Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Chat with Black Bird of the Gallows' Author Meg Kassel

It's always a pleasure to feature children's authors and their work. Please give a warm welcome to my friend and fellow Maine author Meg Kassel, and her book baby Black Bird of the Gallows!

*audience cheers & applause*

The brain behind the beauty is always what makes the beauty work, but can I just hear a Whoa... for Meg's book cover? I love this one! 

by Meg Kassel

Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: September 5, 2017

Description: 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.                                                             

Hi Meg! It's so wonderful to have you stop by the Alley.

Thank you for having me!

Let's start with your main leads, Angie and Reece. They both speak volumes from the brief blurb on the book; at least both did for me. Care to give the readers a little more about each. Maybe an intriguing tidbit or two?

 Angie was a complex character to write because she had a childhood which made her grow up faster than a kid from a typical home. As a result, she’s focused and practical and slow to trust. She wants only to graduate so she can study music, so when Reece comes along, he kind of messes up her plan. A secret not in the book: Her dad knows Angie is a DJ on all-ages night, but he has no idea that she performs under a secret identity. He thinks everyone knows who she is. It’s a balancing act with her dad, as she knows he wouldn’t understand why she keeps her true identity a secret. 

Reece was even more of a challenge. First, because we only see him through Angie’s point of view,
limiting what we can learn about him. She sees what she sees, which isn’t always the whole truth. He’s a troubled boy, but hides it well, at least to most people. More about his past, in scenes written in his point of view will be released later on, and will include much more insights into his mind and the group he travels/lives with. A secret not in the book: It’s clear that he’s a mega hockey fan and an excellent player, but years ago, an earlier version of himself briefly played on an original six hockey team and it remains his favorite team. Can you guess which one?

I have to tell you the minute I read the phrase harbinger of death I was all over this book. How did you decide this would be part of your world building and where it would affect the growth of the story?

I can’t say where the exact origin of harbingers of death came from, but I knew they would weave into the impending disaster at this fictional town. The disaster is the reason the harbingers arrive there, and although no one knows what is going to happen, things like the rain that starts (and never stops) and the lake waters rising are gentle foreshadowing that something bad is going to happen. Unlike the Beekeepers, harbingers of death have no super powers. They possess the same limitations and frailties as any human. I liked that Angie and Reece were on the same footing. I like that he couldn’t break her by hugging her too hard. So, while harbingers of death are supernatural creatures, they are just as likely to be killed in the disaster as anyone else. Granted, if they die they eventually regenerate as younger versions of themselves. But I wanted their own fear of pain and death to be a part of the story. They’re part of the human condition, but just a little separated from it.

YA + romance = YES! Assuredly Angie and Reece cross that romantic line at some point. Can you describe their relationship as it evolves?💕

Oh man, romance is probably my greatest challenge in a book. I either go overboard or leave it out
completely.  I needed to make their initial attraction grow carefully, because Angie figures out real quick that Reece isn’t a normal boy. By the time he tells her what he is, she’s already quite interested in him, but has to decide if his not-quite-human status affects how she feels about him. Being a very logical girl, she works through it, but she’s also a passionate person, as shown by her love of music, and really can’t resist the first boy who's made her knees go mushy. Reece, on the other hand, knows (or thinks) their romance will be short lived, makes it clear that he can’t stick around, and just wants to spend time with her while he can. All that changes when a Beekeeper with an agenda enters the scene and Angie’s life is endangered.

A little birdie told me that you are a master myth maker, especially within this story. Can you share your motivation and thought-process you used to create the myth(s) for Gallows?

Who told you that? I'm a mere grasshopper, honestly. 

My lips are sealed. 😊 

I like making up my own mythology, but it’s always based on something familiar. In this case, both harbingers of death and the Beekeepers were partly inspired by the urban myth of the Mothman, which if you Google it, is linked to actual eye witness reports of a phenomenon that happened in the 1960s in a small West Virginia town. There was a movie about it, too. I liked the idea of a fictional creature that appears just before a disaster and terrifies people. In this story, the harbingers do their best to fit in, but they have no choice but to follow the scent of impending disaster. I enjoyed crafting a paranormal creature that departed from the types that have been done well and done often in popular fiction. I have an origin story for the harbingers and the Beekeepers, but there wasn’t room in this book to tell it all. It’s alluded to. And really, only the Beekeepers know the whole of it. They’re the ones who have been around since the beginning. All these harbingers of death are relatively new.

Now that is interesting stuff! 

What element/theme/lesson within the story do you hope will resonant the most with your readers?

I wrote this book with no theme in mind. It was meant to be a fun adventure, the type of story I enjoy reading for pleasure, but when I went back and revised it, I could see themes of finding inner strength and of embracing who you are, flaws and all. Both Angie and Reece make tremendous sacrifices to save the other, and they couldn’t have done that if they didn’t believe in their hearts that they were strong enough to prevail. Angie, in particular, releases her fears that she will end up the same as her addict mother, and comes to peace with her past.

What has been the most difficult part of your publication journey thus far? The best? 

The most difficult—you mean I have to pick one? No really, it’s a miracle this book ever got published. It was originally acquired  by Egmont USA, but a few months after the contract was signed, Egmont dropped the USA division and orphaned over fifty manuscripts, including five debuts, including this book. There were other transitions too, a parting of the ways with my agent and some deep soul searching, before Black Bird of the Gallows found a home with Entangled TEEN. The best part of the journey thus far was the first time I held my book. After past experiences, I told myself I’d believe the thing would be published when I held it in my hands. So when my author copies arrived, I just stared at it for the longest time. It was pretty magical.

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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Have you ever read any harbinger of death's tales? 

One small Splat Note: Would you be so kind as to support my ThunderClap for Marked Beauty? Thank you, thank you, thank you!


  1. Congrats to Meg! This does sound like something different. I haven't read any books with harbingers of death. Maybe beekeepers, but not the supernatural kind!

  2. I absolutely do have an alter ego.. His name is Aric. ;]

  3. Congratulations, Meg!
    I don't know which one, but I can name the original six hockey teams - Bruins, Black Hawks, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Rangers, and Red Wings.

    1. Nice, Alex! My character is all New England. He was a Bruin 😊

    2. Okay, now that's a true hockey fan! I'm definitely impressed. My absolute favor sport to watch.

  4. This was such a fun interview! Thank you for having me, S.A. Larsen! ❤️

    1. I'm so glad I could be a part of your special release!

  5. This one has me hooked. Congrats, Meg!

  6. I'm reading your book now. So excited this book finally saw the light of day!!!! I've been waiting a long time to read it. Love the cover. I would have guessed the Bruins (okay, my son and grandson's favorite hockey team) if others hadn't beaten me to it. Great interview, thanks to Sheri and her insightful questions!

  7. What an intriguing story idea. Congratulations, Meg.

  8. This is a really good idea that you have going on. manufacturing


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