Donald Firesmith - Teenagers and the Evil Witch Next Door
Donald Firesmith is the prize-winning author of speculative fiction including The Secrets of Hawthorne House (teen paranormal urban), the Hell Holes series (alien invasion science fiction), and Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore (fantasy). As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his novel, The Secrets of Hawthorne House.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Secrets of Hawthorne House is about.
The book is about two 15-year-old boys from radically different cultures, one “ordinary” and the other anything but ordinary. Each has recently lost a parent and has been moved to the small town of Hawthorne, Indiana, where despite their contrasting backgrounds, they become best friends. In addition to dealing with the typical teenage problems of school and fitting in, the book also addresses grief, religious and cultural tolerance, and financial difficulty. And of course, there is hidden magic and the search for lost treasure.
What inspired you to write about a 15-year-old who has an old, recluse neighbor living in a dilapidated Victorian Mansion?
I wanted to try my hand at something quite different from my previous alien invasion series. I also wanted to try a new take on the evil witch next door meme.
Tell us more about Matt. What makes him tick?
Unlike Tina, his extroverted sister, Matt is a loner who finds himself devastated by the tragic death of his mother and dealing with being bullied as the new kid at school. Matt’s father, unable to deal with the constant reminders of his wife, uprooted Matt and Tina, moving the family to Hawthorne, Indiana, about as far as possible from the Oregon coast that Matt and his mother loved. Matt also feels isolated from his father, who is dealing with his own problems of grief and financial difficulties. Matt is basically a good kid, to whom life has dealt a lousy hand.
Why did you pick Hawthorne, Indiana, as the backdrop for your book?
Like Matt, I also love the Pacific Northwest Coast. I also spent quite a few years in northeast Indiana, where I found the dreary winters depressing. I thought that the contrast in locations would be a beautiful metaphor for the change in Matt’s life.
An unlikely friendship, culture clashes, and hidden magic are central themes in The Secrets of Hawthorne House. Why did you write it this way?
My previous books were more plot-driven; I wanted this book to be more about the characters and their relationships. Although I love modern paranormal fantasy, I wanted the magic to be more subtle and subservient to the characters, a source of conflict as much as a source of wonder.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I make magic wands in my spare time. I like working with my hands and colored gemstones, so it seems like a perfect hobby.
Which audience did you have in mind when you wrote this book.
Although I wrote the book for teens (middle grade and young adults), surprisingly, the vast majority of reviewers have been from women between the ages of mid-20s through mid-50s.
What have readers' reactions to the book been like so far?
Overwhelmingly positive. The reviews are 52% five-stars, 42% four-stars, 5% three-stars, and only 1% two-stars. The book won the 2019 Readers’ Favorite silver medal in the young adult paranormal urban category. It was also nominated for the 2020 Top Shelf book award.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
I have to admit taking guilty pleasure in my protagonists’ revenge on the three bullies.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Practice may not make perfect, but it does make better.
What are you working on right now?
I am completing Hell Holes 3: To Hell and Back. After that’s done, I will start on The Secrets of Sanctuary Cover, the sequel to The Secrets of Hawthorne House.
Where can our readers get a copy of this book or interact with you?
My books (both paperback and ebook) are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords. You can also buy autographed copies directly from me via my author website (http://donaldfiresmith.com); you can also learn more about my books and get content you won’t find anywhere else. You can also sign up for my newsletter that I send out to about 4,500 subscribers each month.