book that I fell in love with - the dynamics of Angie's friendship with Deno and Lacey, Angie's relationship with her father, uncovering the mystery behind the ancient curse and the whole idea of beekeepers and harbingers, it was the ending that made me almost cried happy tears. From the start to the finish line, it was definitely a helluva roller coaster!"- Natshane, Goodreads


Published: September 5th, 2017

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town.

When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

Crows, Ravens and other Black Birds

When I started developing the supernatural elements of my debut novel, Black Bird of the Gallows, I knew my harbingers of death would share their curse with a carrion bird. The initial idea came from the turkey buzzards I saw circling the summer skies above the forests of Maine. I imagined they were waiting for a dying animal to expire somewhere down there, knowing a meal was one decent away. The first time I wrote about the harbingers, they were people who shifted into turkey buzzards, but as the story unfolded, it became clear that buzzards weren’t an appropriate bird species for this story. If a dozen or so of these large, ungainly birds were to start hanging around telephone wires and on dumpsters, or anywhere humans hang out, it would be very weird and draw attention. Buzzards are shy of humans, but there is a carrion bird that shares our human landscape, usually in the background. They’re common enough to go unnoticed, and that bird is the crow.

At first, I didn’t want crows in my book. Crows abound in popular culture. However, the more research I did, the more it became obvious that my harbingers of death had to share their curse with this corvid. There was no other good fit. I set about seeing how others used this bird as a storytelling device in fiction, and came up with more material than I could absorb. Floating to the top was this chilling little folk rhyme about the counting of crows, originating sometime in the 1700s, Brittain:

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral,
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self

Versions of this little ditty have been recited in modern culture, by writers such as Neil Gaiman, in his Sandman comic series and Cassandra Clare’s, The Mortal Instruments, City of Fallen Angels. The creepy rhyme turns up frequently in television and movies, such as The Crow: City of Angels. You’ve got to feel bad for these birds. They’ve been a symbol of bad omens for a very long time, likely because of their tendency to congregate in places like graveyards, and near places of public executions. This had nothing to do with demons or evil, but the bird’s diet. An overcrowded graveyard, like the ones common in Europe before the 1800s, was an obvious spot for a crow to find a meal. Crows are intelligent, opportunistic birds, and they’re primarily scavengers. With ebony wings and a chilling “song,” if you want to call it that, they don’t tend to evoke warm cuddly feeling in most people. Little wonder why crows are easy metaphors for death, darkness and evil in western cultures. 

When putting together the pieces for Black Bird of the Gallows, I needed to work with existing crow lore, but also take a departure from it. The latter was not easy to do with the sheer quantity and variety of myths associated with this bird. I started by avoiding that rhyme completely. In my book, the birds are as trapped by the harbinger of death curse as the humans are, but only in bird form can the harbingers find their next location—a place where many lives are soon to be lost—so they can feed on the death energy they need to survive. Research is a part of the writing process I enjoy, and it always takes me to surprising little corners of the internet. I hope you enjoyed hearing a little bit about how crows worked their way into my book!

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About the author:
Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.

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Ally Swanson said...

Fabulous post! I really enjoyed reading the guest post and learning more about this book! I am most excited about reading Black Bird of the Gallows, because it sounds like such an interesting, intriguing, and just fascinating story! Also, I love the book cover! This book sounds like a book that just sweeps you away and captivates you with every page. Looking forward to checking out this book!

Jodi Hunter said...

Sounds Incredible!